August 16, 2017
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics just put out a report about the increasing use of antidepressants. As a psychologist (as opposed to a psychiatrist), I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, there have been many studies that have demonstrated the superior or at least matched efficacy of psychotherapy over medication to treat depression and anxiety, so I find this trend concerning. But on the other hand, when I recommend that some of my patients should consider consulting with their primary care provider or a psychiatrist and they express concerns about stigma, weakness or other reasons not to consider this treatment option, I attempt to reassure them that “antidepressants are one of the three most commonly used therapeutic drug classes in the United States” according to the report, and thus they should not feel self-conscious about taking such medications.
The report noted that there has been a progressive increase in antidepressant use since 1999, and that during the time of the study, nearly 13% of people over the age of 12 in the US have reported taking antidepressants in the past month. Women take antidepressants at double the rate of men. A quarter of those who reported using antidepressants have taken them for at least ten years.
It’s reassuring that those who need to take medication are in good company, but it is important to explore non-medical treatment of depression and anxiety, as the beneficial effects tend to be of a much longer-lasting duration.