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Depression medication may offer mood lift via personality shift

On way to providing relief, antidepressant modifies certain traits

9:51am, December 8, 2009

Medications frequently prescribed for depression may not lighten a person’s mood until they brighten his or her personality. A new study suggests that the antidepressant medication paroxetine, or Paxil, fights depression most effectively when it first modifies two personality traits that predispose people to this mood disorder.

The two traits, high neuroticism and low extraversion, have already been linked to depression. Depressed patients taking Paxil reported much greater change in these traits, as assessed via scores on personality tests, than patients given placebo pills. The difference was notable even after accounting for the extent to which each treatment diminished standard measures of depression, says psychologist Tony Tang of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Patients who experienced especially pronounced personality change during four months of Paxil treatment displayed a particularly low depression relapse rate over the next year of treatment, Tang

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