“There is a cultural question here, which is how much depression should people have to live with when we have these treatments that give so many a better quality of life,” Dr. Kramer said. “I don’t think that’s a question that should be decided in advance.”
Antidepressants are not harmless; they commonly cause emotional numbing, sexual problems like a lack of desire or erectile dysfunction and weight gain. Long-term users report in interviews a creeping unease that is hard to measure: Daily pill-popping leaves them doubting their own resilience, they say.
“We’ve come to a place, at least in the West, where it seems every other person is depressed and on medication,” said Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “You do have to wonder what that says about our culture.”