Happiness and Antidepressants

A line from an article on antidepressants that I read this morning reminded me of my longstanding objections to happiness utilitarianism.

Yet for those in search of a more holistic treatment to what can be a lifelong obstacle to wellness and quality of life, the idea of exercise as treatment for depression could be encouraging. First, there’s the issue of cost: Americans spend $10 billion on antidepressants each year, and in some cases, side effects like sleep disturbances or changes in libido and body weight can be only slightly more appealing than the depression itself.

Happiness is not the end.  It is only one end among many, ends which must be traded off against each other.  Moreover, happiness may only be our bodies’ means to other ends.  Would separating the means from those ends compromise the latter?


  • LMC

    Catching up on reading your blog.

    This is an interesting post, but I’m a little confused. Are you saying that unhappiness is a means to happiness? Meaning people must work for their own happiness, and sometimes that requires working through unhappy situations? If so, I agree.

    However, I think the author of the article has overlooked something. There’s no way I can say this except blatantly: I’ve known many people (mostly females) who have been on depression/ anxiety medication. The majority of them are athletic, some of them obsessed with exercise. Their depression/ anxiety lies at a deeper level (that isn’t usually solved with exercise or healthy lifestyle). Most often depression & anxiety are intertwined (anxiety leads to depression, and vice-versa). And many times it is athletic/ exercise/ health issues that leads to anxiety & depression for those women. “She has to make the athletic team. She has to be a certain weight or size, etc. If she doesn’t reach the standard she has set for herself, she will be crushed, and she will hate herself… the effects continue on & on.”

    So, I find it a bit frustrating (& a bit offensive) when general practitioners recommend exercise as a way to combat depression. Yes, exercise gives people a natural high. It is great. But to say that exercise can stop depression… that trivializes a serious problem. And no offense to the author of the article, but I don’t think he/ she really knows what they are talking about. They ignored some rather glaring oversights.

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