Worldwide, many people take antidepressants. This is particularly true in the United States (US) where around one in ten individuals is on an antidepressant. A recent study by Takayanagi and colleagues (2015) suggests that, at least in the US, most people may not need to be taking these medications. The authors analyzed data for an epidemiological study in which 13% of people were taking an antidepressant. The vast majority (~70%) were not diagnosable with major depression or an anxiety disorder, the disorders antidepressants are usually prescribed for. Women and Caucasians were most likely to currently be on an antidepressant without meeting criteria for anxiety or depression. People who had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety some other time in the past were also more likely to currently be on an antidepressant. However, around 40% of individuals who are currently taking an antidepressant have never met the criteria for major depression or an anxiety disorder. Individuals with physical health problems like arthritis and hypertension were also more likely to being prescribed an antidepressant, but even minor physical complaints like back pain and dizziness were associated to prescription of antidepressants. The study authors discuss the controversial practices surrounding the prescription of antidepressants, particularly among primary care providers. They call for more attention to the prescription of antidepressants, especially for patients who present to primary care with general physical complaints. There are high costs and side effects associated to antidepressant use, especially in the long term. Thus, the findings from this study should raise a discussion about the potential for psychotherapy and counseling to emerge as alternatives to antidepressant use.
Society for Psychotherapy Research (SPR)
Marna S. Barrett, Ph.D.
Mood & Anxiety Disorders Treatment Research Unit
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
3535 Market St., Suite 670
Philadelphia, PA 19104