You can play a vital role in dispelling myths and illuminating your patients’ decision making regarding antidepressant treatment. Here’s how to address two common patient objections:
• "I won’t take mood-altering drugs." Physician: I understand your concern, but antidepressants are not like street drugs. Antidepressants do not make you feel high or result in ups and downs. Most important, they are not addictive. Taking an antidepressant to correct a chemical problem in the brain is no different than taking a medication for diabetes. You are simply returning the body to proper functioning.
• "I tried antidepressants in the past and they didn’t work." Physician: There could be a number of reasons why antidepressants did not work for you. Treatment requires a lot of patience, and misinformation can play a role in medicine failure as well. It is possible that the dose you were given was too low, or perhaps you weren't treated long enough to prevent a relapse or recurrence of symptoms. Some patients stop taking antidepressants after only a couple of weeks because they do not feel an improvement in their mood, when in fact it takes four to six weeks before the benefits of the medication are felt. Some patients think they only need to take the medication when they feel bad, but antidepressants have to be taken every day. Sometimes several medications have to be tried before finding the one that works for you. I know you have little faith in antidepressants, but I hope you will give them one more try under my close watch.
Adapted from “11 Patient Misconceptions About Antidepressants: How to Respond.”
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