Antidepressants: Expectations vs. Reality

Antidepressants: Expectations vs. Reality
 Going on antidepressants was not a decision that I took to lightly. I had read all sorts online about the possible side effects and why you should never go near them. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about antidepressants, and I ended up with a very confused perception of what being on them may be like and what they might do to me, so I thought I’d write down a few of them here. However, please bear in mind that these are only my experiences and yours may be very different.

(Just a little side note: I’m currently taking 20mg of Fluoxetine daily, and have been since around September 2015, so about 1 year now. Woah, typing that just freaked me out, how has it been a year already?!)

Anyway, here we go…

Expectation 1: I would get every side effect on the list

If you’ve looked on a leaflet for antidepressants, then you will know that the list of potential side effects is practically endless. When you look at this list it can be very daunting – it makes you question what exactly you are going to be putting in your body. I wrongly assumed that just because a certain side effect was written down, then I would automatically get it. However, this wasn’t true. Sure, I got some side effects (namely an upset stomach and an increase in anxiety for a few weeks) but most of them never happened and one year on I am not noticing any side effects what so ever.

Expectation 2: I would become overly happy and care-free

I thought that being on antidepressants would completely change me – that suddenly all of my worries would go away and I would become a different person, a person who was super happy all of the time and up for anything (if only!). Safe to say, that really didn’t happen. Going on antidepressants has helped me better cope with my anxiety and fully utilise the CBT techniques that I have learnt to control my OCD. It has also lifted my mood, motivating me to focus on my goals more. But I’m still me, with the same worries – I’m just a little more equipped to deal with those worries. I’m not immune to getting down just because I’m on anti-depressants, either.

Expectation 3: My personality would change

This kind of leads on from my second point, but I thought that going on antidepressants might change my personality. The idea of a medication that would play around with my brain chemistry seriously freaked me out. I thought to myself, surely if it is effecting my brain, then my personality will change as well? But, as I said in my previous point, it didn’t. I’m still me! I still have the same likes and dislikes and the character traits that I had before I went on the medication, I still have now.

Expectation 4: I would feel emotionally numb all of the time

If I wasn’t worrying that I would become TOO emotional, I was worrying that I would turn into an emotionally-numb zombie instead. I can’t exactly say that this didn’t happen at all. Okay, so I didn’t turn into a zombie, but there are times where I think I should be feeling certain emotions but I am just unable to. It’s really difficult to explain. Say there is a sad news story, for example. I know that I should be feeling really upset, but for some reason the emotion doesn’t seem to be there. Of course, depression also causes symptoms like this, but I’m also wondering whether the antidepressants contribute too…

So there are just a few of the expectations that I had when I was considering going on antidepressants. As per usual, most of them never actually happened, which just proves there is often a lot of misconceptions and hype in the media that is rarely realistic. I think that this is especially true when it comes to matters surrounding mental health.

I understand that some people have had really bad experiences with antidepressants and don’t get on with them at all, and I’m really sorry if that is you. But I also don’t think we should be creating yet more mental health stigma by telling everybody that taking medication for your mental health condition is a terrible idea that will only make everything worse.

Nonetheless, I would just like to reiterate that this is MY experience, and that YOURS may be completely different. Just because I got a certain symptom, doesn’t mean you will. Likewise, just because I didn’t get a certain symptom, doesn’t mean you won’t. Everybody’s body will react differently to certain medications.

What are your experiences on antidepressants?

Thanks for reading.

– Lisa x

4 Comments

  1. September 27, 2017 / 8:08 pm

    Great post! I started on Prozac and it didn’t really work for me but I’ve been on Lexapro for about 6 months now and it has helped me so much. I can’t even remember how I felt when I wasn’t taking any medication.

    • lisa.woodley
      September 27, 2017 / 8:43 pm

      Thank you! I’m glad that you have found a medication that works for you. 😊

  2. September 3, 2016 / 6:59 pm

    I'm really glad that you have found some that work for you. I guess I'm rather lucky that the first antidepressants I have tried have appeared to help me, without any significant side effects. You explained the numbness really well – that is exactly how I feel at times! Also, I really appreciate your honesty about your side effects – it's so important that we are open about mental health to reduce the stigma.

    I can totally relate to you about the drinking! In fact, I'm missing out on a night out with friends tonight because I just don't feel like I can go and have fun with them when I can barely drink any alcohol. It's a shame because it will probably be the last time I see them before going to University next week.

    Interesting that you mentioned feeling constantly fatigued, as only the other day I telling somebody how I always feel so drained and have no clue why because I am sleeping (mostly) well and eating enough – I hadn't really considered that perhaps that is a side effect of the Prozac!

    I am glad that you are feeling generally happier now. Take care. 🙂 xx

  3. September 3, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I used to be on Fluoxetine but it didn't really work for me. In fact I've been on various meds since the age of 18 and now at 34 I can finally say I'm on some that work. I relate to a lot of what you're saying, I often feel numbness when I want to laugh or cry but can't summon the emotion. Then other days I can't stop crying. Overall I feel better for being on them but certain side effects are a real downer, for instance, and I'm gonna be honest here cos other girls might experience this but are too scared to admit it, it's really hard to have an orgasm during sex. I have NEVER had one whilst being on these. And I can't drink much alcohol. So although I enjoy a glass of wine, full on nights out are long gone. And then there's the tiredness. I am constantly drained and feeling fatigued. Not really selling the meds thing am I? 🙈😂 I take 300mg Venlafaxine per day slow release but overall I am a happier person on them than not xx

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