, Professor of Social Pharmacy, at The University of Nottingham said: “This project will be important for educating both patients and healthcare professionals about what it is actually like to take antidepressants. When prescribed an antidepressant for the first time people often want to know more about what to expect; how they might feel when they are taking them, how long they take to work, how long they should expect to take them for and about potential side effects. They clearly value being able to hear about other people’s experiences.”
The experiences of others
The interviews also highlighted the role of doctors in helping people to find an antidepressant that suits them. Susan Kirkpatrick, senior qualitative researcher for the Health Experiences Research Group at Oxford University, said: “Recent media reports on the rise of antidepressant prescribing have suggested that GPs are too ready to hand out prescriptions. Some people did comment that their doctor had been quick to reach for the prescription pad, but this varied widely. It was the amount of care, time and support doctors provided that seemed more important to the people we spoke to.”
Some of the interviewees explained that finding the right medication could be like ‘waving a magic wand’ but others struggled with unpleasant side effects, such as anxiety, loss of sex-drive, headaches and feeling ‘detached’. It took some people several years to find a medicine that worked for them, and this could mean simply being able to ‘manage’ their depression, along with other strategies such as therapy. Some said they had never found one that was effective.
One of the interviewees, 36 year old Jenny, first experienced depression as a teenager and has been on three different antidepressants. Initially she had high hopes; “I sort of expected to feel ‘happy’ because the media were dubbing antidepressants as ‘happy pills’” she says. “I now know that they don’t stop me feeling down when it is natural to feel down; rather they prevent me from getting stuck down there.”
Interviewees described side effects such as anxiety, suicidal feelings, dizziness or loss of appetite that could last for a month or more and, in some cases, people actually felt worse than before they started taking the pills. Others needed to try several antidepressants before finding one that is effective.
Others had advice too, stressing that it was important to see antidepressants as just one aspect of the ‘road to recovery’ rather than a solution in itself.
Easy access to the information
‘Experiences of Antidepressants’ can be viewed on Healthtalkonline.org.
The antidepressants project can be viewed on the newly redesigned Healthtalkonline.org at http://healthtalkonline.org/peoples-experiences/mental-health/experiences-antidepressants
The following participants from the project are available for interview: