In a series of heartfelt videos compiled online by healthtalkonline.org alongside research conducted by the University of Nottingham and Oxford University, 30 individuals share that antidepressant medications are not a ‘quick fix.’
Contrary to popular opinion, neither are they ‘happy pills.’
The individuals discuss the impact of depression and antidepressant medications on their lives. They also talk about the emotional difficulties they faced with side effects and finding a prescription that finally helped them manage their depression.
They’re worth checking out to hear of people’s real-life experiences with one of the most commonly-prescribed classes of medications today.
“This project will be important for educating both patients and health care professionals about what it is actually like to take antidepressants,” noted Claire Anderson, professor of social pharmacy at The University of Nottingham.
“When prescribed an antidepressant for the first time, people often want to know more about what to expect; how they might feel when they are taking them, how long they take to work, how long they should expect to take them for and about potential side effects. They clearly value being able to hear about other people’s experiences.”
The role of doctors in helping their patients find a suitable antidepressant was also discovered in these personal interviews. Ideally patients and their doctors should be partners in helping to manage depression, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
“Recent media reports on the rise of antidepressant prescribing have suggested that (primary care physicians) are too ready to hand out prescriptions,” said Susan Kirkpatrick, senior qualitative researcher for the Health Experiences Research Group at Oxford University.
“Some people did comment that their doctor had been quick to reach for the prescription pad, but this varied widely. It was the amount of care, time and support doctors provided that seemed more important to the people we spoke to.”
Doctors today might be stressed for time, underpaid from insurance reimbursements, or pressured from their patients to provide relief without examining the underlying root of the problem. Whatever the reason for their motivation, trust and an understanding in the patients overall well-being should be one of many ultimate guiding factors in authentic patient care.
At times it was reported that finding the right medication could be like ‘waving a magic wand.’ Others struggled with unpleasant side effects, such as anxiety, loss of libido, headaches and feeling ‘detached’ or isolated.
Sometimes it took people several years to find a medicine that worked for them, and this could mean simply being able to ‘manage’ their depression, alongside other strategies such as talk therapy and exercise. Some individuals said that they had never found an effective antidepressant.
One of the interviewees, 36-year-old Jenny, first experienced depression as a teenager and has been on three different antidepressants. Initially she had high hopes; she said “I sort of expected to feel ‘happy’ because the media were dubbing antidepressants as ‘happy pills.'”
“I now know that they don’t stop me feeling down when it is natural to feel down; rather they prevent me from getting stuck down there.” Fortunately she realized this and understood how antidepressants work. But each person’s reaction to a specific medication is a very subjective experience.
Furthermore, some interviewees described side effects such as anxiety, suicidal feelings, dizziness or loss of appetite that could last for a month or more. In some cases, people actually felt worse than before they started taking the pills, which might have been a contributing factor in their decision to go off of their pills before some relief kicked in. Others needed to try several antidepressants before finding one that was effective for their depression, while exploring other less invasive treatments such as talk therapy, adhering to a proper diet, exercise or meditation.
Others in the videos stressed the importance of seeing antidepressants as just one aspect of the ‘road to recovery,’ rather than a solution in itself.
View the videos now: Experiences of antidepressants