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Nothing Personal: An Empirical Phenomenological Study of the Experience of “Being-on-an-SSRI”

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The process by which SSRIs reduce “depressive symptoms” remains obscure. Biochemical, functional, and taker self-assessment evidences for the “corrective” nature of this process are inconclusive and ultimately incapable of appropriately addressing the meaning of being “anti-depressed.” In light of their growing prevalence, an understanding of the ways in which SSRIs alter takers' lived worlds is crucial for those who are presently taking them or considering doing so, for those recommending their use, and for those inhabiting societies increasingly composed of people who use them. This study found that the essential lived characteristic of “being-on-SSRIs” was increased distance or disconnection between takers their worlds, a disruption which showed itself most prominently within the emotional, bodily, social, and existential realms. Depression and anxiety are intense modes of relation, and the alteration of meaningful connections is characterized largely by participants as a disruption. SSRIs succeed in alleviating pain and suffering. However, takers' attunement becomes a relatively “a-motional” acceptance of whatever occurs in their world. Their stance becomes an essentially passive approach toward a world that can no longer “touch” them and to which takers are no longer responsible, and numbing “side-effects” are inseparable from the “treatment effect.”


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