Psychiatrists Cast Doubt on Idea that Antidepressants Work by Causing Apathy

Out of 60 hits on page one of a Google search using terms “emotional blunting from SSRI,” only one cast doubt on the assumption that SSRI antidepressants exert their treatment effect by causing apathy. The rest endorsed the connection.

The one article I found on this quick search which contradicted this widely held and arguably incorrect assumption is “Antidepressants Do Not Work by Numbing Emotions,” published in Psychiatric Times, Sept. 26, 2022, which was written by George Dawson, MD and Ronald W. Pies, MD.

The authors wrote a convincing rebuttal of the assumption that the SSRI mechanism of action for treating depression is by causing apathy. Based on their review, the problem is more likely due to residual depressive symptoms. It’s a good thing it turns up on the first page of a web search.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

5 thoughts on “Psychiatrists Cast Doubt on Idea that Antidepressants Work by Causing Apathy”

  1. Greetings, Jim, and thank you for the shout-out to the article George Dawson and I wrote. You correctly note that we are pushing against the tide of misinformation, which is based largely on inaccurate claims by some notable British psychiatrists and anti-psychiatry bloggers. A few of them have already misinterpreted and misrepresented our article as saying that SSRIs can’t cause blunting of emotions–which, of course, is not at all what our article says. Others have argued that we have devalued the patient’s perspective, which we do not. (We stated in the article, “This is not to deny the clinical importance of assessing emotional blunting in the course of antidepressant treatment, nor is it to discount in any way the patient’s felt experience during treatment.”) We must always take seriously and respectfully a patient’s assertion that the medication has produced a given side effect. But as clinicians, we must always consider alternative possibilities.

    Thank you again for your posting, Jim!

    All the best,

    Ronald W. Pies MD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ron, it’s great to hear from you! I always look forward to reading whatever you write. I like to think I get a little wiser when I do. You and George make a great team.


      1. Many thanks for the kind words, Jim. George is a tremendous font of knowledge and a very supportive colleague. Best wishes on your retirement (I am on a similar journey, and I find it both challenging and gratifying!).


        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think of both you and George as my friends. Retirement is a mixed blessing; however, I’m gradually getting more accustomed to it. Good luck with your retirement!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: