For the vast majority of women who have, at one time or another, caught themselves bursting into tears or lashing out for apparent reason only to catch a glimpse of the calendar and realize that our hormones have betrayed us again, it comes as no surprise to find that clinical depression — and its treatment — might be related to hormones. But it's more than just reason number 17,891 that we need more women in the sciences: for women and men suffering from clinical depression, the way our differently-hormoned bodies respond to treatment can be a matter of life and death.As Newsweek reports, in the late '90s, Dr. Susan Kornstein, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, led a seminal study showing that SSRIs are seemingly more effective at treating depression in women and that tricyclics — an earlier anti-depressant medication only initially studied in men — were more effective for men and post-menopausal women. That research helped her get grant money for one of the largest studies of depression and SSRIs to date, a NIMH-funded project that followed nearly 3,000 patients for 12-14 weeks while being treated with citalopram, an SSRI. In the end, although female participants were more likely to have more severe depression than male participants, they were also significantly more likely likely to report complete remission of their depression. Animal studies have already shown that estrogen helps regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which is a key neurotransmitter tied to mood and sleep. According to Newsweek, Kornstein hopes to next study the effect of SSRIs on post-menopausal women both on and off hormone replacement therapy to further bolster her hypothesis about SSRIs and estrogen levels. On a more basic level, though, that it took so many years for scientists to rigorously entertain the possibility that sex-specific hormones might have some effect on chemical imbalances in the body — or that drugs of any variety might be more or less effective depending on the body's chemical make up — has probably had deleterious effects on women's health for generations (and still might). Because, God knows, if the pharmaceutical industry has to start testing for efficacy in men and women separately, that's going to get damn expensive and companies do like their profit margins. The Drug Gap [Newsweek] Image via FlySi
I wish every person in the world has access to my dynamite psychiatrist. I know there are some shitty, shitty doctors out there who will dope you up, ignore you, and put you off quacks forever.
But please don't give up on psychiatrists altogether. There are some kick-ass docs out there, like mine, who will respect you and not rest until they have found a way for you to feel better.
And don't buy into the nasty stigma that surrounds depression meds: it is INHUMAN to suggest that anyone who is suffering from mental illness should not take advantage of every medical opportunity to alleviate their pain. St. John's Wort and B vitamins may augment good care, but they are not a replacement for sound medical support, whether that includes les drogues or not.