The BBC recently reported that 2 million people in the England have been taking antidepressants for five or more years. Antidepressants are not only taken for depression, but also for a range of other disorders including various anxiety-related issues.
Modern antidepressants affect the brain’s chemical balance. It was originally thought that they worked by adjusting the uptake of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that is related to your sense of well-being). However, there are scientists who think that it simply affects the way you think and feel.
Taking pills to help relieve stress and anxiety may sound like the quick and easy method of sorting out a problem – but you should be aware that you can become dependent on them. Evidence suggests that they can help people in the short-term – but there are no real long-term studies. So it is worrying that so many people have been taking them for over five years.
And then there is the issue of stopping once you have started. If you come off many antidepressants too fast, you can develop withdrawal symptoms – including an increase in anxiety. So if you want to come off, make sure you do it in consultation with your doctor.
The NHS website emphasises various talking therapies as alternatives to antidepressants. Apart from mentioning exercise, it does not have a lot of guidance on lifestyle changes. Changing diet, changing routine, taking more exercise and other lifestyle changes are also an important means for tackling anxiety and depression.
If you have been taking antidepressants for a long time, if you haven’t talked to your doctor about it for a while, it might be worth doing so.
BBC Report on Long-Term Antidepressant Use
Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash