In Canada, major depression affects approximately 5.4% of the population and anxiety disorder affects 4.6% of the population. The use of antidepressants has become a common option to treat these problems, but many legitimately have questions about the effectiveness and risks associated with these medications.

Dr. Jeremy Cohen, a family physician at ELNA Private Care, shares the three most common myths about antidepressants :

  1. Antidepressants alter the personnality – false
  2. Therapeutic effects are immediate – false
  3. Side effects are important – false

Keep reading our article to learn more about antidepressants and other solutions for anxiety disorders. Please do not hesitate to contact a healthcare professional if you have any further questions.

What is antidepressant medication?

Antidepressant medications are designed to treat mood disorders, restoring the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Their main goal is to improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, thus allowing patients to regain a normal quality of life.

Several types of antidepressants exist and are prescribed depending on the patient’s condition. Only a health professional can recommend an antidepressant that is appropriate for your situation.

Do antidepressants change personality?

One of the most common myths about antidepressants is that they alter the personality of individuals. In reality, antidepressants aim to restore the chemical balance of the brain by easing certain emotions such as sadness and anxiety. They do not fundamentally alter the patient’s personality, but act as a support, helping patients regain their authentic selves while alleviating depressive symptoms.

Are the therapeutic effects immediate?

Another common misunderstanding is the expectation of immediate therapeutic effects after taking antidepressants. Contrary to this misconception, antidepressants do not usually produce instant results. Improvements are noticeable after 2 to 4 weeks in most patients who are on regular treatment. It is crucial to inform patients of this reality so that they understand the need for perseverance and patience during the treatment process.

antidepressant medication pills

Do antidepressants have significant side effects?

A common concern is the potential side effects of antidepressants such as drowsiness, stomach problems and weight gain. However, most antidepressant medications are designed to minimize serious side effects. In other words, antidepressants have mild, temporary, and well-tolerated side effects for most patients. It is essential to emphasize that the mental health benefits often outweigh these side effects.

Of course, each individual reacts differently to antidepressants. Contact a healthcare professional to learn more about side effects.

What to do when antidepressants don’t work?

It is important to recognize that each person responds differently to antidepressants. In some cases, unfortunately, medications do not produce the desired results on depressive disorders. Faced with this reality, there are several alternatives and strategies to address resistant depression therapeutically, such as the following:

  • Follow-up by a psychologist.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): to help change thoughts and behaviours related to depressive disorders.
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS): magnetic pulses to a specific area of the brain to alter electrical activity in the brain and restore chemical balance. Learn more.

Getting a prescription for antidepressants

Antidepressant medications are prescribed following a consultation with your family doctor or your doctor specialized in mental health (psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.). During your visit, the healthcare provider will ask you a series of questions to find out what your symptoms are and whether your mental health condition actually requires antidepressants.

If you or a loved one is facing mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to consult with our qualified professionals who will be there to guide you along your journey to better mental health.

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Dr. Jeremy Cohen is a family physician at ELNA Pricate care (Décarie Square) and holds a complementary certificate specializing in medical aesthetics. He applies a holistic approach to patient care, whether through direct assessment or physical evaluation of the patient, psychosocial or family support, or the application of specific procedural skills.