Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Depression and the Autism Spectrum

Depression and the Autism Spectrum

Depression and antidepressants are big news this week with Newsweek’s February 9, 2010 story by Sharon Begley, “The Depressing News About Antidepressants: Studies suggest that the popular drugs are no more effective than a placebo. In fact, they may be worse.” (Sharon Begley also wrote the book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, which I discussed in an earlier post.)The article goes on to explain the placebo effect, and what analysis of numerous studies on antidepressants, both those published and not published are showing about the effect of the drugs, and the often superior results of psychotherapy.

Depression is a concern for many on the Autism Spectrum, with almost a third of individuals with autism and Asperger’s also dealing with depression. (Mohammad Ghaziuddin’s Mental Health Aspects of Autism and Asperger Syndrome has a good review on this topic if you’re looking for details.) Social isolation, difficulty managing relationships, chronic stress from sensory issues, and practical matters like underemployment can all be contributing factors. For more info, you can find an earlier article I wrote on "Depression with Asperger's Syndrome and Autism".

Dr. Michael Yapko, a Clinical Psychologist and MFT, has published and spoken extensively on the ideas that depression is the result of many lifestyle  and social choices and curing depression does not come from a pill. He is the author of Depression Is Contagious, which I haven’t yet read, but it’s in my stack of books. You can hear an interview of Dr. Yapko, where he discusses his book and theories on the importance of social connections and good problem solving skills in managing depression.

Please note: If you’re currently taking antidepressants and these articles are concerning to you, don’t just stop taking them. Please talk to your prescribing physician. It can be very dangerous to stop taking any prescribed medication, or to alter the dose, and any changes to medications should be made under a doctor’s supervision.