Antidepressants are supposed to work by fixing a chemical imbalance. However, analyses of the published and the unpublished data that were hidden by the drug companies reveal that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect, and the difference in improvement between drug and placebo is not clinically meaningful. This conclusion has been replicated in a new patient-level analysis, co-authored by officials at the FDA, of all the antidepressant data sent to them by the pharmaceutical companies between 1979 and 2016 (73,388 patients in 232 clinical trials).
Other treatments (e.g., psychotherapy and physical exercise) produce the same short-term benefits as antidepressants, show better long-term effectiveness, and do so without the side effects and health risks of the drugs, and hypnosis increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may produce a placebo effect at the cost of inducing a biological vulnerability making people more likely to relapse.