Nearly 30 years after the introduction of Prozac (the first antidepressant discovered), there are still many misconceptions surrounding taking medication to treat a mental illness.
A recent study by University of Westminster published in Social Science and Medicine found that the stigma surrounding antidepressants is still so significant that people have concerns about the medication akin to illicit substance taking. Including that they feel they can’t tell anyone about using it, that antidepressants are addictive and that medication will change who they are as a person.
A consequence of this, dishearteningly so, is that those experiencing severe depression or mental illness who are the most likely to benefit from taking antidepressant medication may think twice about using it.
We debunk five common misconceptions about antidepressants.
Myth 1: Antidepressants will change your personality.
When they’re used appropriately, antidepressants can result in an improvement in a person’s feelings, they do not intrinsically change who you are. Research, Policy and Evaluation Advisor for beyondblue, Dr Stephen Carbone, explains that the fear of antidepressants changing your personality goes back a long time.
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“Yes, antidepressant medications, like most medications, have side effects and they vary so much from person to person. Some people notice a change in their emotions or a feeling of numbness but most of the changes are physical (like nausea, headaches or a change in appetite or sleep patterns). If people with moderate to severe depression and or anxiety conditions are using it appropriately, what they are going to experience is an improvement in the way they feel, not a worsening in the way they feel psychologically,” he explains.
“We need to accept that antidepressants are not required for everyone with anxiety or depression, but when they are required they are safe, appropriate and effective, as long as they’re provided under close medical supervision.”
Myth 2: Taking antidepressants is something to feel ashamed about.
Although times are changing, there’s still a way to go in trying to de-stigmatise mental health issues and help people to understand that medication is nothing to feel embarrassment about.
“I’m not saying antidepressant medications are necessary for every person with depression or anxiety but even those for whom it is appropriate and helpful, people often feel shame or embarrassment,” explains Dr Carbone.
“They shouldn’t be made to feel bad for using a prescription medication that is doing them good. The same thing would never occur for treating heart disease, or diabetes or any other sort of condition.” (Post continues after gallery.)