New blog – For today’s post I thought I’d talk about how anti-depressants can really help if, like myself, you suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
If you suffer from either or both of these conditions I’m a great believer in taking anti-depressants. I take 100ml of sertraline myself every day and it’s brilliant! But for many months I resisted taking them because of the stigma around mental health and taking pills. This was a massive mistake and I will blog in the future about the negative stigma around mental health. However, back to the topic of hand why are anti-depressants so great? Well first we need to have a look at how they work.
What do anti-depressants do?
It’d be simple to answer this question by saying ‘cure depression’ or ‘relieve anxiety’ but that wouldn’t be a true answer. However, what they can do is help manage the symptoms and help get you into a place where you can start feeling better.
Anti-depressants work by targetting the chemicals in your brain that help regulate your mood. The most important of these are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. A shortage or imbalance of these chemicals can send you into a serious downward spiral. Your brain produces these chemicals naturally and they help messages pass round between your brain cells. It’s why when you’re happy and stimulated you feel more alive and sharper, because more of these chemicals are passing through your system. When you’re unhappy and feeling down your brain can deplete your reserves of these chemicals as it attempts to give you a boost and over the long-term your mood suffers. You become more depressed and more anxious. So it’s important to keep these reserves topped up! Of course exercise is a good way of doing this, as is socialising and having fun with others as you increase the level of stimulation your brain receives which therefore leads to an increase in the production of what I will call the ‘happy chemicals’.
But when you’re already suffering or in a downward spiral then you may need to give your brain an artificial boost, which is where the anti-depressants come in.
The main type of anti-depressants are called re-uptake inhibitors. These work by inhibiting your brain’s reabsorption of happy chemicals so that they can function for longer. This means your reservoir of happy chemicals builds back up again, improving your mood and being on hand for longer to keep you going and help you cope when you encounter a challenging situation.
Another type of anti-depressant you may be prescribed are called tetracyclics. These don’t prevent reuptake of happy chemicals in the same way but instead focus on stopping the happy chemicals bonding with specific areas between your brain cells which again helps the reservoir of happy chemicals build back up again.
The final type of anti-depressant are serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors which work in two ways. Firstly they prevent the re-uptake of serotonin (one of your happy chemicals) but secondly they also prevent some of these serotonins from binding to the wrong receptors in your brain so that they go to where they’re most needed instead. This can help ensure that the reservoir of serotonin in your brain is building up and the serotonin you’re already producing is being used effectively!
But which anti-depressant is right for me?
Well unfortunately each person’s brain is different. So what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor to identify the best anti-depressant for you. The first one I went on (citalopram) didn’t work for me at all. However, I know hundreds of people who it does work for! I was lucky that the second one I went on (Sertraline) did the job but don’t worry if you have to trial 2 or 3 different medications before you find the right one. You will find it!
How long do anti-depressants take to work?
Well again each person is different but for most people it takes 6-8 weeks. I know that sounds like a long time if you’re currently battling thoughts of self-harm or find yourself too anxious to leave the house but trust me when I say if you can hang in there it will get better. I can say that with the absolute certainity who’s been there before. No matter how bad things seem they will get better. And you will get better to!
Like all medications there can be side effects from taking anti-depressants. For most people these side effects don’t manifest or only affect them to a limited extent with the benefits from having an improved mood and feeling less anxious far outweigh any side effects experienced. However, if you do find yourself experiencing side effects then let your doctor know so that they can switch you on to a different anti-depressant. There are lots of different ones out there so you will be able to find one that doesn’t have the same side-effects for you.
So what’s stopping you?:
If you’re suffering from mental health issues like anxiety and depression and aren’t taking anti-depressants to help you manage your condition while you work on getting better then I’d challenge yourself to ask why you’re not taking them? Is it because of the stigma around taking them? This stopped me seeking help for months – which meant I suffered for a lot longer than I would have otherwise (years rather than months). Anyone who judges you for taking medication to help you get better really isn’t worth your time. 1 in 4 adults in the UK take medication to help them with mental illness at some point during their lives so you’ll find that there’s a lot more people who you have this in common with than you realise! If it’s the thought of possible side effects that you’ll experience than please don’t worry about this either. Your doctor can help make sure that you find a medication that doesn’t affect you negatively. It may feel like a bit of trial and error at first but I’d liken it to finding out which food you like. You don’t like everything but you only found out what you do like by trying things you didn’t like! And finally if your concerns arise from the fact that you’ve tried them before and they didn’t work for you then that may well be because you weren’t on them for long enough or because you weren’t on the right ones for your brain. So don’t be afraid to go back to the Doctor and try something different.
If any of my readers have any experiences (both positive and negative) that they’d like to share please feel free to comment on this blog post or join up to the Money Mental community forum. If you’re having any problems signing up to the community please let me know by commenting here, or contacting me via my twitter page, facebook page or using the contact form which can be found by clicking the contact link in the menu at the top of this page.
Thanks for reading!