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Do I really need antidepressants?

do i really need antidepressants

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Antidepressants are mostly prescribed to people who are experiencing depression, but they are also offered for other conditions including anxiety. It is more common for women to be prescribed them but not unusual for men to be offered them as well. As many as one in four people in the UK experience some form of mental health difficulty and the largest group are those who suffer from depression. This begs the question “do i really need antidepressants?”A question we all have to ask ourselves at the time that we are diagnosed with some form of depression,anxiety or stress related illness. Depression can be caused by many things including bereavement, divorce, loss of job, illness and a host of other pressures including financial ones.


The symptoms include low mood, feelings of hopelessness and worry about the future, negative feelings towards the self and apathy about doing things in life. It can happen to anyone at any age and for lots of people it can simply come and go, whereas for others it can take a hold and increase in severity over time

On a physical level, depression shows up when there is too low a level of the brain chemical called serotonin. Antidepressants are designed to lengthen the amount of time that this chemical is active in your brain, which in turn is thought to increase feelings of wellbeing.

Are they always necessary?

Many doctors are saying that they are prescribing antidepressants because they do not feel that they have adequate alternatives to offer. If your children are offered antidepressants it is important to ask about alternatives because some of them carry difficult side effects like weight gain or loss or nausea, Sometimes there can be really simple explanation for young and old having low moods like during the time of your period and similarly stress can often be explained through a simple recollection of recent events.

There is a lot of pressure in society to ‘feel good’ all the time and this is unrealistic in a life that naturally ebbs and flows. Often people approach their GP because they are feeling low after something has painful has happened. In reality what they need is to have their feelings heard, validated and accepted rather than be offered pills to mask a natural response to difficulty. There have also been incidents of people approaching their doctors because of severe physical pain and being offered antidepressants which in hindsight has been seen to be inappropriate so it is important that all options are considered before assuming that antidepressants are the right way forward.

do i really need antidepressants

Question the choices

There are lots of questions to ask your doctor  or your pharmacist before you make a decision to take any medication. Ask them what their reasons are for prescribing them to you in the first place and whether they are known to have been helpful to people in your situation in the past. It is also important if you do decide to take them,  that you know how long you will need to take them, how long it will be before you start to feel some benefits, what the side effects may be, what else would be useful for you to do alongside taking them and anything else that you are concerned about.

An alternatives to pills

It is important to know that a high number of people recover spontaneously from depression and that there are other things that can help with feelings of stress or low mood that could complement antidepressants or be an alternative to them. These include having regular contact with people that you trust and feel able to talk too about what is going on; spending time in nature doing something that you enjoy such as gardening, walking or surfing; signing up for one of the ‘talking treatments’ such as cognitive behavioural therapy. This treatment has been shown to be as affective as antidepressants in cases of mild depression and is where you meet with a therapist who helps you to become more aware of your thought patterns and how those thoughts affect how you are feeling. Another self help tool is to have time each week where you practice mindfulness meditation as a way of becoming less affected by your thinking and increasing positive feelings.

The decision to take medication is complex and deserves thorough consideration. There is lots of well written information available on line or by phoning helplines. Two of the best providers of this are MIND and NHS choices





About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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