Do antidepressants work?

Do antidepressants work? There is a good deal of debate in the medical profession and in the public at large about the efficacy of antidepressants. So what is the truth? Do they work or not?

Sally Brown wrote in September’s Therapy Today,

An increasing body of evidence and expert opinion suggests that, in many cases, long-term use of psychiatric drugs not only exacerbate existing mental health conditions but my also trigger new ones. The results from a 20 year study published in 2014 showed that, at each follow-up assessment, people who are taking antipsychotics were significantly more likely to display psychotic symptoms than those who have never taken medication.

“Research studies reveal the antidepressants increase the risk that depression will run a chronic course: a unipolar patient will convert to bipolar disorder: a patient will become impaired and go on government disability”, writes US science writer Robert Whitaker in The Sedated Society. He points out that the number of people claiming disability benefits in the UK because of mental illness increased from 721,000 to 1,081,000 in 2010. “Most of this increase is due to people becoming disabled by depression and anxiety, as opposed to psychiatric disorders. The rise in these affective disorders correlates with a rise in the prescribing of antidepressants, which would be expected if these agents worsen long-term outcomes.“

Research by Irving Kirsch, lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School, who’s influential 2008 paper found that antidepressants were no more effective than placebos, suggests these drugs “may induce a biological vulnerability, making people more likely to become depressed in the future“

Young people are particularly at risk of an adverse reaction to antidepressants according to a Nordic Cochrane Centre review, which found the antidepressants double the risk of suicide and aggression in under 18s. “There are probably up to an extra 2500 suicides in Europe triggered by an SSRI antidepressant“ said David Healy professor of psychiatry at Bangor University, who founded, a website about prescription drug risks he successfully campaign to get warnings printed on antidepressant labelling to highlight the increased risk of suicide for young people, and has recently called for this to be extended to adults. Coroners’ reports have implicated antidepressants in 4,800 deaths in England and Wales since 2003.

While I have a great deal of sympathy for the views published above, it’s fair to say that I do believe that antidepressants can definitely be effective sometimes.
I have seen the benefit of them reducing stress and anxiety in some patients but a cure all they are not and not everybody gets benefit from them, no matter how many they try. The simple truth is, sometimes they work sometimes they do not.

If you have been prescribed antidepressants by your GP then you have probably been advised that there are a number of medications on the market.
Some of them promote serotonin and some of them inhibit the uptake of serotonin in your body.
Whatever the function of the tablet, in my experience they cannot work on their own. Indeed I think the article above makes it clear that taken on their own, without any other kind of support, antidepressants or can make matters worse.
Antidepressants work best if they are seen as just part of a treatment for depression and anxiety. If you are depressed and anxious the right kind of counselling and psychotherapy is definitely one of the more effective long-term cure for these unhappy states of mind.
Does this mean six weeks of CBT? Probably not, without a doubt CBT’s emphasis on a person taking responsibility for themselves is right and, in my opinion, the only sensible way forward, however there is a huge amount of evidence to suggest that CBT, in the long term is ineffective.
If you are feeling depressed and anxious, or you have health anxiety, and you are interested in finding out how counselling can help you then please follow this link to my contact details, I would be pleased to take some time with you to explain how counselling can help.