More Americans than ever are taking antidepressants. Consider these facts shared by the American Psychological Association in November 2017:
- 7% of Americans over the age of 12 took antidepressants in the past month
- Women are twice as likely as men to take antidepressants
- Antidepressant use between 1999 and 2014 has increased by 64%
Now consider this. If you take antidepressants, how open would you be to telling others about it? Sure, you may keep a little bottle of vitamin B12 on your desk at work, but would you also keep some emergency Xanax® there? Why or why not?
Drugs that treat mental illness seem to suffer a stigma, but where does this stigma come from?
First, We Need to Understand that Depression is a Serious Illness
Perhaps antidepressant stigma comes from stigmatizing depression itself.
Depression is not about being sad. It is a highly complex illness that also exhibits highly physical symptoms, such as:
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep problems
- Inability to concentrate
Depression is also not always obvious. People who have it may be very popular, appear happy, be wealthy, or earn good grades in school. This may be why some people choose not to “believe” in depression and will accuse those who identify with it as attention-seekers.
Depression is not uncommon. Nearly 20% of Americans will experience depression in their lifetime. It’s likely you’ve encountered a person with diagnosed depression.
Depressed People are Not Crazy
When we hear the term “mental illness,” many of us instantly imagine psychopaths locked up in psychiatric hospitals. Popular media often portrays the mentally ill as crazy, deranged, violent, and dangerous. It just seems easier to group all mentally ill people into one big loony bin.
In reality, mental illness can look very different from person to person. Yes, some people do get hospitalized, but others may be highly functional. Many clinically depressed people can hold down jobs, do well in school, and otherwise live what appear to be normal lives.
Antidepressants Can’t Get You “High”
As much as there are misconceptions about depression, there are misconceptions about antidepressants:
- Antidepressants are not magical happy pills; you can’t pop one and instantly feel better
- Healthy people without depression are unlikely to experience any effect at all
- Most antidepressants need to be taken consistently for weeks or even months before they begin working
- While it’s a bad idea to suddenly stop taking antidepressants (your body may experience withdrawal symptoms), antidepressants are not addictive in the same sense as recreational drugs; you won’t crave them
Note that there is a major difference between antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax® or Valium®. Anti-anxiety drugs taken for immediate relief of things like panic attacks are controlled substances that can be recreationally used and abused.
We’re Not Quite Sure How Antidepressants Work
Perhaps another cause for stigma is our uncertainty about how antidepressants work. Scientists believe they work by affecting the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with mood, but we’re not certain about the exact mechanisms.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that antidepressants such as escitalopram, paroxetine, and sertraline have been reported to have a real and significant positive effect, beating placebos. If for any reason you can't take medication (there are plenty), fortunately we now have treatments like transcranial magnetic stimulation that don't require you to take medication.
Surely, Antidepressants are Better Than Self-Medicating with Recreational Drugs
Bystanders are not the only ones stigmatizing antidepressants. Sometimes, people with clinical depression choose not to pursue medical treatment and instead choose to self-medicate with alcohol and illicit drugs. Doing so can cause serious health effects as well as damage relationships between friends and family. Substance abuse can even result in unintentional death.
Depression is like Any Other Medical Condition
Consider a medical condition like iron deficiency. There are many degrees of severity: one person may need more medical attention than another, but both patients may take similar iron supplements. The same goes with depression. Yes, some people are “obviously” depressed in that they have been hospitalized and receive constant medical attention. Others handle full-time jobs, but all these individuals may take antidepressants, and all these individuals suffer the effects of clinical depression.
Medication ≠ Weakness
Calling someone weak because they treat their strep throat with antibiotics sounds pretty ridiculous. Why can’t it be the same for depression?
Depression has nothing to do with your character, your worth, or your inner strength. There will be times where the intervention of other humans and manmade technologies is appropriate. Mental illness is one of these times.
If you recognize you need help and then proactively seek it, you should be proud of yourself for taking the initiative. Getting help is helping yourself.
Antidepressants Can Get Expensive
Since antidepressants require daily dosing, they can really drive up your medical bill. If you need antidepressants, consider buying your medication from reputable and regulated international and Canadian pharmacies online. A Canada pharmacy source like Rx Connected supplies antidepressants at much lower prices than pharmacies in the United States. You can opt for supplements that help fight depression if you're on a tight budget but be sure to talk with your physician about this.
Price shouldn’t bar you from receiving adequate treatment. Remember: if you are suffering, you have options.