Citizens Commission on Human Rights
National Affairs Office
Washington, DC

New study confirms patients’ common complaints of antidepressants deadening their emotions and harming their sex life.

A new study presented at the annual conference of the American Psychiatric Association informed psychiatrists that the emotional blunting caused by the antidepressants they prescribe is a significant and under-recognized side effect patients may suffer.

The current study reviewed 25 prior studies related to the problem of antidepressant-induced emotional blunting, described as “a persistent diminution in both positive and negative feelings,” which the patients differentiated as side effects of the drugs rather than symptoms of their depression. 

Studies have found that patients taking antidepressants can experience emotional blunting, which is a persistent reduction in positve and negative feelings.

The researchers concluded that emotional blunting was a significant patient-reported concern with antidepressants.  That dulling of emotions could also be experienced as a change in personality or as not feeling like oneself.

A separate study earlier this year also found that participants given a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant experienced a reduction in positive emotions, along with a significant increase in sexual problems that the researchers suggested could be due to the reduced emotional pleasure.

Sexual dysfunction is reportedly experienced by many patients on antidepressants.  Half of the antidepressant users who responded to a recent survey reported experiencing sexual problems they did not have before taking the drugs – problems that can strain relationships and lead to a worsening of the depression for which the drugs are being prescribed. 

“Emotional blunting was a significant patient-reported concern with antidepressants.”
— Youshay Jawad, MD, Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Toronto, Canada

These findings add new credibility to patients’ common complaints of antidepressants deadening their emotions and sex life.

Worse still, the sexual disability can persist indefinitely, even after antidepressants are discontinued.  The condition, referred to as post-SSRI sexual dysfunction, has no definitive treatment, a fact many patients were not made aware of by their prescribers before starting antidepressants.

Half of the antidepressant users who responded to a recent survey reported experiencing sexual problems, which could be due to the emotional dulling associated with the drugs.

A key rationale for prescribing antidepressants in the first place – to fix a chemical imbalance in the brain – was recently found to be without scientific merit.  Researchers conducted a comprehensive review of the research that had looked into whether a lack of the brain chemical serotonin causes depression and concluded there was no convincing evidence to support the theory.

“The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression,” wrote the study’s lead author, Joanne Moncrieff.  “Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence.  It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.” 

Also challenging the prescribing of antidepressants are the results of a study which found that taking antidepressants led to worse depression symptoms for patients years later.  Patients who used antidepressants at any time during the 30-year period of the study had an 81% greater chance of experiencing more severe depression symptoms at the end of the period.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) recommends a complete physical examination with lab tests, nutritional and allergy screenings, and a review of all current medications to identify any physical causes of depression or other unwanted mental and emotional symptoms, which might otherwise be misdiagnosed and incorrectly treated as a psychiatric disorder.

WARNING:  Anyone wishing to discontinue or change the dose of an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician because of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.