Perceptions of young women using SSRI antidepressants - A reclassification of stigma

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Objective - To contribute to an understanding of young women's perspective on using selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Method - Eight in-depth interviews and four re-interviews were conducted with young women (aged 21-34) using SSRIs. Informants were recruited through pharmacies in Copenhagen, Denmark. Pharmacy personnel identified potential participants based on dispensed prescriptions and gave them a contact letter with information about the study. Key findings - When suffering from emotional problems, the women saw themselves as dysfunctional in their daily lives. They felt that they deviated from what is considered "normal" in society and thus felt stigmatised. When the women contacted their physicians they were prescribed SSRIs. After starting the medication, the women felt that they could once again function in everyday life and they felt relieved. However, the women also associated taking SSRIs with stigmatisation due to the reputation of the medicines as "happiness pills" and the association with mental instability. The women concealed their emotional problems and medication from most people in their social networks. This was the result of the women's own anticipation of being stigmatised and their fear of negative reactions from others if they revealed the truth. Conclusion - The young women using SSRIs felt stigmatised, initially due to their emotional problems. After the women were diagnosed, the stigma was reclassified and then became associated with taking SSRIs. The women coped primarily by trying to pass for normal. Our findings show that the SSRI users attach psychological and social meanings to their use of the drugs. Pharmacy professionals need to be aware of such meanings if they are to enhance their role in patient care.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmacy Practice
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)243-252
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002

ID: 228774726