Facts about Anti depressant / SSRI Side effects

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There is always a lot of discussion about side effects and usefulness of anti depressants, of which the most common type of anti depressant is a SSRI. We will leave the discussion of usefulness and efficacy aside for now , and just talk about the issue of side effects.

Since drug companies in the US are allowed to advertise their drugs on TV and in magazines etc, there has been a huge amount of attention focused on the "side effects", particularly about increasing suicidal thoughts or feelings. In the agreement that they can advertise, they are required to list comprehensive list of side effects. It must be done in similar volume and size and equal time on side effects and benefits. This has lead to a ridiculous belief that that these side effects are "common".

So far as "increased suicidal thoughts" - aside from a lot of very valid discussion of how to establish that since before anybody is prescribed an SSRI they are already depressed and the vast majority are already proclaiming suicidal thoughts- in reality it is in less than 1/ 1000 patients and only those under 25 years of age that it has ever been shown to have any possible basis in fact. Compare that to the fact that people that receive no treatment for depression are 20x as likely as the general population to commit suicide and the 1/1000 chance of a person under the age of 25 being in more danger of suicide is still; are far better bet than not seeking treatment. (Professional treatment does not mean only meds, counseling and /or therapy with or without meds equally reduces risk.

In a study of SSRI's based only on determining rates of adverse side effects -

38% reported at least one side effect (so nearly 2/3rds reported no side effects whatsoever)

Of that 38% ,only 25% of the side effects reported were considered by the patient to be "very bothersome" or "extremely bothersome". The most common side effects by far were - sexual functioning, sleepiness, and weight gain. Still , that was in an very small minority of patients with any side effects.

This information is not to say that medication is always the answer - it has nothing to do with efficacy- how well the medications work. It is simply to put into perspective the "side effect" issue. This issue gets distorted on sites like SF because most people that get treatment (70 %) improve dramatically within 6 weeks. Sites like this tend to accumulate people that have been resistant to treatment in the past, or have not gotten treatment, often by no fault of their own, but is being added for those people that have found there way here and have not already tried treatment or have not in a long time.

I will also say in my years here, many people that arrive that say they do not want professional treatment and seem in a very bad place do not really recover until they start SOME TYPE of official treatment or recovery program. Many insist that it is not for them and will not work, but the number that eventually try treatment (and if you look through the occasional "how am i doing now" from, people that were here long ago and moved on it is nearly universal improvement came only after genuine treatment) and dramatically improve makes it impossible to not see a correlation between professional treatment and recovery from deep depression and suicidal thoughts and urges.
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