Depression can cause disarray and emotional pain in a person's life. The causes are complex, but it can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.
Medications are often used to adjust the levels of brain chemicals.
But how well do they work? That was the question asked by Dr. Robert Derubeis and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania.
"The information that we gathered is important because this is an area of inquiry about the effects of anti-depressant medications and about treatments generally, really, that we simply haven't seen studied," Dr. Derubeis said.
The researchers evaluated six different randomized studies completed over the last 20 years, which looked at the effect of antidepressants versus a placebo on more than 700 outpatients being treated for depression.
Their findings are published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
"The most important finding that came from our study was for the first time, we were able to identify an effect of anti-depressant medications relative to placebo in a group of patients who have largely been left out of the studies of antidepressant medications," Dr. Derubeis said.
And the finding was that while medications appear to be effective for patients suffering severe depression, they did not work as well on people with mild or moderate depression.
Patients who have mild or moderate or even slightly severe depression the antidepressant medications may not be helping them anymore than a placebo pill would."
Patients with mild or moderate depression should discuss their medications well with their doctors. if medications do not help, doctors can help patients explore other avenues of help.
Depression however should be treated as it is a painful medication condition that that interfere with one's health and enjoyment of life.