Selena Gomez reveals mental-health medication 'completely changed her life' - how do the drugs work?

Alexandra Thompson
Singer Selena Gomez poses at the Billboard Women in Music awards in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Selena Gomez claims her "lows would take her out for weeks". [Photo: Reuters]

Selena Gomez claims being on medication for her mental-health issues “completely changed her life”.

Speaking of what she has “gone through”, the songstress told WSJ Magazine “her lows would take her out for weeks at a time”.

The former Disney star added she has been seeing therapists for more than six years, during which time she has been “in and out of treatment facilities”.

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“I feel like I was supposed to go through everything I've gone through,” Gomez said.

“My highs were really high and my lows would take me out for weeks at a time.

“I got on the right medication and my life has been completely changed.”

Gomez, who appears to have battled depression, did not disclose the drugs she took or the incidents in her life that set her back.

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The singer claims she has been single since splitting from pop sensation Justin Bieber more than two years ago.

She famously received a kidney transplant from her friend Francia Raisa as a result of her lupus, an autoimmune condition that can damage organs.

At her lowest point, the Lose You To Love Me hitmaker even came off Instagram, claiming it “can be unhealthy”.

Now in a better place, Gomez is back on social media and preparing to release her first album in four years.

Singer Justin Bieber kisses his girlfriend, singer Selena Gomez, as they arrive at the 2011 American Music Awards in Los Angeles November 20, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok  (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT PROFILE) (AMA-ARRIVALS)
The singer has been single since splitting from popstar Justin Bieber more than two years ago. [Photo: Reuters]

How do antidepressants work?

Around 17.3m adults in the US suffered at least one major depressive episode in 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

In the UK, nearly one in five (19.7%) people aged 16 or over showed signs of depression or anxiety in 2014, Mental Health Foundation statistics show.

Many turn to antidepressants, which can also be effective against obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the NHS.

Exactly how they work is unclear.

The drugs are thought to increase levels of chemicals called neurotransmitters, some of which are linked to mood.

They do not, however, combat the cause of depression. This can include everything from bereavement and a relationship breakdown to money worries or health concerns.

There is also no scientific evidence depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, which antidepressants work to correct, according to Mind.

Studies suggest antidepressants are effective when it comes to moderate-to-severe depression.

They are usually only recommended for mild depression if other approaches fail to help, like exercise or talking therapies.

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The Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates 50-to-65% of people treated with an antidepressant for depression see an improvement, compared to 25-to-30% of those on placebo.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac, are the most widely prescribed in the UK, according to the NHS.

These tend to cause few side effects, with overdosing unlikely. They are also generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Nonetheless, complications can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, low sex drive and erectile dysfunction in men.

Contrary to common belief, antidepressants do not tend to cause weight gain.

An exception is the older class of drugs tricyclic antidepressants. These are no longer recommended as a go-to remedy due to the risk of an overdose. Examples include Tryptizol and Anafranil.

Whichever the drug, they are usually prescribed at the lowest dose possible to still have an effect.

Most need to be taken for one-to-two weeks before patients notice their mood lifting. Speak to your GP if you see no improvement after four weeks.

Find out more information on antidepressants on the NHS’ website.