Antidepressants make people less empathetic – and that’s good!
New research has shown that the decrease in empathy level causes patients to recover faster from adverse events. A study at the University of Vienna in Austria showed that people taking antidepressants are less empathic.
The team of specialists analyzed volunteers before and after taking the medications. The results were published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
The scientists recruited unmedicated patients who had acute depression and tested their empathic responses to other people’s pain in two moments: first, during a severe depressive episode – that is, before receiving any medication. Second, after three months of psychopharmacological treatment with antidepressants (mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
In both sessions, patients underwent MRI while watching videos of people undergoing painful medical procedures. As the researchers reported, participants demonstrated a lower level of empathy after commencing medication, such as a reduction in the activation of brain regions associated with compassion.
Women with depression are at higher risk of developing chronic diseases.
The number of damaged social networks may be related to depression. According to experts, the results are far from negative. That’s because, according to the co-author of the research, Markus Rütgen said in a statement, the reduced emotional impact of adverse events allows medicated patients to recover from unfortunate times more efficiently – which is beneficial to their health.
In the analysis, scientists could also relate that the decrease in the level of affective empathy improves the symptoms of depression. “The real impact of reduced patient empathy on social behaviors still needs to be explored,” Rütgen said.