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Psychological effects of antidepressants underestimated

People taking antidepressants have more thoughts of suicide, sexual difficulties and emotional numbness ‘as a result of anti-depressants’ than previously thought, said researchers at the University of Liverpool.

Posted: 26 February 2014

Psychologist and lead researcher Prof. John Read, of the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: ‘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.’

The study found over half of people aged 18 to 25 who were surveyed reported having suicidal feelings. In the total sample high percentages of people said they were encountering ‘sexual difficulties’ (62%) and ‘feeling emotionally numb’ (60%). Percentages for other effects included: ‘feeling not like myself’ (52%), ‘reduction in positive feelings’ (42%), ‘caring less about others’ (39%) and ‘withdrawal effects’ (55%). At the same time 82% reported that that taking antidepressant drugs had helped alleviate their depression.

The researchers surveyed 1,829 people who had been prescribed anti-depressants. Each person completed an online questionnaire which asked about 20 adverse effects. Participants had been on anti-depressants 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 antidepressant drugs.

Prof. Read said: ‘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.’

The research has been published in the journal Psychiatry Research.