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Warning: These Antidepressant Side Effects May Be Downplayed

Warning: These Antidepressant Side Effects May Be DownplayedA new study discovers psychological problems resulting from depression medications have been understated, leading some authorities to question if the drugs have been over-prescribed.

A University of Liverpool study discovered thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties, and emotional numbness as a result of antidepressants may be more widespread than previously thought, even though many survey respondents reported the drugs reduced their depression.

In a survey of 1,829 people who had been prescribed antidepressants, the researchers found large numbers of people — over half in some cases — commented on psychological problems due to their medication.

This findings, as discussed in the journal Psychiatry Research, have led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.

Psychologist and lead researcher¬†Dr. John Read from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: “The medicalization 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.”

In the study, 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 antidepressants 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 “sexual difficulties” (62 percent) and “feeling emotionally numb” (60 percent).

Percentages for other effects included: “feeling not like myself” (52 percent), “reduction in positive feelings” (42 percent), “caring less about others” (39 percent) and “withdrawal effects” (55 percent).
However, 82 percent reported that the drugs had helped alleviate their depression.

Professor Read concluded: “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 antidepressants’ suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem.”

Source: University of Liverpool

Warning: These Antidepressant Side Effects May Be Downplayed

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Warning: These Antidepressant Side Effects May Be Downplayed. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 26 Feb 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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