Why Your Anti-Depressant Could Be Making You More Depressed


The latest news about antidepressants may make your heart drop. One psychologist is saying we've been wrong about what causes depression all along. And that could mean we've been treating depression the wrong way as well.


Psychologist Paul Andrews of McMaster University in Ontario is challenging the idea that low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin leads to depression. In a paper published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, he argues that there may be more of the feel-good chemical being released and used during depressive episodes, not less, and those higher levels are what leads to depression. Whoa. If he's right how did everyone else get it so wrong? So treating depression by trying to elevate serotonin levels is counterproductive.

About 55 to 70 percent of people who take antidepressants typically see a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms. And about 30 percent of patients will be relieved of all their symptoms. So if you've been disappointed with how well your meds have worked, you might be thinking this explains why.

But you may not want to run with that idea quite yet.

We asked Dr. Daniel Carlat, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University and author of Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry, what he thinks about this new report.

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Carlat concedes that we don't fully understand how exactly antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work. But they're still valuable for treating patients. "My experience has been that SSRIs are helpful for depression, anxiety disorders, and several other psychiatric disorders," he says.

He finds Andrews' study interesting. However, he adds, "it's one of literally thousands of scientific studies looking at serotonin and depression. It's certainly not groundbreaking." He believes we're still decades away from having a clear idea of the biochemistry of depression.

Bottom line is, while antidepressants aren't perfect, medication and therapy are still our best defense for now. It's all a matter of figuring out, with your doctor, what works best for you.

What has been your experience with depression and medication? Have you or someone you love struggled to find the right treatment?


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