Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Newsweek: Do Antidepressants Work? For Many People, YES!

posted by Beyond Blue

antidepressants.jpg
I admire Newsweek writer Sharon Begley’s work … especially when she explains ways we can try to rewire our brain. But I found last week’s cover story irresponsible. If, for no other reason, than its title and subtitle: “The Depressing News About Antidepressants: Studies Suggest That the Popular Drugs Are No More Effective Than a Placebo. In Fact, They May Be Worse.”

Then I may as well kill myself.

That’s how I would have read the article four years ago, before I started questioning all the information available today on mood disorders and drug treatment, before I started working with a physician from Johns Hopkins who could help me tease out the hope from articles like this, so I wasn’t tempted to take my life upon reading there was no way out of the darkness.

In fact, on the way to my consultation at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Clinic, I read a similar article in O magazine: a compilation of interviews with folks about how antidepressants zap creativity, dull emotions, destroy creativity, flatten libidos, and a list of other things. Shaking with anxiety and tears coming down my face, I almost told Eric to turn around, that I was foolish to think that there was hope for me, that I was a lost case, and that, if the article was right, I would only be making matters worse.

Thank God I threw the article into the backseat and went on with my consultation.

I don’t know why the main body of research behind the article is so surprising: antidepressants work better for those with severe depression than for those who suffer from mild to moderate depression. Can’t we say that as part of the subtitle, to help out the folks who are banking on medical intervention to lighten their crushing and burdensome load?

I’ve always maintained that if a person has mild to moderate depression, then he should start with his diet, sleep, exercise. Try yoga or some acupuncture sessions. In many cases, that’s enough!

For folks like me, though, who are/were hanging on to life by a very thin and fraying thread, antidepressants can save lives. They have certainly given me back my life. I know that. Because I tried absolutely everything else I could to make the death thoughts go away, and they continued to stalk me until I found the right medication combination. Now, instead of putting 95 percent of my energy into NOT taking my life, I can invest it into helping others not take their own lives and to giving back. Which is why I think magazines like Newsweek, with so much power over the information we process, should be more careful than to say: Sorry folks, for those of you so desperate, well, you may as well give up and take a gun to your head.

John Grohol of Psychcentral always provides a number of insights to media stories with unfortunate sticking power. In a recent post, “Are Antidepressants Really That Ineffective?” he writes:

Newsweek’s Sharon Begley has a lengthy article discussing the growing body of evidence that calls into question decades’ worth of prescriptions. It seems to be journalists’ favorite “go to” story now in mental health, because there’s a black-and-white controversy — do antidepressants work or don’t they?

People mistakenly believe that one type of research is somehow superior to another form of research. However, data is data and research is research. All things being equal, if it’s done in as objective a manner a human being can do it, then it’s all good and informative. A study conducted 20 years ago is just as valid today, as long as the design of the study was solid and unbiased. And a single-case experimental design, while not very generalizable, can still lead — and has led — to valuable insights into human behavior.

So I get a little concerned when we do give more weight to the most recent study, or the most recent meta-analysis. They have their place, but their place is in context — understanding the body of research as a whole. (Because meta-analyses never take into account the entire body of research on a drug or topic — they always have inclusion and exclusion criteria, criteria that can directly impact the results they find.)

To see another article about this issue go ’round and ’round the bend with both sides, but not really bringing anything new to the discussion, is a little frustrating. I think it’s pretty obvious that if a drug was supposed to help people, but didn’t, people would stop taking it and doctors would eventually stop prescribing it. Since it’s unethical to prescribe placebos to patients outside of a research study, what choice do doctors and patients have — the drug works. (Well, not always, of course, but in many people who take it, and who keep trying a different antidepressant if the first one doesn’t work, according to the results of the STAR*D study.)

In other words, can we please get back to a forest view of mood disorders so that, while we’re busy analyzing the lady bug on the bark of a tree, we don’t miss the guy with one leg off the bridge? Antidepressants aren’t fool proof. Unfortunately. Sometimes you have to try a few before you feel relief, and for some people (especially those who suffer from mild to moderate depression, that can benefit more from other kinds of therapies), SSRIs might not work at all.

But let me say this loud and clear: There is hope. Depression is treatable. It is, as William Sytron wrote in his classic, “Darkness Visible,” “conquerable.” And much of that has to do with the drugs that are available today.

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  • Weeble75

    You’ve pointed out a fact that is well-known to those of us who have been in this “battle of the brain” for some time; there is no “magic bullet”, nor is there an INDIVIDUAL anti-depressant that is fully effective for all who have clinical depression (esp. without overriding side-effects). That’s one reason why there are so MANY antidepressant medications. Some work for some people, some work for other people, in my case it takes two different ones in combination to give me the relief I need. And for every med I’ve taken that has been helpful (and all have been to an extent), I’ve known people who could tell horror stories about the same med.
    Everybody’s brain chemistry is different, so it can be expected that one particular medication will not help everyone’s situation. There is also “treatment-resistant” depression, which may require many different attempts and different therapies (including non-medicinal approaches) before the right combination for THAT PERSON is found.
    Keep up the good work, Therese.

  • Kate

    Many thanks for your blog! I agree, antidepressants work well for severe depression. Because of them, like you, I have my life back. All those side-effects that people use in opposition, well for the most part, I haven’t experienced them. But I now can have a chance at enjoying life with my husband and kids. It’s certainly better than the alternative, wanting to take my own life.
    What works best depends on the person. No two people are the same. I feel most for those who are struggling to find what works for them. I really wish writers like the ones you’ve quoted would think BEFORE they write. Because I heard enough of that claptrap too. I sense most of those people have no idea just how dark the darkness of depression really is. They just add pain and more stigma and their pious feel-good pablum can discourage someone who really needs help from seeking it. Glad you threw O magazine into the back seat and went to the doctor anyway. I needed my friend and my spouse to take me to my doctor’s appointment the first time. I am so glad. I have my life back. I am forever grateful for such a gift, even though I still struggle and still take meds every day.
    I just wish journalists would be more responsible and nuanced. I guess that’s too much to ask. It wouldn’t sell as many newspapers or magazines.

  • Jaliya

    Yes, the key is how “deep and wide” a depression is. How deep is the impact … how long has the abyss been there. Funny how that’s not often mentioned in “general interest” articles.
    In the mid-1980s, I began a course of an older-generation tricyclic drug. It simply baffled and stupefied me. In 1996, I began to take Paxil. I was hugely fortunate — the first drug tried “clicked” with my particular chemistry. Sixteen days after I took the first pill, I awoke to an immediate and completely new sensation: a certain lightness of being. Something had simply lifted away during the night.
    Over thirteen years later, I live with Paxil as a person with diabetes lives with insulin. To keep me sane and in part, alive, Paxil’s up there with the basic needs like air, water, food, and warmth.
    I need to do the rest — take mindful care of myself and augment the basics with appropriate food, rest, movement, stimulation, sleep, etc. Major depression — and any illness that is considered a “mental” one — requires close and consistent attention to the entire person, from metabolics to meaning.
    I remember asking my doctor how I would know that this medicine was working.
    “You’ll know by what your body does,” he replied.
    On that one morning, sixteen pink pills in, my body arose from bed having relinquished a terrible, tarry weight. I still can’t define it … and there’s still a great deal of ongoing work I have to do, to tend to, regulate, and engage with the weight of my whole being. It’s not easy, and the pink pills haven’t cured anything. They seem to have “upped” a metabolic baseline to a more functional level. I still struggle, and this condition I live with is chronic. Given my history, I’ve likely had it since I was an infant.
    One thing I sure with the MSM would pay more attention to is the metabolics of mood disorders. There seems to be a basic vitality that is severely depleted, or bizarrely charged (considering the vast extremes of energy, emotion, cognition and behaviour that occur) … but rarely in a moderate, quiet state.
    That inability (that some habitually judge to be unwilling) to get out of bed, or get going? … It’s not “just a mood”. It’s a body and brain that have been just about exhausted in its attempts to stay alive, sane, and functional.
    And given the state of the world at large, at the cruel and contemptuous institutions our kind have created that do more harm than good to the human soul (and everything else), how can major depression *not* be, as they say, the #2 reason for prolonged workplace absenteeism and illness?
    Metabolics to meaning, and everything in between … For metabolics, a good read would be Peter C. Whybrow’s *A Mood Apart* … for meaning, Thomas Moore’s chapter on depression in *Care of the Soul* are good starting points.
    … Therese, thanks for all you do …

  • Gen

    Hi Therese, just a quick note to say thank you for continuing to speak out against these extremely unhelpful and potentially dangerous articles. You’re helping many, many people. Don’t stop!

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  • nincompoopoo

    Therese: I “happened” upon some of your writing, and I have to say that after reading some of what you wrote, I feel as if I have met a kindred spirit. I, too, am a recovering alcoholic, but my biggest enemy, the one that has plagued me for as long as I can remember is ANXIETY. It is a terrible, horrible, awful way to live, and I struggle, even now, with anxiety every day, in various stages of severity. And it seems to be much worse now 4 years into my sobriety. Perhaps it has worsened as a result of losing my mother a mere seven months ago, which came out of nowhere, and pummeled me like Mohammed Ali against Sonny Liston. The feelings are nothing short of horrific, and they can be crippling. Nothing seems to help, except time and LOTS AND LOTS OF PRAYER. Now I know why I drank! But, through it all, (and her death was just the worst of the emotional blows I took in 2009) I DID NOT DRINK. So now when a friend decides to give up the boozing life and join the ranks of the sober life livers, I’m tempted to warn them to enjoy those first two years, because they are the greatest! It’s when God starts to test your resolve that the REAL WORK BEGINS!
    Thank you for all your wonderful and insightful tools of coping with anxiety and depression, and just plain old life in general. Some of them I already use, and others I can’t wait to put into play.

  • Christina W

    I’ve been on Pristiq for close to a year. I’m 43 and since I can recall I’ve dealt with anxiety. Some of it comes from my having mitral valve prolaspe -which until my early 20’s, had no idea this condition could contribute to anxiety. Depression runs in my family and my mother was bi-polar – tho well controlled on medication. I firmly believe there is a genetic component to mental health issues just as there is a higer risk of diabetes and cancer in some families. I also think the media plays a huge roll in the controlling of people – keep ‘em down – keep ‘em thinking there is no way out of the depression, debt, whatever – and we can lead them around like blind sheep. I’m at the point now where I struggle with whether I should stay on the Pristiq or stop and see how life goes. There have been some side effects but you have to take the bitter with the sweet and for me, regardless of what any reporter at Newsweek says, Prisitq worked. I just don’t know how someone determines if therapy needs to be life long or short term. Thank you for all you do – for being a voice for those of us who need someone with the outlet as you have. Far too long mental health has been closeted. Let the light shine!

  • http://lettertouniverse.blogspot.com/ Linda

    Thank you so much for being here.
    I have been on some sort of anti-depressant for the past 20 years and I really don’t think I would be here to talk about it if I had been on these medications. Every once in a while I get the idea of going off and I even tried it a couple of years ago. Within eight weeks my anxiety was sky high and I felt like I was levitating off the mattress at night – and not in the calm, OMMMMM, sort of way. I got back on them as soon as possible.
    I was disturbed recently by research that says that antidepressants take away our ability to establish close and meaningful relationships. I felt a sense of loss when reading that but then realized that my ability to engage in relationships has more to do with my life history that the medications and that any relationship I would attempt without medications would be doomed to fail given my mood swings and anxiety. Sometimes I just have to remember that I am my own best researcher and research subject in regards to what works best for me – and that is a combination of meds, yoga, mindfulness based meditation, diet and supplements. Thank you.

  • Lauren

    Thank you , thank you, and thank you again for pointing out the irresponsibility of these authors in writing such articles. It is so very clear to me that the people writing these have not got a clue what a full blown bona fide clinical depression is all about. I think that patients , even when they are in deep distress, are reluctant to try antidepressant medication. Articles like these serve to reinforce apprehensions about these medications. if one such article prevented a seriously ill person from partaking in appropriate medication , and that person ended up as a suicide , would not the author of such an article bear some responsibility for that suicide? I wish someone would do a high profile rebuttal , that had the kind of exposure that say a Newsweek cover had, so that the general public could see the truth of the situation.

  • Nancy

    Thank you for your post on the effectiveness of anti-depressants. I have had so many people “tell” me what to do, people who are clueless as to how debilitating severe clinical depression can be…things like: look at the bright side, work out, do something, get out more, join a club, see a herbalist, etc. And articles such as the one in Newsweek just put mental illness back in the cloud of shame. Shame on Newsweek for publishing this. Shame on those who want to get attention with headlines and making one who is struggling with mental illness all the more depressed. It’s a dangerous game they play—toying with someone severely depressed. I thank God for my neuropsychiatrist and the anti-depressants we have finally found to help my severe depression. They have saved my life. They have pulled me out of the bottomless, dark pit.

  • Your Name

    Enjoyed this blog as a scientist, epidemiologist wanna-be and person with Bipolar I disorder. I have been truly lucky in that the first antidepressant chosen in major depressive episodes has worked. What I perceived was that these drugs returned me to “normal”, did not take away or increase creativity. Also, fortunately for me, the side-effects were minimal and tended to decrease with time.
    My most recent episode, which, I hope is about over, was diagnosed as “mixed”. A little hypomania remains or is it I’m just so happy to not be depressed and life is good again!
    Thanks for your daily blog. It has been one of the factors in getting me through a rough time.

  • Jeff

    Actually, none of you need to be on any of these drugs. Yes they are drugs with side affects and they only fool your mind in to thinking they work. Only to be having the same feelings again the next day. But, there is a drug that will cure your problem. Jesus can heal you, the reason you won’t believe me cause you won’t try it. There are no side affects and it is free, so why not try him first. Believe onto Jesus that he is the son of God. Read chapter 3 in JOHN.

  • Your Name

    To Jeff – Have you ever heard the expression “God helps those that help themselves”

  • Brad

    I can only speak of my experience. I suffer from Major Depression. Their is no doubt in my mind that the drugs I take for the Depression make a big difference. I will always be on them and that is OK with me. The difference they make, along with therapy is very apparent.

  • Your Name

    Thank you for this article. I have been on anti-depressants for a while now and they have greatly enhanced my ability to function and be available to those that I love.
    My husband, however, believed all those articles and disagreed with me. He moved out to his own place due to his “just being not happy” and “trying to find happiness” and failed. He did not take anti depressants, instead opted for over the counter stuff, which did not work. Then when it got to be so bad he could not get out of bed, he finally gave in, went to his GP, lied about the severity of it, GP gave him Wellbutrin (as my husband said he did his own research and this would be best for him, regardless of what the doctor said), then 1 1/2 weeks later killed himself. His letter said he could not live one more day with the guilt and agony and had lost his desire to live. If he had been on anti depressants and the right one, not saying Wellbutrin may not have worked in time, this would not have happened.
    But he beleived the hype about the antidepressants not really working.
    So thank you. you may have saved a life.

  • jJOYCE

    After reading all the posts about this subject and having been through all of the treatment and antidepressants and then none ,I can say that Jesus Christ and a close walk and counsel with Him in alternate treatment with natural herbs and diet control has brought me peace and relief from the depression. I hang on to the author of life and take good care of His temple and I am rewarded with good mental health.

  • BMH

    Do you think that Christians are immune to depression? That is like saying Christians are not born with birth defects or that nothing bad every happens to a Christian. God works in many ways, including medications.
    I feel sorry for you because you are so unintelligent and close minded. People like you are why there are so few Christians now. The Bible says that God will not send you through something that he can not deliver you from. It doesn’t say HOW he will help deliver you through. How do you know God has not given people the knowledge to develop the medications that help people? You don’t. While your intention of posting on this blog may be with good in mind(or it could be just to anger people) you need to work on your way of presenting your faith.”The reason you wont believe me is because you wont try it.” You do not know what anyone has or has not tried. Matthew 7:1-5
    It is better to be silent and to be through a fool rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt.

  • http://Michael Michael

    I have taken antidepressants since 2001. After suffering from mild to severe depressive episodes my entire life, I have not had one severe episode since taking the medication. I still have bad times, but I can manage them effectively now. The medication simply “levels the playing field” so that you can cope with your issues. They are not a cure all, but another tool to consider in dealing with depression.

  • Jeff

    Emotions are not a disease so to speak. I’m not saying don’t take medications if your sick, it’s just that your feelings or your mind is on the wrong thinking pattern. Having Jesus in you helps you deals with your emotions so that you will see things His way and think about heavenly things. He says don’t worry about tomorrow, seek God first, then he will give you everything you need. I’m not judging (Matt 7:1-5) I’m stating a truth that Jesus saves. Those who don’t understand, haven’t tried seeking the Lord. Also God helps those who can’t help themselves.

  • Gerard Vandeberg

    I do feel that such medication is very worthwhile–it certainly has been for me.

  • emma

    Very well said,and needed to be said, Therese. It also needs to be said that some antidepressants help mild anxiety.
    As a rule I pay little attention to what media people have to say, particularly when a medical issue is involved. I put some enrgy into entertaining recalled medications. And even those, I discuss with my doctor. I listen to my Physician. It is sad that the media is overly saturated today leading to reporters struggling to meet their deadlines with sensationalism. What better way to sell material than to salarm people about their health. Sensational, misleading headlines are certain to capture one’s attention. Paid “scientific” mouth pieces that support the reporters oblique opinions should be locked up. It appears that many journalists consider themselves stars today, and they will do or say anything to keep their post. It is a disgrace.

  • Lynn

    Yes, the old, tiresome argument against antidepressants, and how and why they do not work. Having taken a number of them over the many years I have suffered from bipolar disorder, I believe my doctor and I have finally found the right mixture of helpful elements: an antidepressant, lithium, a mood stabilizer, benzodiazepines for the anxiety, and Abilify to hold it all together. That may seem like a lot, but it works. And there is always the possibility of tinkering with dosage levels. I also meditate, use a Happy light during the long winter months, and exercise.
    I normally respect Sharon Begley’s work, but she is way off the mark here.

  • Mrs. Ditter

    Therese, your work is honest and important and comes straight from the heart. Anti-depressants don’t work for everyone; Jesus/God/meditating doesn’t work for everyone; we’re all responsible for figuring out (to the best of our ability) what works for us and then to stop throwing shoes at people who think differently.

  • JulieH

    Jeff
    Those are all nice thoughts, but the science and biology behind severe depression is not just a bad way of thinking. There is actually an imbalance within the chemicals that work within the brain that cause a malfunction. That is like telling a diabetic, don’t take your insullin, just go to church and seek the lord. It doesn’t work. Yes, seeking GOD, or whatever your religion, may be another tool for creating a balanced lifestyle, but that is a very simplistic uneducated view of what the underlying problem is. Please don’t pass that advice on to people in your life who are severely depressed, it could cost them their life.

  • Geri Greene

    It is so distressing to have someone publicize opinions like this one in the Newsweek article. We who are suffering from depression feel victimized again when notes like this find readership among those who do not understand our pains and pressures. I’ve encountered the same thing from the self-help community to the point I have gone off my meds and thought if I just “wish I can, I wish I can” hard enough, I, too, can be medication free. As if willing it will make it true.
    The line I let myself remember when I again request my support meds is that if I were diabetic nobody would suggest that by wishing myself not to be, I could cure the condition/situation. It is possible that for some their depression is short-term and for those I celebrate that they are able to give up pharmaceutical support, but to apply the info to every situation is as irresponsible as it would be to place everyone ON medication Justin Case it might be helpful.
    This is the type of article that a family member or friend would shove in front of my face to try to convince me that I am misleading them with what is an invisible inside disease. And I will have the same setback I’ve experiencing while I battle their opinions balanced against finding the best possible support combo for me including counsel and medication.
    It takes controversy to sell magazines, so I will understand and forgive the author of this piece, but don’t do us any favors by publishing more about how the tools we have found that work to improve our lives is some sort of unnecessary part of our toolbox.
    If this is a current enough article, I hope to locate it and post what I have posted here as well. Thank you for seeing that we got to review it.

  • Your Name

    Hurrah for anti-depressants to say they don’t work better than a placebo in all people is irresponsible. Find the right one. Overcome the fear that nothing can help. Educate yourself on your condition. See your doctor. I was a complete trainwreck until I was 38. How I lived that long without help I’ll never know.

  • Tesha

    Hello I Just started taking anti-depressants Drug Lexapro about 4 months ago and at first my anxiety was reduced and i felt more relaxed my issue is not depression but anxiety and sleep issues Plus i cant seem to stop worring overly thnking now it seems that the medication makes my sleep issues worse then b4 only time i get real sleep is if i take a sleep pill id like to get help but im not sure what will really work since i already work out at the gym and i try to eat healthy test shows that i dont have health issues but i just cant relax. what should i do ?

  • Tammy

    antidepressants do work!

  • Tamy

    I do agree that antidepressants can and do work for those with major depression and anxiety. I also believe God’s word He tells us that we have the mind of Christ. His word also tells us that He is not the author of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. With his help I am getting better and starting to taper down off my anti-depressant/anxiety pills.

  • Your Name

    To “Jeff” – are you saying then that people should take Jesus as a drug? That’s how you’re presenting it. No different from the people in Scientology who claim that psych drugs are bad and their hokum is better. Yeah, I’ve known plenty of people who go off one addictive drug – alcohol, crack, whatever – and started taking the Jesus drug instead. It consumes their every waking hour just like their previous drug of choice did. They try to get everyone around them to try it, too, so they don’t have to do it alone. They’re willing to alienate those who love them in favor of their addiction. Some may call it a harmless addiction, but it’s still an addiction – the only thing that has changed is the substance. The person isn’t any healthier.

  • Michelle

    Antidepressants are only a placebo? HAH! Then why didn’t all those vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements ease my depression all those years – if its all “just” a placebo?
    Thank you for speaking out on irresponsible journalism.

  • Rick Siegert

    Thank you for commenting on this. I read the article and have the same conclusions as you do. I have had moderately severe depression my whole life (family history), and my life markedly improved when I was diagnosed with it at age 43 and put on anti-depressant medication.

  • Ivy

    I have had depression for many years. It was only when I decided to finally get medical help and a prescription for an antidepressant, did I begin to feel consistently good. Looking back, had I sought medical help when I was much younger I might have avoided making some of the mistakes I made based on my flat-lined state.

  • Your Name

    I have had major depression for at least 12 years now. So many doctors, so many medications, and no relief. Finally, dragging myself to be my own advocate, I proposed my own treatment plan – Prozac (the one pill I hadn’t tried). Thankfully, after 2 months, I can see the light of hope that has so long eluded me. It is difficult to continue the battle long after everyone else has given up, but as I learned the hard way – no one is going to rescue or help me except myself. Medication can work but one must dig deeply to find the strength to continue the battle.

  • Steve Parker

    I wholly agree with Therese’s comments on this subject. Like Therese, I am an example of the life-saving effects of antidepressants. If not for therapy AND the combination of AD’s I’ve been taking for many years, I would have taken my own life. I also agree that for mildly depressed persons, the alternative means of treating this illness mentioned in this blog should be the first step in treatment. Severely depressed people end their lives not because of weakness, selfishness, or the inability to handle life’s problems, but because they are immersed in a hell which is perceived as eternal. Therapy and antidepressants allow the severely depressed to be lifted out of this hell, and to also understand that with proper treatment, this hell will not last forever. For those who by the grace of God have never experienced severe depression, let me offer some context in which to get a glimpse into this illness. My wife and I have dealt with three life-altering illnesses; her stage 4 cancer, my viral encephalitis (which kills 75%, and leaves most of those who survive severely disabled), and my depression. The cancer and encephalitis resulted in lengthy hospitalizations, and many months of physical and mental therapy. Both of us agree that my depression has been by far the most destructive and challenging life event we’ve had to endure.

  • Christy

    Depression is typically due to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain and antidepressants help to balance them. I firmly believe that antidepressants work but different ones work better for different people. It is a matter of finding the right one at the right dosage. For those who say you only need Jesus, have you ever thought that he may have given scientist the ability to come up with these drugs to help us??? Jesus does not only work supernaturally.

  • theo clifton park

    Thank you for this comment. I had a very similar experience and was so afraid to take the pills that ultimately changed my life. Thank God for modern medicine, and if I am a little more sluggish or less creative, I’ll gladly trade that for the unending terror, anxiety, and confusion that my life was.

  • Bekah

    I have to agree with this article. I grew up thinking that depression and medication was wrong, I just needed to trust God and it would all be fine. I found out last year when I started to crash again that once I was on the right meds – my life has changed. I still fight it mildly, but not to the extent I had. I thank God every day for a Dr, that encouraged me to address the issue and take control. I am hoping some day to go off it, but if not that is fine. I am able to live a full and happy life and not dread that one day I will do what my brain was encouraging me to do to end it or ruin it more and more.

  • Margaret

    I did not know that the understanding that SSRIs are often medically effective at treating depression. Thank you for this article.
    I am another who thanks SSRIs for a new lease on life. I’ve suffered from depression most my life, and now, after a year of SSRI treatment I am at last rid of the debilitating self doubt, the feeling that people don’t like me, the overwhelming sense that something is desperately wrong with my world. Finally, I am no longer faking it. I actually am the basically positive, optimistic, gregarious person I have always known I really was.
    I do notice the effects on creativity and libido, but mostly when my dosage is increased. After an adjustment period, I feel very normal… which is remarkable, because for my entire adolescent and adult life, I’ve never before felt “normal”.
    Certainly, mine is a best case scenario. But this is no placebo effect. If it were, other medications would have been effective too, and they weren’t.

  • Margaret

    Correction: The first sentence of my previous post should readabove first sentence:
    “I did not know that the understanding that SSRIs are often medically effective at treating depression, was being challenged in the scientific community.”

  • http://hopeworkscommunity.wordpress.com Larry Drain

    This is great stuff Therese. A very good balance to a lot of other stuff

  • Cedar240

    For someone who suffered for years I mean years…was critizied by my ex-husband..was called horrible names, treated me as if I was the scum off of his shoes was just the begining to how horrible I was treated by my family growing up..If it is chemical or because of ones enviorment growing up..ANTIDREPRESSANTS WORK!!!! Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Once they work you can see some people are just cruel and mean ..Godbless you in recovery do not give up..their is light at the end of the tunnel of life

  • Noelle

    I saw a program on pbs talking about how antidepressants increase the growth of new neurons in the amygdala(part of the brain that controls primal emotions). I guess the brain shrinks in size with depression. I also saw that other therapies also increased neuron growth even more agressively, making the depression better. They also said that the amygdala has major pathways to the front part of the brain, which is the part of the brain one uses to reason with and that that part of the brain has very few pathways to the amygdala.The bottom line is…no one knows how antidepressants work or don’t work physiologically in the brain. If an antidepressant is working for one, then I would say use it. The heck with the studies.
    There is ALOT that scientists don’t know about the brain in general..or the body too and how it all connects.

  • Denise

    Thank you for your insight in this, Therese. I, too, have struggled with major clinical depression and continue to take medication. At this time, my doctors think I will probably need it for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I will or won’t, but I do know that the medications have been a lifesaver for me.

  • Harry Murphy

    Kudos to Sharon Begley’s article on antidepressants being no more effective than placebos! It’s well know that some 30 to 60 percent of people respond positively to placebos. In the case of overhyped, expensive antidepressant drugs, one would expect the placebo response to be even greater. Of course, people now taking such drugs will claim
    that they are effective — that’s the placebo response in action and
    that’s why anecdotal reports are useless in evaluating the effectiveness of drugs. Double-blind clinical trials are gthe “gold standard” for such research.
    Now, how about a similar report on homeopathy, a quack medical scheme which relies entirely on the placebo response!

  • Your Name

    Thank you for this post, Therese. It is my hope that more people read your book and can see the truth behind depression rather than believing all of the myths. As you mentioned in your book, sometimes it does take trying a few medications or a combination of medications in order to feel relief and control over this disease. I’ve tried a variety of meds over the last 8 years, and I’m still trying to find just the right combination. It’s hard not to become frustrated and give up hope. But, it’s also important to have a good support system of doctors, family, and friends and to cling to God and His promises for us. I’ve also found it helpful to hear others’ testimonies, such as yours, to remind me that I am not the only one feeling like this.

  • Meg

    Amen, Christy. Jeff, where in the Bible does it say that taking antidepressants is wrong? I have been a Christian for some time now, and I firmly believe that Jesus is the Divine Healer. I take antidepressants in ADDITION to my faith, NOT as a substitute; my using them doesn’t mean I believe in Him any less. (And, I don’t think that anyone here is saying they’re substituting them for their faith either.) We’re not pushing antidepressants on anyone, so why do you judge us for using them? It took me so long to come to terms with depression being an actual illness rather than a weakness. I pray that someday you’ll realize it too.

  • Leeann

    Kuddos to you Meg…That is the problem there is such a stigma to this day on Mental Illness many people think it is all IN OUR HEADS, well it actually is but it is not in our control. I have mental illness and a very spiritual person I believe in my lord but also believe that we are made the way he wants us to be and I was diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety, Bipolar. My Lord helps but I also need my meds as well and he knows and accepts that after all he made me. I pray everyday that not only religion but society in general will accept MENTAL ILLNESS AS WHAT IT IS AND NOT WHAT CERTAIN PEOPLE THINK IT IS…they do not understand it or choose not to and always link it to every aspect of our lives. As an example how long did it take for alcoholics/alcoholism to be condsidered a disease and accepted in the medical community as well as society. HOW LONG ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT….

  • Michaela

    Wow. Just Wow.
    I am so excited to have found this blog. I stumbled across it, and am now going through all the back articles I can, and this is one I felt compelled to comment on.
    I’ve been suffering on and off from severe depression from my mid teens, and am now in my very early twenties. Despite the success I’ve had with antidepressants, I’ve spent several years now trying to wean off medication, only to find myself back on again within a year. But as soon as it was judged safe, I tried to stop them again.
    Why? Because I felt ashamed that I needed them. I hoped, dreamed, desperately that this time I would find that it had left. That I could know that I am the happy, bubbly person I feel like when I’m well for real, not just because I’m in treatment. I felt guilty. I felt like a failure.
    It is only now I have finally accepted that in MY case, antidepressants are the simplest, safest, and most stable course of treatment for me to rely upon. And I truly believe, like you wrote Therese, that for some people they are Godsent.
    I do believe they are over-prescribed, and that people do ignore basic lifestyle changes and psychotherapies which could help. Some people can defeat their depression with only these aids. Some people may need anti-depressants as a lifeline for a short period, get back on their feet, and then be able to never take them again. Some people will need varying other combinations in their lives.
    But for some people, antidepressants are necessary. And the hurt caused by hearing people try and say that I could, SHOULD, be able to do without, that I’m kidding myself, that I’m ignorant, or lazy… Well this has effected me deeply. But no more. I am now proud that I have been able to identify and accept what will help me, and damn uniformed idiots.
    Geri Greene, Jaliya, Nancy, Brad, Mrs Duller, Steve Parker, Theo Clifton Park, all the other wonderful commenters and of course, mostly Therese:
    My heart is just singing reading about how many people out there who understand this. THANK YOU.

  • richl

    I have taken almost all depression medications… Found only one that gives me some relief. However, there isnt a pill out there that can fully take away the real issues of the manic depressed. I have lost all interest in every activity I once enjoyed. Life is still a daily struggle and I fight it daily. My only relief that Cymbalta gives me is that I dont cry 24 7…. I still hurt and cant function in a social situation without a complete breakdown…Therapy and support from the ones you love and love you can help, but nothing will ever dull the mental anguish I suffer from daily…

  • Ronald Pies MD

    Hi, Therese–Kudos to you and your courageous readers! The experiences of those who have taken antidepressants are, in many ways, more revealing than the fancy “meta-analytic” studies cited in the article by Sharon Begley. That’s not to say we don’t need carefully designed studies–it is just to say that each person is unique and every person with depression must be evaluated without preconception as to what treatment is most likely to succeed.
    For some individuals (particularly those with less severe and less chronic depression), psychotherapy alone may be fine. For those with the most severe and intractable forms of depression, medication (usually in combination with “talk therapy”) may be life-saving. As I would tell my patients, though: medication is just a bridge between feeling terrible and feeling better. You still have to move your legs to get across that bridge!” That means doing the work of self-examination and self-change. –Best regards, Ron Pies MD
    P.S. I hope your readers will watch for the blog I will be posting in a few days, on the Psychiatric Times website, “dissecting” the Begley article!

  • JoAnne

    In this and every aspect of Reality, it is essential that our cultural assumptions transform to always include more than one element of creativity. “Health” = “Wholeness”. There is never a single “cure”, answer, perspective…and they are equally valid. Counseling, social support, medication, diet, humor, science, faith…all have a role to play in the dynamic mind-body-social-environment system. Superiority-striving, self-righteousness, closed-mindedness are unwholesome and restrict personal and community development…result in misery, disease, war.
    Thank you for this compassionate, inclusive piece!

  • http://budurl.com/79e2 Teresa

    There’s nothing wrong with taking medication. I support those who admit that they need help and are actually brave enough to accept them, either from people or from medicines. People who are so set against taking medication should realize that sometimes, things get so much beyond our control that a little help from medical science goes a long way to alleviate the pain or stress a person may be experiencing. Taking medication doesn’t mean a person’s weak or she doesn’t let her inner strength shine through. In fact, if it helps her focus more, then she actually has a bigger chance of living her life as she should without being hindered by pain or suffering.
    P.S. Check out http://budurl.com/9nh7 to see how else you could alleviate your fears to live life more.

  • alexandra

    I just wrote a long comment and have lost it, not impressed

  • alexandra

    I lost the comment because the letters at the bottom of the post are not very clear.

  • release the bats

    Oh boy.
    I was really reluctant to respond to this particular issue because I like detail which takes up space which makes me think “EDITING COMING! To all of you who have obtained life-changing relief from antidepressants, good on you -keep taking them. I’ve been on just about every antidepressant on the market, with some mixtures thrown in: In the not-so-good old days it was tricyclics – several, one after the other. Then MAO Inhibitors.Great – suicide by a nice glass of Chianti.Then OF COURSE prozac – hit the market with a big bang for being “clean” & targeting serotonin (sort of – at least one type of serotonin). At 80 mg of prozac a day I was functioning. But I did develop a tremor, and being a cake decorator at the time didn’t work so well with that. So I went back to university to do what I had always wanted to do: Study (big surprise) psychology (with religion as a minor). At some point I developed what’s sometimes called “prozac poop-out”. Your brain is always active – forming new neuronal attachments, others dying off as a result of -well, lots of things.Thus, SOMETIMES, due to very complicated mechanisms, SOME PEOPLE develop what can only be called, in such a short space, a bit of a “resistance” to the drug they’re taking. PLEASE EVERYONE – remember the sage words of the late, great Douglas Adams – DON’T PANIC!! The brain is such a complicated thing & is always changing based on our external environment as well as the internal (medication) that it might have been anything that made prozac less effective for me.I’ve been in some very unhealthy situations, particularly as regards family, & believe me, if your environment is making you sick, no pill is gonna be the magic bullet – although it might give you the energy and clear-mindedness to realize you have to change things & perhaps the energy & will to change them. Since then I’ve been on Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor (SNRI tecnically) -look, obviously I mean A LOT of psychopharmaceuticals (including anxiolytics like benzodiazapines).I was still hanging in, but things weren’t looking good for me. To make a long story short I ended up demanding buproprion (Wellbutrin) despite a history of occasional seizures.It was a fight, but I got what I wanted in the end.For anyone who doesn’t know this, Wellbutrin is the only approved drug available at this time whose main function is as a dopamine agonist – to increase dopamine (though some SNRI’s do affect dopamine weakly, in high doses).Within a week people noticed subtle differences in my demeanor. I now take an unusually high dose of Wellbutrin & would fight like a wild animal if anyone tried to take it away from me, as well as Cymbalta, a slightly unique SNRI (also my request after my SSRI-Cipralex-wasn’t working for me)
    Okay – I think I’ve made my point that I not only believe that antidepressants can help people, I have taken them and continue to take them because I don’t like being bed-ridden and too apathetic to even kill myself.
    BUT…BUT BUT BUT.
    THERE IS SOME MERIT TO THESE STORIES, even if they are presented in ways that can make it seem like your antidepressant and the life-changing effect it has had on you is being undermined or maligned. Anti-depressants are not the only meds that are tanking in VERY WELL DESIGNED double blind trials and the metastudies mentioned earlier. Last November a gene therapy for Parkinson’s that was showing real promise was quickly withdrawn from phase II trials because IT tanked against the placebo. Other drugs include some for Crohn’s disease and schizophrenia. Merck thought they were getting back in the game with an antidepressant that tested fantastic early on (known as MK-869) with few side effects. In clinical trials things became murkier. While the drug allievated depression (severe) in a number of people, almost as many people with severe depression showed the same type of improvement on placebo. There is A LOT of statistical analysis about this – sound analysis. It’s an embarassment to Big Pharma who refer to such trials as crossing “the futility boundary”. And boy, is this phenomenon becoming a HUGE pain to them. They pour gazillions of dollars into R&D & what they found is the placebo response is actually becoming STRONGER. This DOESN’T MEAN
    your pills aren’t helping you. I’d really like people to have an open mind about this because the problem is also keeping drugs that may be of great benefit to some people out of the market. A decade ago, a psychiatrist working as head of Lilly’s early stage psychiatric drug development (William Potter,if anyone is interested) noticed the trend. Pharma companies often run trials where a long esablished drug like Prozac competes against an experimental one as well as a placebo. The more recent tests showed even Prozac wasn’t doing as well as its original tests.Even worse, newer drugs were looking pretty sad -no better than placebo in 7 out of 10 trials.To make a long story a little less long, Potter got an IT guy to crunch the data for him, looking for any anomalies he could find. They found several things, including 1) Geographic location often determined whether a drug passed, or crossed the futility boundary. 2) Ratings by trial judges varied noticeably from one testing site to another. This was helpful, but the fact remained that even the most perfectly managed trials often showed mad placebo effects. In 2000 the NIH hosted a 3 day conference where, for the first time, doctors, drug developers, trial designers & scholars all tried to tackle the problem (remember – drug companies don’t SHARE data-so this was a big deal!) But it didn’t result in answers. An Italian researcher has actually come up with some very good stuff on why the placebo effect (he calls it the placebo “response”) is increasing – and proves that it isn’t because of gullibility on the patient’s part..it may very well have a neurological substrate. (One of my favorite findings – & this relates a bit to Therese’s suggestion that color affects our mood-is that blue placebos have a more calming effect on almost everyone except Italian men – because the Italian national soccer team is the “Azzuri” – the blues – and boy do Italians get excited about their soccer!) You know, I could really go on and on – there is SO MUCH that has been learned from studying the placebo problem. Of particular note are the ideas that the HAM-D (Hamilton Depression Scale) is what is generally used in these trials – but it was developed about 50 years ago – so is it even measuring the same thing that it was originally designed to? Remember – our ideas of mental illness have progressed. And most significantly, almost all the disorders that are responding well to placebo engage the higher cortical area of our brains that’s responsible for anticipating reward, producing expectations and beliefs & interpreting subtle emotional cues. The brain has its own centralized network for healing that can SOMETIMES be triggered by placebo.
    The whole thing is SO FREAKING COMPLICATED…There’s SO MUCH MORE I could write, but this is getting crazy long. I’m just trying to prevent people from freaking out because some of these stories are poorly written or researched. Try to educate yourselves as much as possible.
    AND ALWAYS – ALWAYS, please keep an open mind.
    Bottom line?
    Drugs on the market DEFINITELY DO help many people who suffer from crippling depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and more.
    KEEP TAKING THEM if you are one of them. Remember – I’m one of them too!
    But these drugs are REALLY fairly crude compared to the literally staggeringly complicated – and still very mysterious – abilities our brains have.
    It’s kind of like trying to make a delicate incision with an axe.
    And the placebo effect IS a HUGE problem – particularly for Big Pharma – as well as for those who are denied potentially helpful drugs because they cross the futility barrier in trials.
    This research doesn’t mean your drug(s) are not REALLY helping you by changing your brain chemistry.
    It merely opens up a whole different area of research on how powerful the brain really is.
    And in my view, this can do nothing but help in the long run.

  • release the bats

    Oh boy.
    I was really reluctant to respond to this particular issue because I like detail which takes up space which makes me think “EDITING COMING! To all of you who have obtained life-changing relief from antidepressants, good on you -keep taking them. I’ve been on just about every antidepressant on the market, with some mixtures thrown in: In the not-so-good old days it was tricyclics-several, one after the other. Then MAO Inhibitors.Great – suicide by a nice glass of Chianti
    Then OF COURSE Prozac – hit the market with a big bang for being “clean” & targeting serotonin (sort of – at least one type of serotonin). At 80 mg of prozac a day I was functioning. But I did develop a tremor, and being a cake decorator at the time didn’t work so well with that. So I went back to university to do what I had always wanted to do:Study (big surprise) psychology (with religion as a minor)
    At some point I developed what’s sometimes called “prozac poop-out”. Your brain is always active – forming new neuronal attachments, others dying off as a result of -well, lots of things.Thus, SOMETIMES, due to very complicated mechanisms, SOME PEOPLE develop what can only be called, in such a short space, a bit of a “resistance” to the drug they’re taking. PLEASE EVERYONE – remember the sage words of the late, great Douglas Adams – DON’T PANIC!! The brain is such a complicated thing & is always changing based on our external environment as well as the internal (medication) that it might have been anything that made prozac less effective for me.I’ve been in some very unhealthy situations, particularly as regards family, & believe me, if your environment is making you sick, no pill is gonna be the magic bullet – although it might give you the energy and clear-mindedness to realize you have to change things & perhaps the energy & will to change them. Since then I’ve been on Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor (SNRI tecnically) -look, obviously I mean A LOT of psychopharmaceuticals (including anxiolytics like benzodiazapines).I was still hanging in, but things weren’t looking good for me. To make a long story short I ended up demanding buproprion (Wellbutrin) despite a history of occasional seizures.It was a fight, but I got what I wanted in the end.For anyone who doesn’t know this, Wellbutrin is the only approved drug available at this time whose main function is as a dopamine agonist – to increase dopamine (though some SNRI’s do affect dopamine weakly, in high doses).Within a week people noticed subtle differences in my demeanor. I now take an unusually high dose of Wellbutrin & would fight like a wild animal if anyone tried to take it away from me, as well as Cymbalta, a slightly unique SNRI (also my request after my SSRI-Cipralex-wasn’t working for me)
    Okay – I think I’ve made my point that I not only believe that antidepressants can help people, I have taken them and continue to take them because I don’t like being bed-ridden and too apathetic to even kill myself.
    BUT…BUT BUT BUT.
    THERE IS SOME MERIT TO THESE STORIES, even if they are presented in ways that can make it seem like your antidepressant and the life-changing effect it has had on you is being undermined or maligned. Anti-depressants are not the only meds that are tanking in VERY WELL DESIGNED double blind trials and the metastudies mentioned earlier. Last November a gene therapy for Parkinson’s that was showing real promise was quickly withdrawn from phase II trials because IT tanked against the placebo. Other drugs include some for Crohn’s disease and schizophrenia. Merck thought they were getting back in the game with an antidepressant that tested fantastic early on (known as MK-869) with few side effects. In clinical trials things became murkier. While the drug allievated depression (severe) in a number of people, almost as many people with severe depression showed the same type of improvement on placebo. There is A LOT of statistical analysis about this – sound analysis. It’s an embarassment to Big Pharma who refer to such trials as crossing “the futility boundary”. And boy, is this phenomenon becoming a HUGE pain to them. They pour gazillions of dollars into R&D & what they found is the placebo response is actually becoming STRONGER. This DOESN’T MEAN
    your pills aren’t helping you. I’d really like people to have an open mind about this because the problem is also keeping drugs that may be of great benefit to some people out of the market. A decade ago, a psychiatrist working as head of Lilly’s early stage psychiatric drug development (William Potter,if anyone is interested) noticed the trend. Pharma companies often run trials where a long esablished drug like Prozac competes against an experimental one as well as a placebo. The more recent tests showed even Prozac wasn’t doing as well as its original tests.Even worse, newer drugs were looking pretty sad -no better than placebo in 7 out of 10 trials.To make a long story a little less long, Potter got an IT guy to crunch the data for him, looking for any anomalies he could find. They found several things, including 1) Geographic location often determined whether a drug passed, or crossed the futility boundary. 2) Ratings by trial judges varied noticeably from one testing site to another. This was helpful, but the fact remained that even the most perfectly managed trials often showed mad placebo effects. In 2000 the NIH hosted a 3 day conference where, for the first time, doctors, drug developers, trial designers & scholars all tried to tackle the problem (remember – drug companies don’t SHARE data-so this was a big deal!) But it didn’t result in answers. An Italian researcher has actually come up with some very good stuff on why the placebo effect (he calls it the placebo “response”) is increasing – and proves that it isn’t because of gullibility on the patient’s part..it may very well have a neurological substrate. (One of my favorite findings – & this relates a bit to Therese’s suggestion that color affects our mood-is that blue placebos have a more calming effect on almost everyone except Italian men – because the Italian national soccer team is the “Azzuri” – the blues – and boy do Italians get excited about their soccer!) You know, I could really go on and on – there is SO MUCH that has been learned from studying the placebo problem. Of particular note are the ideas that the HAM-D (Hamilton Depression Scale) is what is generally used in these trials – but it was developed about 50 years ago – so is it even measuring the same thing that it was originally designed to? Remember – our ideas of mental illness have progressed. And most significantly, almost all the disorders that are responding well to placebo engage the higher cortical area of our brains that’s responsible for anticipating reward, producing expectations and beliefs & interpreting subtle emotional cues. The brain has its own centralized network for healing that can SOMETIMES be triggered by placebo.
    The whole thing is SO FREAKING COMPLICATED…There’s SO MUCH MORE I could write, but this is getting crazy long. I’m just trying to prevent people from freaking out because some of these stories are poorly written or researched. Try to educate yourselves as much as possible.
    AND ALWAYS – ALWAYS, please keep an open mind.
    Bottom line?
    Drugs on the market DEFINITELY DO help many people who suffer from crippling depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and more.
    KEEP TAKING THEM if you are one of them. Remember – I’m one of them too!
    But these drugs are REALLY fairly crude compared to the literally staggeringly complicated – and still very mysterious – abilities our brains have.
    It’s kind of like trying to make a delicate incision with an axe.
    And the placebo effect IS a HUGE problem – particularly for Big Pharma – as well as for those who are denied potentially helpful drugs because they cross the futility barrier in trials.
    This research doesn’t mean your drug(s) are not REALLY helping you by changing your brain chemistry.
    It merely opens up a whole different area of research on how powerful the brain really is.
    And in my view, this can do nothing but help in the long run.

  • release the bats

    SO SO sorry for the (very long) double post.
    Apologies to all. :-(

  • Janaya

    How Many People Work For Beyond Blue?

  • Katy

    Thank you. While I currently am avoiding drugs because of the side effects, I know that there have been times when my anxiety would have gotten the best of me without them. The negative articles anger me because I had such internal battles against the stigma of taking drugs in the first place, that blowing off TRUE chemical problems in the brain as mere illusions makes one feel even “crazier”.
    I also felt that since I never suffered from “depression” that taking an anti-depressant put me into the category of irresponsible drug-use. FAR from the truth. Those of us that experience severe anxiety because of low serotonin levels are just as real, and the drugs effectiveness is FAR greater than a placebo, I assure you. Thank you for speaking out.

  • June

    I empathize with all of you on this controversial subject. I have “clinical depression” myself, and have been dealing with it much of my entire life. Have I taken anti-depressants, yes, just about every single one that has been on the market. Have they helped? Well, of course they have, to a degree. But let me tell you, that the very first time I endeavored into prescription meds for this, it was the very first time in my entire life that I felt what it was like to be “near normal.” That’s right.
    Some only worked for a while and then I’d have to change. . . some worked better than others with varying side effects (that were always way less damaging then experiencing “life with depression and no meds), but all in all, they have definitely been a lifesaver for me. There are still ups and downs, and I do have my moments, but they are much less often and far less intense.
    It’s easy to go on and on, on this issue. I will, however, end just to share a recent experience I had, just to give you an idea of what and how people think on this:
    I was attending a seminar on Science, Art & Religion, and their connection.(No wonder). And one evening during a discussion, a young girl blurted out: “People who are depressed choose to be. I have every reason to be depressed”. . . because of this that and the other (single, divorced, with a child, I believe she said). . . “. . and I get up every morning and go to work, and take care of my son, and do everything I’m suppose to do BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO.” She further went on ” there is no reason why anyone should have to take anti-depressants, you just need to decide that you don’t want to be depressed, and that’s it!”
    I forgot to mention this was after another woman had shared that she was on anti-depressants openly to all, appropriately, in the context of the discussion that night.
    Anyway, EXCUSE ME, Miss Suddenly-Decided-Not To Be Depressed; good for you. Don’t you think that if it was as easy as that, The Person Experiencing Their True Depression would do so?
    The bottom line is there are DEGREES of Depression. And if one has not experienced another’s subjective feeling of pain, pain, pain, than you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
    As stated in one of the first comments, to this original issue on the effectiveness of anti-depressants: there are intensities and degrees. What works for one, may not work for another.
    I am truly an advocate for positive thinking, and working on changing your thoughts! But give me a break. You have to be lifted out of the dregs of the sewer you can not even lift your head above, first. Don’t you think?!!!
    I do everything I can every day to stay above water, including reaffirming positive statements. But I also take prozac every day. Moreover, living a lifetime of whatever caused the depression, genetic, horrific childhood, whatever, does not dismiss itself at the snap of a finger. It takes time and work, and trying different methods, or maybe even utilizing every method you can get your hands on to stay above the water,is fine, if it helps.
    God bless you, who can simply ‘decide’ to not depressed.
    Also, take all opinions and judgements on whether the medication really works or not, with a grain of salt. I, personally, do whatever it is I can do to not be depressed.

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  • Jennifer

    I think we are only at the dawn of research on the brain in terms of depression. I wish people had more understanding before making comments that could really hurt people or even push them “over the edge”. Anyone who suffers from depression knows what kind of comments I mean. It was hard enough for me to make the choice to take the antidpressants (multiple times) so when someone else questions that, I really need them to but out or tread carefully. My extremely balanced emotionally level best friend helped me when she told me her simple motto: “Better living through chemicals”–if you feel bad and a prescription helps you feel better, take it. It’s simple.
    Because of 3 suicidal episodes by age 35 and because of my children, I will not go off the antidepressants again. I cannot afford to experiment with my life and depression can creep in before you understand what’s going on–even when you’re experienced. Even when they are grown, I’ll likely be going through hormonal changes of life so I won’t even consider it during that period unless I learn something new and valuable.
    And yes, I have a deep spiritual practice and positive thinking, which is soooo much easier to maintain when I have the prescriptions. Thought patterns are like Tumbleweeds–they collect and grow eponentially then you can’t easily turn them around.
    PS–I find that I actually feel even better when I skip a day of my sertraline and bupropion once a week. I don’t care if it’s the placebo effect, although I doubt that’s the case entirely.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ryan

    Thanks for your article Therese, it’s important for people to see this information. The publisher of the study that spearheaded that Newsweek article is a proponent of the placebo effect and seemed to be out to prove the ineffectiveness of antidepressant medication. I’m a 37 year old man. I’ve had 5 major depressive episodes since age 22 after my father committed suicide when I was 20. I somehow was able to get through my first 4 major depressions without medication, although I had to survive a couple of suicide attempts in my early 20’s. I was able to pull myself together as much as I could and get a college degree, start a successful internet business, and get married to an great woman. All the while I was smoking marijuana almost every day and I think that part of the reason I smoked so much was that I was trying to self medicate the depression that continued to linger in the background, never really going away. In 2009 while I was living the life I always wanted at the beach in a nice apartment I fell into the worst episode of depression I could remember. I was unable to sleep and it was getting worse quickly. I was consumed with suicidal thoughts and was falling into a black hole of hopelessness. Finally, I decided to go on antidepressants. I took Mirtazapine for sleep at night as needed and Lexapro in the morning. After 4 or 5 weeks of the Lexapro I was able to sleep without the Mirtazapine. Then after arount 10 or 12 weeks on Lexapro I began to feel better. I stayed on Lexapro for about 5 months then I weened myself off without any withdrawals. Then 1 year later I began to feel another severe depression creeping back. I went back to the psychiatrist and got another prescription of Lexapro. I’m currently only 1 week into my Lexapro prescription taking 5mg for the first two weeks, then I’ll change to 10mg for two weeks, then I’ll move up to either 15mg or 20mg. After 1 week the medication has not kicked in but luckily I caught it early and things have not spiraled into crisis mode so I can be patient while the medication takes its time to start working. I expect that it will probably take 3 months or maybe 4 months to feel the full effect of the medication. Looking at the last 25 years or more of my life I can see that I’ve had depression for quite some time. I am planning on staying on antidepressants for a very, very long time from this point because they work. If they didn’t work I never would have made it out of the hell I was in a couple of years ago, and if they didn’t work then all of you who speak to the effectiveness of antidepressants would not have a lot of positive things to say. I’m finally beginning to come to terms that I have a mood disorder that can be helped with medication, and that for the sake of my family and myself I should just keep taking the dang stuff because it works and it can help to improve the quality of my life and those around me. I’ve tried yoga, meditation, martial arts, surfing, and lots of exercise and nothing makes my seemingly constant numbness/sadness at bay. None of those things would have ever been able to pull me out of the deep dark hole I was in a couple of years ago and I believe that these medications work. The psychiatrist I’m seeing has been in the field since the late 70’s and he said the entire field changed when modern antidepressant medication was introduced. The prior medications on the market had a ton of side effects and did not work all that well. Consequently, recoveries from chronic depression was rare. My psychiatrist was telling me that recoveries became noticeably much more common when these medications came around. Anyway, very long winded I know but I hope that someone might read this and have hope that they can be helped to recover from either chronic or major depression.

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  • https://1worldonline.com Jackie Norgord

    Hi there,
    I would like to request permission to reprint an excerpt from your blog on our website. Would you please contact me?
    Many thanks,
    Jackie

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