Considering my recent horrible anti-depressent experience , I am a little biased on this subject.
When you read these articles, look carefully at what the experts are saying. It usually amounts to “we don’t know much about the brain, we don’t know much about depression, we don’t have any idea why these drugs work and now we don’t really know if they do work”.
The claims of anti-depressents have always been a little hard to make sense of, anyway. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes one anti-depressent works, sometimes another one does. Sometimes you only need them shortly, sometimes you need them for the rest of your life. Usually depression comes back no matter what you do.
Added to this is the fact that doctors are prescribing them almost at random to nearly anyone that steps into their office. The people that take them are often fanatical and evangelical about them (if you do take them, more power to you, but I have seen a lot of breathless and seemingly mindless advocacy among users). Anti-depressents are not treated like normal drugs. What we are seeing is a whole new paradigm of psychiatric medication, which is driven by brand-names, self diagnosis, consumer demand and a proffessional attitude that amounts to “well, why not?”.
Okay, I’ll try to get back on topic…These findings don’t surprise me in the least, although for different reasons. People usually seek help when they are on an upswing anyway. There is no way you are gonna get yourself to a doctor when you are in the depths of depression- you get to doctors when you are feeling better enough to start doing positive things in your life. Naturally you have a pretty decent chance of improving. When you add this to the fact that you are getting shiny new drugs that seem powerful (the side effects will convince you of that) and have a lot positive attention from the media and very likely those around you, it isn’t a mystery that there would be some effects.
And the brain has a huge capacity to affect mental and physical illness through means other than medication. I doubt anyone, even the biggest skeptic, can deny this. I’m no new-ager, but I have witnessed the power of the mind in regards to health. Our first reaction in this society is to medicate, but that is not always helpful or the best thing to do. Medicine can, and does, save lives. But I feel that we too often demand scientific answers to things that science doesn’t understand yet, and that results in prescribing powerful drugs that are not well understood and have a great potential for harm.