Antidepressants cause emotional blunting

Last month, I shared some disturbing, new research about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Researchers from the innovative Max Planck Institute discovered these common antidepressant drugs actually decrease connectivity in the brain within three hours, causing what I compared to a chemically induced “lobotomy.”

Another new study links long-term use of two kinds of antidepressant drugs with significant “emotional blunting” in both men and women. Ironically, when you have a “flat” mood (which prominently includes “emotional blunting”), it can be a cardinal sign of depression in the first place!

Of course, the unfortunate patients who received surgical lobotomies on the brain 100 years ago also suffered from emotional blunting. Doctors back then performed lobotomies for all kinds of mental health conditions. We now consider the surgical procedure backward and barbaric. Yet, as these two studies show, big pharma’s cash cow drugs may be nothing more than biochemical forms of this drastic procedure.

For this latest study, researchers recruited nearly 200 adults with mild or moderate depression. The participants had been taking just one antidepressant for at least six months. And they were involved in long-term, caring relationships before they started the antidepressant treatment.

The researchers discovered that SSRI drugs negatively impacted feelings of love toward partners–especially among men. Researchers also linked long-term use of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), an older class of antidepressants, with disturbed sexual function, especially among women. TCAs gained popularity in the 1950s and they’re still in use today. But they can be very toxic to the heart muscle, as I found when investigating cases of sudden death 30 years ago as a medical examiner. I have often wondered why these dangerous, old TCA drugs are still in use today if the new SSRIs are as effective and safe as they’re cracked up to be! (Hint: They’re not.)

Overall, the drug-treated patients had greater feelings of detachment. And they shared their feelings and thoughts much less than before they started taking the drugs.

These findings aren’t all that surprising. Especially when you consider what the Max Planck Institute researchers recently observed on the functional MRI brain scans…that these drugs cause widespread decreases in brain connectivity within three hours.

Overall, men seemed to experience more emotional blunting than women. The researchers speculated that women might tolerate these medications better because “emotions differ between the sexes.” And because “women feel things deeper (sic).”

Of course, when big pharma tests new drugs, they generally show little concern about the differences between men and women. And according to today’s official, politically correct handbook, there are no differences between men and women anyway.

But often Mother Nature begs to differ.

The sad truth about “antidepressants” is that we are somehow only learning these facts now, a quarter-century after the FDA approved them. And all along, there have been natural, safe approaches that work for mild-to-moderate depression.

For example, St. John’s wort works as well as–or better than–antidepressant drugs. It was first approved in Germany for mild-to-moderate depression based on “historic use.” Plus, it doesn’t have the growing list of harmful sides, such as suicide (paradoxically), mass homicides (probably), birth defects and developmental disorders in offspring, and breast cancer in women.

Also, what about good, old-fashioned “talk therapy”?

In the 19th-century, they called it “moral therapy.” It fell out of favor in the high-tech 21st century. Yet many modern studies still used “talk therapy” as a simple control (because they knew it worked), so patients would not suffer while they tested some other unproven pill treatment.

Ironically, in these studies, the experimental drug or supplement always failed to provide any benefit over the old-fashioned “talk therapy” control.

Of course, talking (and listening) to the patient is really the most powerful form of pyscho-social-spiritual intervention. Other, ancient medical traditions from around the world recognize mental/emotional conditions as involving the evanescent spirit. The old “moral therapy” and “talk therapy” also recognize this point.

But heaven forbid (pardon the expression), we ever let considerations of spirit–let alone morality–enter into any medical approach in our enlightened, secular, politically correct world of today.

Beyond St. John’s wort and “talk therapy,” many things can help you lighten your mood and lift your spirit.

Make sure you get enough vitamin D (5,000 IU per day)–especially at this time of year. Science shows vitamin D deficiency has a profound effect on mood especially in darker, colder climates. So, go outside, take a walk in the fresh air, and get some sun. The sun won’t be high enough in the sky again (in latitudes north of Atlanta) until March to activate vitamin D. But it still impacts your endocrine system and contributes to a “sunny” mood.


1. “Emotional blunting following long-term antidepressant treatment,” European Neuropsychopharmacology October 2014; 24(2): S447