A new study examining the effects of the common antidepressant Citalopram (brand name: Celexa) has found clinically significant differences in how the genders respond to its use in treating depression. A study of nearly three thousand Americans found women 33% more likely to achieve a full remittance of depressive symptoms, despite the fact that their depression was overall more severe than men who were tested.
What to conclude from this? Researchers believe chemical differences in men’s and women’s biology are responsible, and are focusing on hormones. But there are certainly other possible explanations. It may be that cultural factors make non-pharmacological interventions more necessary for men. It may be that severe depression responds better to pills than moderate depression, and that women – for reasons biological or environmental, not addressed in this study – are more likely to be more severely depressed. And of course, it may be a fluke, though the numbers in this study are fairly compelling.
Most important is one confounding variable not addressed by these researchers: study participants were allowed to continue talk therapy if they were already engaged in that work, and no statistical analysis of that variable was calculated in the findings. Since we know women are more likely than men to seek talk therapy when depressed, this omission is significant. It could be talk therapy – not hormones – that explains women’s superior response to drug treatment. The fact that biology is assumed as the cause, and psychotherapy overlooked, is a telling and disturbing indication of how dominant allopathic thinking has become in the mental health field.
The research was completed at the University of Michigan this year and showed no differences between men and women in terms of side effects, the amount of time that patients complied with the medication regime, or the time necessary for remission of symptoms. These findings are the largest and most comprehensive study of gender differences in antidepressant treatment ever completed, and are published online in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.
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