Here's Why Experts Say You Shouldn't Fear Antidepressants

If you're depressed, of course.

It's 2018, and yet some people are still wary about taking medication in order to deal with anxiety or depression. It's an odd attitude, given that you'd never tell someone suffering from, say, Type 2 diabetes, to just tough it out. But there's still a stigma surrounding mental and emotional health, despite the fact that it's as important, if not more so, as your physical health.

After all, the National Institute of Mental Health has previously reported that depression takes more years from American lives than drug abuse or any other mental health disorder, and surveys have found that having a positive attitude can extend your life just as much as the right diet and exercise.

As society becomes more accepting of anxiety and depression as serious disorders that are just as "real" as any other chronic disease, more and more people get help in the form of therapy and medication. According to data published last summer, 12.7 percent of Americans age 12 or older reported taking an antidepressant within the last month between 2011 and 2014, which represents a 64 percent surge from 1999 to 2002. The use of antidepressants was more common among women (16.5 percent) as opposed to men (8.6 percent), three times more common among white people than African Americans, and way more common among those over 60 (19.1 percent) than among teens (3.4 percent).

Still, a lot of Americans wonder whether or not antidepressants can really help them combat their "inner demons," and now, a new study seems to have a definitive answer: Yes.

The UK study, which was recently published in The Lancet, analyzed data from 522 trials involving 116,477 people and found that, overall, antidepressants were twice as effective in treating depression than placebos.

"This study is the final answer to a long-standing controversy about whether antidepressants work for depression," lead author Dr Andrea Cipriani, from the University of Oxford, told the BBC. "We found the most commonly prescribed antidepressants work for moderate to severe depression and I think this is very good news for patients and clinicians."

However, since not all antidepressants are created equal, they compared 21 different antidepressants, and ranked them for efficacy. Of the drugs, they found that Amitriptyline, sold under the brand name Elavil, seemed to have the greatest effect, but that doesn't mean you should call up your therapist and immediately ask for a prescription. As any psychiatrist will tell you, antidepressants are not for everyone, and brands have different levels of success and different side effects depending on your unique chemical makeup, which is why it's so crucial to work closely with your therapist to find the one that's best for you. Many people need to try several types of antidepressants in order to find the one that's most effective.

As the novelist James Smythe wrote in a series of tweets on the study that has now gone viral:

"There are people who'll say that [anti-depressants] aren't needed, and don't work. And I think that such an attitude is potentially very dangerous. It's irresponsible to tell somebody with clinical depression that they shouldn't take them – each case, each human being, should be looked at case by case. And your case might be one that needs a medical hand. Everybody can use CBT and coping mechanisms, but for a lot of people, when it's clinical depression – a chemical imbalance, let's remember, as tangible as a broken limb – medicine can literally save a life. So if you have depression, and somebody tells you to handle it with meditation and yoga and exercises, cool. Do those. But also, speak to a medical profession. Because if you're somebody who needs them, antidepressants will literally change your life."

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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