“Treating Depression: Is There a Placebo Effect?”
Leslie Stahl’s story on “60 Minutes” about the placebo effect regarding antidepressants is a topic I read about a year ago with great interest and concern. As the wife and one-time caregiver of someone struggling with depression, I have a vested interest in the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.
Our decade-long search for a treatment routine that would relieve my husband’s debilitating depression symptoms contained many valleys and very few peaks. We encountered doctors who denied that antidepressants had any effect whatsoever, doctors who insisted talk therapy was a waste of time, doctors who spent months suggesting various combinations of medications. Each time we tried a new doctor and/or a new medication, we suffered through weeks of waiting for the pills to work, watching for side effects, weighing negative side effects against possible improvement. We repeatedly rejected medications, began the long weaning-off process, and started over again. I know from experience that the antidepressant search can be long, painful and frustrating for all involved – not just for the depressed person.
I also know that when a depressed person finally finds a medication that creates space for joy and health in a life that has been darkened by mental illness, it is vital for that person and for those who love and care for him or her to take advantage of it. Being told by doctors and researchers that the time and effort put into recovery was wasted, that the experience of recovery is possibly a fluke, or that one would have been just as well off taking sugar pills seems unproductive, dismissive, and possibly cruel.
The medical profession will ever be at odds about the causes and cures for depression; new medications and treatments will continue to be researched and released. Those of us who care for people who are depressed must continue to use our own best judgment as we fight to assist in the return to health.