Chronic Antidepressant Therapy May Impair the Ability to Unlearn Fear

Kermit Cole
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Bruce McEwen and Joseph LeDoux, whose pioneering research in eliminating fear-related memories opened up new avenues for the potential treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, show in research published in Biological Psychiatry on December 20, 2012 that chronic treatment with citalopram (Celexa) or tianeptine (Stablon) impairs amygdala-dependent learning and consequently the ability to learn new responses to fear-related stimuli and to unlearn conditioned fear responses.

Abstract →

Burghardt, N., Sigurdsson, T., Gorman, J., McEwan, B., LeDoux, J.; Chronic Antidepressant Treatment Impairs the Acquisition of Fear Extinction. Biological Psychiatry. Online December 20, 2012

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected]

3 COMMENTS

  1. Nice to see some work in this area finally happening. It is assumed that anyone with PTSD, must have depression and they are all doped up on antidepressents. Since they need a drug to cure everything they have to find something for PTSD too, which many claim is a purely biological and genetic condition, it just is sparked by a tramatic experience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Although I fear they will simply start to drug them with something stronger, like antipsychotics, which is already happening way too often and that will be even worse.

    • I would agree with that. BUT we do know the parts of the brain involved in learning. We do know that the ONLY way to truly recover from trauma is to develop new experiences. If one has experienced every male they have ever have contact with raping them, telling them men don’t always rape will not work. They actually have to have experiences with men who do not rape for them to learn that. People learn from experience, and there beliefs are based on those experiences. Sitting four feet away from someone and telling them they are wrong does not work. Giving them new positive appropriate theraputic experiences does work. Want to teach someone that not everyone who brushes past them is going to hurt them, use massage. Sitting four feet away from them and telling them it, or telling them to think positively about it, will not do anything at all, which is why CBT fails so dismally in trauma. What we do know is that the parts of the brain invovled in memory and in particular in forming new memories are also parts that are blocked by antidepressents. People cannot form new memories, when the parts of the brain that are used for that purpose are being blocked. This is something that is known and many have said before. But when it comes to humans they blame something else, which brain scans can show what is really happening and there is work being done on PTSD with brain scans and the like, which does show what is really happening in the brain. One does not however scan brains every day, due to the risks involved – radiation in those amounts is not good for people, yet rats can show in daily amounts, what the brain scans of people are also showing.

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