People who take an antidepressant are far more likely to suffer a recurring bout of depression than someone who decides on a non-pharmaceutical approach.
Taking a drug almost doubles your risk of suffering a relapse, say researchers, from the Virginia Commonwealth University in the US and McMaster University in Canada, after reviewing a range of studies that monitored the effectiveness of antidepressants and placebos, or sugar pills, on groups of patients with major depression.
Overall, depressed people who took no drugs or were given a placebo had a 25-per-cent likelihood of suffering a further episode in the future, whereas those who took an antidepressant were 42-per-cent more likely to do so.
The researchers believe the drugs interfere with the brain's self-regulatory processes for coping with depression, causing these processes to overcompensate when the drug treatment stops, triggering another depressive episode.
Depression may be a natural and beneficial process as the brain works to cope with stress or loss, the researchers concluded (Front Psychology, 2011; 2: 159; doi: 10.3389/ fpsyg.2011.00159).