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About Antidepressants

Antidepressants are drugs prescribed by doctors to treat depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and chronic pain. 


In the UK, 8.32 million people are on antidepressants – worldwide this figure amounts to more than 100 million. ​

It is a common misconception that antidepressants can cure a 'chemical imbalance'. No chemical imbalances have been proven to exist in relation to depression or any mental disorder.​

Antidepressants do not cure depressive illnesses - they only alleviate symptoms for some people by making them less anxious or by boosting energy. 

More than half of patients will experience negative side effects from taking antidepressants.

According to published data, more than 50% of users experience sexual dysfunction. In men this can mean delayed ejaculation and erectile dysfunction and in women difficulties achieving orgasm. In both there can be a loss of libido.   


The NHS, Mayo Clinic list other side effects as: 

  • agitation

  • sickness

  • indigestion and stomach aches

  • diarrhoea, constipation

  • insomnia

  • headaches, joint and muscle pain

  • blurring of vision

  • drowsiness

  • problems passing urine

  • dry mouth

  • weight gain

  • excessive sweating

  • low sex drive

  • heart rhythm problems 

Common Side Effects

How Effective Are Antidepressants?

Opinion is divided as to how well antidepressants work. 

There is little data on long term outcomes as the drugs are only tested for 6-8 weeks by the pharmaceutical companies that make them.


Data on short term effectiveness is also limited because drug companies are not obliged to publish all of their trials. 

In their guide to taking antidepressants The Royal College of Psychiatrists state: 'Overall research shows antidepressants help to reduce the symptoms of moderate and severe depression in adults. But different people have very different experiences with these medications.' Link

Some clinicians believe they are no more effective than a placebo.


In 2008 Dr Irving Kirsch from Harvard Medical School and a group of researchers acquired the unpublished trials for six antidepressants using the Freedom of Information Act (U.S.). They discovered that the drugs produced a small but clinically meaningless improvement in mood compared to a placebo for mild to moderate depression. Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect.

Other studies have reached a range of differing conclusions.

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