Psychological side-effects of anti-depressants worse than thought

February 25, 2014

A University of Liverpool researcher has shown that thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness as a result of anti-depressants may be more widespread than previously thought.

In a survey of 1,829 people who had been prescribed anti-depressants, the researchers found large numbers of people – over half in some cases – reporting on due to their medication, which has led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.

Psychologist and lead researcher, Professor John Read from the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: "The medicalisation of sadness and distress has reached bizarre levels. One in ten people in some countries are now prescribed antidepressants each year.

"While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, the psychological and interpersonal effects have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common."

Each person completed an online questionnaire which asked about twenty adverse effects. The study was carried out in New Zealand and all of the participants had been on anti-depressants in the last five years. The survey factored in people's levels of depression and asked them to report on how they had felt while taking the medication.

Over half of people aged 18 to 25 in the study reported suicidal feelings and in the total sample there were large percentages of people suffering from '' (62%) and 'feeling emotionally numb' (60%). Percentages for other effects included: 'feeling not like myself' (52%), 'reduction in positive feelings' (42%), 'caring less about others' (39%) and 'withdrawal effects' (55%). However, 82% reported that the drugs had helped alleviate their depression.

Professor Read concluded: "While the biological side-effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain and nausea, are well documented, psychological and interpersonal issues have been largely ignored or denied. They appear to be alarmingly common."

"Effects such as feeling emotionally numb and caring less about other people are of major concern. Our study also found that people are not being told about this when prescribed the drugs.

"Our finding that over a third of respondents reported suicidality 'as a result of taking the ' suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem."

The research was published in the journal Psychiatry Research.

Explore further: Antidepressants are not 'happy pills'

Related Stories

Antidepressants are not 'happy pills'

November 26, 2013
Depression medicines are not 'happy pills' or 'a quick fix'—these are the views of people who use antidepressants that have been recorded in a series of frank, heartfelt video interviews.  

Exercise alleviates sexual side-effects of antidepressants in women, study shows

December 11, 2013
New psychology research, which could have important public health implications for alleviating some side effects of antidepressants, shows that engaging in exercise at the right time significantly improves sexual functioning ...

Is depression over-diagnosed and over-treated?

January 8, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A University of Liverpool study has found that people are increasingly diagnosed and treated with medication for depression when they are suffering 'normal' human experiences such as grief and sadness.

Link between antidepressants and diabetes risk is real

September 24, 2013
Clinicians should be extra vigilant when prescribing antidepressants as they could pose a risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers at the University of Southampton have warned.

Modafinil reduces depression's severity when taken with antidepressants

November 27, 2013
A new study has concluded that taking the drug modafinil, typically used to treat sleep disorders, in combination with antidepressants reduces the severity of depression more effectively than taking antidepressants alone. ...

Evidence shows that anti-depressants likely do more harm than good, researchers find

April 24, 2012
Commonly prescribed anti-depressants appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the entire body.

Recommended for you

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

6 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Caliban
5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2014
Anyone who knows someone that relies on antidepressants is probably familiar with these effects.

The only real question, therefore, is why has this gone unremarked after decades of widespread use?

I'm pretty sure we all know the answer.

PeterD
1 / 5 (1) Feb 27, 2014
All antidepressants are poison and should be banned! Proper nutrition will cure depression, but the drug pushers don't want you to know this.
freethinking
1 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2014
I have been preaching against taking antidepressants for years. Society in whole has become afraid of sad feelings. Historically those who today would have been clinically diagnosed as depressed and medicated, have been those that have changed the world. Depressed people see a problem and want to solve it.
How about this, when you see someone depressed let them know as long as they don't let their depression affect anyone else, that it is ok and normal for some people to be depressed. Assure them they are normal, listen to them, comfort them. Just don't drug them.
Tessellatedtessellations
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2014
Depressed people see a problem and want to solve it.

No, depressed people generally lack the motivation to do anything productive. I know doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants for sadness and I think that is drug abuse. It isn't candy. But if you have ever been truly depressed, you would know the sexual side effects, emotional numbing, manic episodes and weight gain are a small price to pay. You might be surprised just how much pain it is possible to feel and how little control you can have over it. I would welcome better drugs, but flawed though the current ones are, they are better than the other alternatives: suffering and suicide.
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2014
All antidepressants are poison and should be banned! Proper nutrition will cure depression, but the drug pushers don't want you to know this.


Sorry, but I tried eating healthy, exercising, you name it, and was still depressed. That's the biggest myth out! I decided to start taking antidepressants, and they do help with the mood.

But they aren't without side effects (sexual, numbness etc). Only when you start taking them.
googol
not rated yet Mar 02, 2014
No one sees a problem with them only surveying depressed people who were on medication?

Is there no control group? Is there no other depressed group who weren't taking medication? I can't take this seriously if there's not, though ideally what you'd want is a placebo group. How do we know it's not the depression itself causing these "side-effects"?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.