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Long-term antidepressant use: patient perspectives of benefits and adverse effects

Authors Cartwright C, Gibson K, Read J, Cowan O, Dehar T

Received 15 April 2016

Accepted for publication 27 May 2016

Published 28 July 2016 Volume 2016:10 Pages 1401—1407

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S110632

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Doris Leung

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen

Claire Cartwright,1 Kerry Gibson,1 John Read,2 Ondria Cowan,1 Tamsin Dehar1
 
1School of Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand; 2Psychology Department, University of East London, Stratford Campus, London, UK

Abstract: Long-term antidepressant treatment has increased and there is evidence of adverse effects; however, little is known about patients’ experiences and views of this form of treatment. This study used mixed methods to examine patients’ views and experiences of long-term antidepressant treatment, including benefits and concerns. Data from 180 patients, who were long-term users of antidepressants (3–15 years), were extracted from an anonymous online survey of patients’ experiences of antidepressants in New Zealand. Participants had completed rating scales about the effectiveness of antidepressants, levels of depression before and during antidepressant use, quality of life, and perceived adverse effects. Two open-ended questions allowed participants to comment on personal experiences. The majority (89.4%) reported that antidepressants had improved their depression although 30% reported moderate-to-severe depression on antidepressants. Common adverse effects included withdrawal effects (73.5%), sexual problems (71.8%), and weight gain (65.3%). Adverse emotional effects, such as feeling emotionally numb (64.5%) and addicted (43%), were also common. While the majority of patients were pleased with the benefits of antidepressant treatment, many were concerned about these adverse effects. Some expressed a need for more information about long-term risks and increased information and support to discontinue.

Keywords: antidepressants, patients’ experiences, patients’ beliefs, adverse effects, withdrawal symptoms, discontinuation syndrome
 

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