For every person that asks this question there is a different answer and it should be an informed and considered decision following a conversation with your Doctor or prescriber.
Here are some points to consider.
Modern antidepressants are not “addictive” as many people think but they do take up to a few weeks to get into the system and at the end of treatment usually need to be “weaned” off rather than stopped suddenly. Once taking medication some people worry how they will cope without it, but your G.P will be able to review things with you and together decide a good time to come off them and how to do this.
It can be difficult to get the dose and type of medication right for each person. Most people start with a low dose which is reviewed and increased if necessary and some people end up switching medications a few times to get the best type for them.
How can anti-depressants help?
There are types of antidepressant which can help you to sleep (which many people get comfort from if taken at night), types that will help decrease anxiety & restlessness (for example: Prozac) and other types that will help reduce lethargy and lack of mental energy (for example: Citalopram).
Anti-depressants are not a cure as such but can help alleviate symptoms and are very commonly prescribed. It is something that is best discussed with your G.P but it is worth having a conversation with him or her rather than immediately dismissing them. Ask your G.P to explain the benefits for you, how a particular drug might help and what to expect.
What about side effects?
Some people do get side effects: the most common ones being lack of libido (sex drive) and appetite changes (resulting in weight gain or loss); however it is important to remember that these symptoms are also symptoms of depression.
If taking medication it can be difficult to decipher whether the symptoms you experience are as a result of the medication or as a result of the depression.
So where does that leave me?
If your depression is moderate to severe and you are not coping very well then I would encourage you to speak to your GP about how medication may be helpful to you.
It can help to think of medication as short term help over a period of 6 to 12 months and not something that once on you will be taking for life.
If tablets can help you sleep, function better and have less anxiety or more mental energy then this can help you feel better and also help you to get the best out of any therapy you undertake.
What are the alternatives?
There is some evidence to show that regular exercise, getting out and about (rather than self isolating), and taking high strength supplements of omega three oils (fish oil) can help the symptoms of depression. Significant reduction of alcohol can also help (alcohol is a depressant substance) and attention to diet (reducing sugar and caffeine) can also help.
A natural anti depressant is St. Johns Wort (available from health shops)
Talking therapies (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT., psychotherapy and counselling) can be extremely helpful with or without antidepressants but sometimes the two compliment each other.