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Transcult Psychiatry. 2009 Mar;46(1):38-59. doi: 10.1177/1363461509102286.

From descartes to desipramine: psychopharmacology and the self.

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Department of Philosophy, McGill University, Montreal, QC H3A 2T7.


Despite the remarkably widespread use of the new generation of antidepressants, almost everything we know about their effects comes from animal studies and clinical trials in which the sole parameter of interest is depressive symptomatology. Almost nothing is known about the effects that antidepressants have on cognition, affect, or motivation when used over a period of months or years. Nor do we understand what effects, if any, antidepressants have on what we think of as the self. In this article, we argue that neither psychiatry nor philosophy, in their current state, are well equipped to think about these issues. In order to explore this idea, we consider the neurobiology of romantic love and its relation to antidepressant neurochemistry. This case study, we suggest, supports the view that antidepressants are very likely to have significant effects on personhood as well as the suggestion that we are in need of new ways of thinking about the self and its pathologies.

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