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Antidepressants May Change Your Personality
Date:12/7/2009

Depressed patients on Paxil became more extraverted and less neurotic, study finds

MONDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Taking antidepressants may not only help alleviate depression, but could make you more extraverted and less neurotic, new research suggests.

Extraversion, which is associated with positive emotions, is believed to help protect from depression, while neuroticism, the tendency to experience negative emotions and emotional instability, is thought to contribute to depression.

Becoming more extraverted and less neurotic may help prevent a relapse of depression, said lead study author Tony Tang, an adjunct professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

"People's personalities actually do change and quite substantially when they go through these antidepressant treatments," Tang said. "In the past, we tended to dismiss the personality changes as a side effect or something not very important. But our study suggests it's actually very important to treatment outcomes."

Extraversion and neuroticism are associated with the serotonin system, the brain's reward center that helps regulate mood, sleep and appetite. In this study, participants took paroxetine, which is sold under the brand name Paxil, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Other SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa. Though those drugs were not tested, Tang said the impact on the personality would likely be similar.

The study findings are published in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers divided 240 adults with a major depressive disorder into three groups: 120 received paroxetine, 60 underwent cognitive therapy and 60 took a placebo. Personalities and depressive symptoms were assessed before, during and after treatment.

All groups experienced some improvement in their depression. But participants taking paroxetine became less neurotic and m
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