Posted by Fiona Cole on June 23, 2011
The number of people taking antidepressants in the United States has doubled in a decade. According to a 2009 study published by the Archives of General Psychiatry, during the last count done in 2005, around 27 million people, or 10 percent of the population, were taking psychiatric medication. And that number is still rising.
Mood disorders affect a broad range of people, and celebrities are no exception. Paulina Porizkova, the supermodel and actress, is the latest high-profile person to come forward and tell her story of antidepressant use. Porizkova, 46, has revealed that after she was thrown off the TV show “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007, she slipped into a period of debilitating anxiety.
Porizkova began taking antidepressants, calling it her “midlife affair with meds,” and said that she turned to medication in the hope of improving her mental state and reducing the negative effects her anxiety was having on her two children and her husband of 24 years. Instead, the supermodel reports, after spending more than two years on antidepressants, it destroyed her sex life and engulfed her in a “thick, warm comforter, insulated against the sharp pangs that came with living.”
Porizkova tells of the shame she felt in turning to drugs and said that upon revealing her “dirty little secret” to friends, she discovered that many of the women she knew in their late 30s and 40s “were all having the same affair.” Like Porizkova, many of those women were being prescribed antidepressant medication for problems other than depression, such as anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and pain.
Ultimately, like many individuals who try antidepressant medication, the supermodel felt that the drawbacks began to outweigh the benefits. The drugs worked to decrease her anxiety, but, eventually, she began to feel numb.
Porizkova reported that when the side effects ruined her sex life and destroyed her creativity, she “decided that this affair had all the drawbacks of an affair: the sexual distancing from my husband, the guilt, the lies; and the benefit — silence from the [anxiety] — didn’t seem worth the price.”
Eventually, Porizkova made the choice to come off antidepressants and is now questioning the mass-consumption of these drugs in the face of normal life crises. She acknowledges that for many people, antidepressants can be a life-saver, but she also feels that there is a need for women to delve into the question of what is at the root of their mood problems.
Associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dr. Holly Swartz agrees. Swartz also is careful to make the point that the symptoms of major depression should not be overlooked, adding that major depression strikes 1 in 20 people at some point in their life, and is generally “under-recognized, under-diagnosed and under-treated.”
According to Swartz, the key to an effective solution is finding a good doctor.
“The important thing for women struggling is to work with someone who can figure out what is going on,” Swartz said. “The question is whether it is depression or not. Antidepressants are not indicated for mid-life crises.”