Depression: Women are more likely to have the debilitating condition than men, according to the NHS.
One in three women have taken anti-depressants at some point in their lives, researchers say.

The study by women's campaign group Platform 51 found that 48 per cent of women currently using the drugs have taken them for at least five years, while 24 per cent have taken them for 10 years or more.

Meanwhile, 24 per cent of women on anti-depressants have waited a year or more for a review, the research found.

The charity, which commissioned a survey of more than 2,000 adults in England and Wales, said the figures pose 'worrying questions' about the appropriateness of prescriptions.

Platform 51's director of policy, campaigns and communications Rebecca Gill, said: 'These shocking figures reveal an escalating crisis in women's use of anti-depressants.

'We know from working with women and girls in our centres that anti-depressants have a role to play but they are too readily prescribed as the first and only remedy.

'Three in five women are offered no alternative to drugs at their reviews and one in four currently on anti-depressants have waited more than a year for review.

'Our research suggests that there is still a huge stigma attached to poor mental health. With so many women not telling their families, it is clear that women fear they will be judged on the state of their mental health.

'The current NICE guidelines are not being followed: women want more checks to make sure the medication use is right for them and they want more choice when it comes to receiving treatment.'

Platform 51 is calling on health authorities to launch a review into the guidelines for anti-depressant use and prescription.

The charity's research found 57 per cent of women who have taken anti-depressants were not offered any alternatives to drugs when they were prescribed.

It also found 18 per cent kept their prescription a secret from their family and one in 10 did not tell their partner.

People with depression have a chemical imbalance in the brain. Anti-depressants work by increasing the levels of chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. As it takes time to increase the levels the full effects are usually not felt until after two to four weeks.

While anti-depressants may relieve some of the physical feelings of the condition, they won't tackle what may have caused the depression in the first place. Therefore experts advise doctors to prescribe the drug in combination with therapy.

Bridget O'Connell, Head of Information at Mind told Mail Online:
'Antidepressants can play a crucial role in helping many people manage a mental health problem.'

'However, they are not recommended as a first port of call for mild to moderate depression so it is concerning that so many women are not being offered any alternative treatments, such as talking therapies, when antidepressants are initially prescribed.'

'Different people will find that different treatments work for their depression and it may be that some women find that taking antidepressants for upwards of ten years is necessary.

'Current guidance is that antidepressants should continue to be taken for at least six months after the depression has lifted but that they should not be taken indefinitely, as long-term use increases the risk and severity of withdrawal symptoms after usage has stopped.'
Common symptoms of anti-depressants (Royal College of Psychiatrists):
  • Anti-depressant: Tricyclics such as imipramine
    Common symptoms (may wear off): Dry mouth, a slight tremor, fast heartbeat, constipation, sleepiness, and weight gain
  • Anti-depressant: SSRIs such as citalopram and paroxetine
    Common Symptoms(may wear off): Heightened anxiety and nausea in first fortnight. May disrupt sexual function
  • Anti-depressant: SNRIs such as venlafaxine
    Common symptoms (may wear off): Same as SSRIs. Can also increase bllod pressure
  • Anti-depressant: MAOIs such as isocarboxazid
    Common symptoms (may wear off): Rarely prescribed as can cause dangerously high blood pressure.
  • Anti-depressant: NASSAs such as mirtazapine
    Common symptoms (may wear off): Same as SSRIs. May make you feel drowsy
For more information on anti-depressants visit the NHS Local website