For those struggling to cope with moderate to severe depression, more often than not, medication is a big part of the treatment.
Antidepressants (SSRI pills) are psychiatric medications given to patients with depressive and anxiety disorders in order to help ease symptoms. When they functioning properly SSRIs can correct chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain which are believed to be responsible for changes in mood and behavior.
In short, antidepressants alter your brain chemistry.
While antidepressants are thought to be safe and effective in treating depression and anxiety disorders when coupled with therapy and/or psychological counseling, researchers and physicians are now aware of the very real and potentially devastating side effects antidepressants can have on patients.
Physical side effects of antidepressants
People taking antidepressants are prone to experiencing some or all of the following physical side effects:
- Weight gain
- Decrease in sex drive– erectile dysfunction in men and decreased orgasms in women
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Blurred Vision
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Improper bone development in children
- Improper brain development in children and teens
To combat the effects of these drugs, patients are often prescribed additional drugs to counteract the physical symptoms caused by the antidepressant.
But the most profound side effects patients are susceptible to experiencing are psychological and emotional.
Psychological and emotional effects of antidepressant medications
Researchers and doctors have found that antidepressant medications can have seriousadverse and potentially fatal effects on patients including:
- Increased risk of suicide
- Violent behavior
- Increase in depressive episodes
- Permanent brain damage
Psychologist and researcher, Professor John Read from the University of Liverpool Institute of Psychology, Health and Society has reported that “while the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, the psychological and interpersonal effects have been largely ignored or denied. And They appear to be alarmingly common.”
Multiple studies, including the one conducted by John Read, have found that feelings of emotional numbness, demotivation, apathy and other personality changes are widespread among antidepressant users. Over half of people aged 18 to 25 participating in the University of Liverpool study reported suicidal feelings and the figure was even higher among children and teens. Even more alarming is the studies found that people who are prescribed these drugs are not being warned about the potential psychological effects.
Antidepressants can cause dependency issues
Antidepressants aren’t addictive in the same way substances like alcohol and heroin are. Those abusing antidepressants do not experience the cravings that other drugs cause and withdrawal symptoms are mild or nonexistent. However, dependence can form especially in people who never needed the drugs in the first place. Some people are incorrectly diagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants. According to one study, doctors misdiagnosed almost two-thirds of patients with depression and prescribed unnecessary drugs.
Different types of anti-depressives work on the brain in different ways, which is what increases the addiction potential in some and not others. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in the development of a substance abuse or dependency problem. Researchers estimate that genetics are a factor between 40 and 60 percent of the time, making some people more prone than others to developing an addiction or substance abuse disorder, as published by the National Institute on Drug (NID).
Dependence occurs when the brain begins to rely on the chemical changes initiated by the drug and the body becomes physically dependent on the drug in order to function properly. Dependence can lead to addiction, but not all the time. Someone who is physically dependent on an antidepressant, needs the medication in order to reduce symptoms.
Chronic use of antidepressants promotes dependency on the drugs rather than empowering people to make positive life changes. SSRI medications are often mistakenly referred to as “happy pills,” although they do not produce the same euphoric high or artificial happiness that other drugs do.
Antidepressants have been found to be less effective in treating depression and anxiety as was once believed. Researchers warn doctors and patients alike–when dealing with brain altering drugs– proceed with caution.
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