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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Do antidepressants work?

    There are so many different kinds of antidepressants and people often switch from one to another. Is there any proof that they work? Do they work for everyone?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    While clinical psychologists don't prescribe antidepressants, if I see a patient with depression I make sure they know about the option of antidepressants.  That's because there is a large body of research to show that antidepressants (and psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy) are effective in treating depression.  Remember that these studies are group studies; there are always people who don't respond, or who discontinue because of side effects.  

    In short, yes, there is proof that antidepressants work, and no, they don't work for everyone.  

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    2yrs ago my depression was so bad. I was suicidal & just couldn't fuction. My gp ignored my call for help so I went to another gp who referred me to a clinical psycologist & put my on antidepressants. I was the most anti antidepressent person around as I'd always managed my depression through excercise, very healthy diet & meditation but as this didn't work I had no choice. I have now taken myself off the antidepressant as on them I was going crazy. I basically lived off coffee, wine & chocolate for the last 4 months. I didn't have a routine and didn't care about anything even personal hygeine. I wondered whether it was the depression or antidepressants. I know taking myself off them isn't adviced but I slowly cut back then off. The side effects have subsided and i'm now getting a routine back, my physocologist put my appointment back by 4wks so I thought as per usual I have to get myself out of this again. My point is I will beat this without medication. I am now walking each evening & will go back to running, my diet is back to lots of fresh fruit & vegies & I haven't had a drink in 6 days (big acheivement). As much as my bad voice is there my good voice is there just as much. I will win this my way. I will see my doctor this week & my phycologist as well. I know this anti depressant was highly likely not for me, but I don't have time to find the right one. I need to live & enjoy my life. I also booked a holiday to europe next year which gives me great incentive to loss my depression kg's. I also have my “to do” goals, simple everyday living goals like personal hygiene. Try what you can first then antidepressants certainly have a place

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    This is a very complex question.

    I am not a health professional but, because of my day job, have a good understanding of the molecular pharmacology of ADs. Also, in my private life I had a Dx of severe depression (I am now in remission) and was on an AD for some years.

    From my reading, my impression is that mild-moderate depression usually responds well to talk therapy (CBT, which Joe mentioned above and I have learned, is a good example). However, for people with a Dx of severe depression a combination of ADs and talk therapy often works well.

    Adding to the links that Johnny has provided, the Cochrane Collaboration ( is worth a look.

    It is a not-for-profit consortium of epidemiologists and biostatisticians and accepts no funding from pharma companies. 

    It looks *critically* at published clinical trial data, including trials of ADs. It is searchable and so if you want to see how convincing the evidence is for the efficacy of an AD, it is a good place to start.

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