Do the drugs work?
A controversial topic, this one. Full disclosure - I’ve been taking either 20 or 30mg of an antidepressant, Citalopram, daily since 2013. I asked my doctor to put me on medication because I was feeling at such a low ebb (due to being involved in a very stressful legal dispute) that I couldn’t see any alternative. And I can honestly say the meds have definitely helped me. They helped calm me when I was feeling suicidal and acted like a lifeboat to cling on to when I was in danger of being washed away by depression.
But in my experience antidepressants certainly are not a perfect solution:
Antidepressants come with side effects. Citalopram has significantly impacted on my sex drive (a relatively common side effect of antidepressants). It’s also left me feeling just a tiny bit fuzzier in the head - ever so slightly less able to think really clearly. Now that could also be the effects of the depression itself (which can significantly reduce your cognitive abilities) and having not come off the meds yet I can’t personally tell you about that side of things (though there are plenty of stories out there of people who have had a hard time coming off antidepressants and who are worried about the long term impact of being on medication like this). I also know quite a few people who had to cycle through a few different types of antidepressants until they found one that didn’t make them feel quite unwell, which was quite stressful - worth bearing in mind.
Antidepressants haven’t actually stopped me from having quite severe depressive episodes. I never really thought of antidepressants as being a ‘cure’ and the more I learn about depression, the more I realise that it’s an affliction that you never really get rid of, more something that you learn to manage over time. But I suppose the question for me over the efficacy of medication comes from the fact that there have been plenty of moments whilst taking Citalopram where I have given quite serious thought to killing myself. And that makes me ask myself - if I knew then what I know now about alternative methods for managing depression, would I still have started taking the meds? I still feel like they put the brakes on me feeling so completely, desperately awful and that gave me the strength and space to start looking into other forms of self-care, which is what eventually helped me to feel better. But personally I’d say that meds should not be a first port of call for people suffering depression and that if possible try to explore all the other alternative approaches before going down the medication path. But it goes without saying that you should defer to the advice of your doctor on this sort of topic and do what’s right for you!
Antidepressants: selecting one that’s right for you, Mayo Clinic
Antidepressants: Do they really work? Medical News Today
Antidepressants that cause weight gain, Healthline
Cognitive impairment in Depression, Psychology Today
Coming off antidepressants, Harvard Health Publishing