The problem with western medicine in that there is an emphasis on quick fixes. Got an infection? Get some antibiotics from the doctors. Got back ache? Neck some paracetamol that are hiding in the cupboard somewhere. Job done. Whilst this can work for some physical illnesses, this is not the case for mental illnesses.
The unfortunately truth about mental illnesses is that they take time, and lots of it, to heal. For some, a few months or a few years, whilst others it can take a whole lifetime, or never. Despite what these miracle programs like The Speakmans present, there is no quick fix. Years of phobia, obsession or depression cannot be cured in a day (unless you are one of a very few lucky people out there).
Unlike pain killers and antibiotics, antidepressants take considerable time to work. One of the biggest problems with antidepressants is how long it takes for the positive effects to take shape. For the first two to four weeks (or up to eight weeks for some) symptoms of anxiety and depression can increase. Different medication and different people experience different side effects. Some are quite fortunate and may only experience mild shakiness for a couple of weeks, whilst some can experience extremely severe anxiety, dizziness, suicidal thoughts, nausea, weight gain, sleepiness and electric shock sensations. For some, these are too unbearable to wait out.
And even when the initial side effects have subsided, the desired effects may not ever take hold. The idea of antidepressants is to make the symptoms of anxiety and depression more tolerable to carry out normal day-to-day duties and for therapies to work better. For some people the symptoms of anxiety and depression remain as so, or can worsen. There is no definitive answer on how people will feel until they take the antidepressants.
I said earlier that antidepressants are to make the symptoms of anxiety and depression MORE TOLERABLE. Unfortunately, people still believe that they are used to cure them, although I’m sure they have cured people in the past, I have yet to meet one of them. There is still little understanding why some people have anxiety and depression and others don’t, and what parts of the body are responsible, but there is strong evidence that talking therapies work far better than antidepressants.
Antidepressants only mask the problem. Sure, anxiety symptoms are uncomfortable and depression is hard to live with, but masking the symptoms does not treat the illness. Talking therapies, such as counselling, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy and psychoanalysis help to unravel memories that may have contributed to the illness, any feelings that need exploring and struggles that need a route to overcome, whilst talking to somebody who is impartial, empathic, and who can provide safety. I cannot express the benefit of discussing something that is deep, personal and painful to somebody who you can trust, and that overwhelming feeling of it finally being off your chest. And there is also the added benefit of learning coping techniques! Different therapies provide different benefits, something that I will explore in a later blog. This is worth discussing with a doctor or mental health professional when discussing a treatment plan.
It breaks my heart and makes me want to slap my forehead at the same time when I read people posting on forums about how their antidepressants are still making them anxious or depressed. It breaks my heart that somebody has clearly not explained what their true use is, and makes me sigh that yet another victim has fallen through the trap of false pretences. I do not blame people entirely, I once thought that they were the answer, but it took for me to experience their effects and research to realise how very wrong I was.
I do not completely disapprove antidepressants. They can truly help somebody plagued by severe anxiety or depression to take hold of their life again and it can make talking therapies more beneficial. As long as the individual is aware that antidepressants are not a quick fix or a cure it can avoid disappointment and aid in recovery.