London: In a discovery that can help find
new drugs to treat depression, a recent research has found
that antidepressants start acting on an individual immediately
to lift mood, even before the patient is aware of any change.
"Contrary to the current belief, antidepressants get to
work immediately to lift mood although patients may not notice
the effects until months into the therapy," a team of
researchers at Oxford University said.
The action is rapid, beginning within hours of taking
the drugs, and changes negative thoughts, the researchers
said, adding they work subconsciously.
Psychiatrist Dr Catherine Harmer, who led the research
said, the findings could help scientists looking for new drugs
to treat depression.
These subtle, positive cues may add up over time to lift
the depression, the American Journal of Psychiatry reports.
Harmer and her team closely studied the reactions of 33
depression patients and 31 healthy controls given either an
antidepressant or a dummy drug.
The depressed patients who took the active drug showed
positive improvements in three specific measures within three
hours of taking them. It may also explain why talking
therapies designed to break negative thought cycles can also
We found the antidepressants target the negative
thoughts before the patient is aware of any change in feeling
These patients were more likely to think about themselves
in a positive light, rather than dwelling on their bad points,
the team said.
They were also more likely to see the positive in
others. For example, if they saw a grumpy person they no
longer internalised this to think that they must have done
something wrong to upset the person.
Dr Harmer said, "We found the antidepressants target
the negative thoughts before the patient is aware of any
change in feeling subjectively.
"Over time, this will affect our mood and how we feel
because we are receiving more positive information."