Breaking the Stigma of Antidepressants

Hide Video Transcript

Video Transcript

We know that one of the greatest barriers to seeking treatment for depression, which, just like high blood pressure, is a medical disease, is stigma. People often feel that, if they're not feeling well or they're feeling down or they're not being productive or they're not sleeping, that somehow it's their fault that, if they just toughened up or they got a different outlook or they just snapped out of it, that they would be better.

And that's a really, really dangerous effect of stigma because depression is serious. Depression can make other medical conditions worse. Depression is treatable. And so one of the things that's really important is to educate all of ourselves about how real depression is and how effective the treatments for depression are.

So let's start with some of the things that are definitely not true about antidepressants that make people concerned and often lead to worry. Things that don't happen by going on an antidepressant are your personality completely changing or not knowing who you are anymore. That's a real fear and it's something to be clear about upfront. Your personality doesn't change. Who you are doesn't change. What does change is the way you feel and the symptoms of depression, like being tired, not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much.

Another misconception is that, once you start taking an antidepressant, you have to be on it forever. You're on it for life, and you can never go off it because you become dependent on it in some way. But for a single episode of depression, most people, after a period of stability and feeling better, are able to go off the medication slowly under the care of a doctor.

Now for people who have more severe depression, lifelong depression, or multiple episodes during their life, they might expect to stay on medication longer. And of course, that's an individual treatment decision made between one person and their doctor. The patient needs to ask the really important questions about what they can expect from the medication and to ask questions about alternatives, both different types of medications and other kinds of treatment to address the depression.