Anti-Depressants May Not Decrease Symptoms of Depression

New research shows that only 33% of people being treated for depression with an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) receive relief from their symptoms within the first three months. The Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression, or STAR*D study, which spanned six years and is the largest of its kind, followed 4,000 people throughout the country with major depressive symptoms. The most common symptoms present in the test subjects were sadness, suicidal thoughts, changes in sleep patterns, appetite and weight, concentration, outlook and energy.

Dr. Shawn McClintock, assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the analysis, studied the data and found that insomnia, sadness, decreased concentration and decision-making problems persisted for more than half of the participants. “Widely used antidepressant medications, while working overall, missed these symptoms. If patients have persistent residual symptoms, these individuals have a high probability of incomplete recovery,” McClintock said in a recent article.

More than 19 million Americans suffer from depression each year. Most are at an increased risk for other illnesses including diabetes, obesity, asthma and heart disease. Annually, this mental health issue costs the country nearly $83 billion. Finding effective treatment regimens and therapies is vitally important to those who struggle with this illness, as well as the country as a whole. Dr. McClintock believes this new data will lead to more research focusing on the development of more antidepressant therapies that better address these symptoms.

In related article, Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern, co-principal investigator of STAR*D and an author on this paper said, “Our findings do suggest that the use of measurement-based care techniques to identify and target residual depressive symptoms is essential to help patients return to normal function and recover from depression in the long term.”

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sonia

    Sonia

    April 24th, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    While I do not necessarily think that medications alone work for everyone it has worked for me in the past and I know that I am not the only person. I had no side effects other than feeling BETTER not worse. Do not discount something that has helped thousans of people get over the effects of being depressed.

  • Lizzie

    Lizzie

    April 25th, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    Then what are some patients supposed to do? For many this has been the last resort anyway. What is next?

  • dave bockman

    dave bockman

    April 25th, 2011 at 5:48 AM

    Taking numbing drugs can certainly make one feel ‘better’; it’s like using morphine to stop the pain of an infected tooth. It stops the pain but does nothing to address the root causes of the symptoms.

  • Arnie

    Arnie

    April 26th, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Spot on,Dave!While it may be easy to do a quick fix rather than do the job thoroughly,it surely would be a temporary one.

    And when we are talking about health,we all know there cannot be any compromises made or chances taken.

  • Kayla

    Kayla

    April 27th, 2011 at 4:47 AM

    So if there really are this many deficiencies in using anti depressants to treat depression then why do many persist in prescribing them? If they are no longer working is there anything new on the horizon that can help?

  • Maxine

    Maxine

    May 3rd, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    @Lizzie – What they are saying is that even though it can help, it actually does not cure depression. It’s like pressing a bandage against a bleeding wound. It won’t heal the wound but it slows down the bleeding.

  • Allen

    Allen

    May 5th, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    @dave: Exactly, antidepressants are strictly for helping you cope, not curing it. No drug on this planet can cure depression completely in my opinion. You need to get to the bottom of what’s causing it and overcome that.

  • Dave

    Dave

    May 5th, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    That’s where sufferers get it wrong. You need to resolve your depression rather than expect to “get over it” one day out of the blue. If it was as easy as that, if everyone could say “Right! Not letting the fact that he’s dead get to me. That was five years ago and I need to man up!” and be instantly cured of depression, it would never be a long term issue. There’s no magic pill that will do that.

  • Trish

    Trish

    May 7th, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    @Allen–I don’t think that approach works for all depression sufferers. Once you bring up the cause of their depression it can set them back. Making me relive it would not be helpful. It would only make me upset or angry about it again. I would rather take medication that be made to talk about it.

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