New research finds that antidepressants may alter personality, making those who suffer from depression more extraverted and less neurotic. Tony Tang, PhD, lead study author and adjunct psychology professor at Northwestern University, says changes in these personality traits could help prevent future relapses of depression.
According to HealthDay, relapsing after receiving treatment for depression has been found to be a major problem for sufferers. Approximately two-thirds of patients relapse after stopping medication, while almost half of patients suffer a relapse while they are still in the process of being treated.
It has been thought that patient personality changes were the result of antidepressants improving mood. However, Science News reports that this new research suggests that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have an independent effect on these personality traits which in turn helps to ease depression.
The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, consisted of 240 adults with severe depressive disorders. The participants were divided intro three groups – 120 took Paxil (paroxetine), sixty received cognitive therapy, and the other sixty took a placebo. Personalities were assessed before, during and after the treatment had been completed.
Health.com reports that the level of extraversion reported by the Paxil group was 3.5 times greater than the other two groups, and the reduction in neuroticism was seven times greater.
Lead researcher Tang says:
“People’s personalities actually do change and quite substantially when they go through these antidepressant treatments…In the past, we tended to dismiss the personality changes as a side effect or something not very important. But our study suggests it’s actually very important to treatment outcomes.”