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Antidepressant Paxil Also May Affect Personality

Paxil May Improve Neuroticism and Extraversion in Depressed People

Paxil's Potent Punch continued...

The researchers write that patients taking Paxil “reported 6.8 times as much change on neuroticism and 3.5 times as much change on extraversion as placebo patients matched for depression improvement.”

Patients taking Paxil became “less shy, more vivacious ... less sensitive to rejection” and stress and generally felt more stable emotionally, Tang tells WebMD.

“To most psychiatrists our findings would be very surprising,” he says. “They traditionally think of [SSRIs] as antidepressants first and foremost, and the effect on personality as negligible or by-products of depression improvements,” Yang says. “We are now finding that the effect on personality is very substantial and clearly not a by-product of depression improvement.”

He tells WebMD the results “may make many people uncomfortable” because they raise “the possibility of using these drugs to normalize personality for millions of non-depressed people.”

DeRubeis tells WebMD the study suggests that “important and noticeable effects” of SSRIs have gone undetected.

“The magnitude of change in personality was markedly larger than that observed in the standard measures of depressive symptom severity,” and patients taking placebo “did not evidence the change in personality that would be expected if change in depression caused change in personality.”

Depression 'More Than Just Mood'

Claude Robert Cloninger, MD, a professor of psychiatry, genetics, and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, tells WebMD that the conclusions of the new study “confirm earlier work showing that particular personality traits are indicators of vulnerability to depression.”

However, the Tang study “is new in that it ... focuses on the improvements in personality resulting from antidepressant treatment. Being less neurotic and more extraverted is a healthier and happier profile.”

“What this work does well is show” that depression is “not just a matter of mood” and that SSRIs “are not specific just for depression,” Cloninger tells WebMD.

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