Experiences of Antidepressants


Been prescribed antidepressants? Thinking about it? Here are some people’s personal experiences of medication. (Please be aware that the experience of antidepressants is different for everybody who takes them.)

I’ve been on Citalopram for three and a half years. It’s an SSRI (Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitor) which works by stopping your brain from reabsorbing as much seratonin, stabilising your mood; I was prescribed it for mild depression and anxiety (although how much it helps with anxiety is questionable, and they are prescribing it less for anxiety nowadays). The difference was quite noticeable in my demeanour and general outlook: getting up in the morning was easier, I was a nicer person to be around (according to my parents) and I didn’t feel so exhausted all the time. I started on 10mg, and have since gone up to 30mg.

The most important thing is that it’s in no way a permanent solution – the best thing to do is to supplement it with therapy of some sort, which I’m doing now. Coming off it is hard as it’s habit forming (your body gets used to them so you have to wean yourself off it gradually) – plus the few times I’ve tried to reduce my dosage I had to go back up again because of big life changes (like going to uni or moving house). If I forget to pick up my prescription in time and run out of pills, for a few days I’ll be irritable, weepy and irrational.

What’s it like being medicated? The first thing that comes to mind is ‘flat’. I don’t have high highs or low lows any more – more like gentle bumps. I only cry very occasionally these days, and usually that’s an indication I forgot to take my pills. Believe it or not, you miss it. One of the weirder things I’ve noticed is an inability to get immersed in fantasy (when watching films, playing games, reading books), the ‘suspension of disbelief': the immersive side of my imagination has been dulled. I’m a lot less inspired to write these days as well.

The worst part about citalopram for me is the side effects of the medication: not everyone gets side effects but I wasn’t quite so lucky. I’ve had terrible eczema for the past 8 months and – worst of all! – since starting the medication 3 years ago I have had no sex drive. AT ALL. Sometimes I wonder whether I wouldn’t rather just be depressed and horny…

It’s my goal to come off my medication this year, with the help of cognitive behavioural therapy. If someone asked me whether I recommend citalopram, despite all its side effects I would honestly say yes – but then it’s different for everyone. I’ve heard quite the opposite from other people. If you are prescribed antidepressants, don’t automatically assume your brain will turn into mush and you will become a zombie (and if you do, then you are probably on the wrong medication); and if they do work for you, don’t be tempted to just rely on them alone for emotional stability. It’s something you’ve got to work towards.

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I started off on 10mg and they did nothing, had my dosage upped to 20mg and I felt a lot better. There’s no accounting for personal circumstance though.

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I’ve had some bad experiences with antidepressants/doctors not treating depression just handing out drugs.

I think it was citalopram that I was given, it worked well for a week then had no effect so I came off it. A couple of years later I went to see the doctor again and told him it hadn’t worked in the past so obviously he put me back on it!

Anyway, second time around I just wasn’t myself on it. My boyfriend hated what it did to me because I was like a different person. I became very immature and quite manic, I spent one whole day skipping rather then walking. After the first week it lost its effect again and I became even lower than when I’d started them. I won’t touch them again.

My mum had very serious bipolar [disorder] and she got pretty good treatment/diagnosis back in the early 80’s but whenever I’ve asked to see a specialist I’ve just been given drugs despite the family history.

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To use a well-worn cliché, my experiences with antidepressants have been a bit of a rollercoaster. When I was first diagnosed with depression, at the ripe old age of 16, I was put on amitriptyline, an old-school tricyclic antidepressant that seemed to achieve very little except for making me feel like a very sleepy zombie. That was followed by citalopram, which worked initially. It killed my sex drive, but my depression didn’t exactly put me in the mood for lurve anyway. Unfortunately, I seemed to get used to it very quickly, so before long I was on four times the start dose.

Meanwhile, I was developing a nasty set of eating disorders, and a self-injury habit as a sort of fun accessory. For some reason, though, my various GPs never twigged that by that stage my depression was probably down to my being REALLY BLOODY HUNGRY, and due to the severity of my condition I was switched over to venlafaxine (Effexor), an SNRI. Effexor was a living nightmare. I had palpitations, the shakes, and really nasty nightmares. It felt a bit like being on one long comedown, and when I forgot to take it over a weekend I had such terrible paranoia and panic, along with aural and visual hallucinations, that I scratched all the skin off my arms.

This episode, along with the worsening of my bulimic symptoms, prompted a switch to fluoxetine (Prozac). On the most part, I got on really well with Prozac, and I stayed on it for about two years. Having recovered from the eating disorders, I tried to come off it, and got on without it great for a few months. Then I moved abroad and crashed and burned, so I started it again.

A few months after starting it again, I moved to another foreign country. Around that time I started to show evidence of mania and had a few bad depressive episodes. The country I was in has a similar healthcare system to the US, and I had insurance, so I pootled along to a private clinic where they diagnosed me with bipolar II disorder. At the time that made sense to me, but looking back…let’s just say my behaviour was probably largely down to other factors. I was prescribed two more medications on top of my Prozac: lamotrigine (Lamictal), an anti-convulsant sometimes prescribed as a mood stabiliser, and alprazolam (Xanax), a benzodiazepine a bit like Valium. I pretty much rattled like a pill box. That was a weird few months. When I got home, my GP was pretty horrified, and had me abandon the Lamictal and the Xanax.

My 6-year antidepressants saga ended last January, when I felt stable and secure enough to wean off the Prozac and started to deal with myself unmedicated. It hasn’t always been easy – I had to learn to ride out the lows and be more intuitive about my mood – but it was completely worth it. I do think medication is necessary and helpful for many people as a short-term safety net, but I also think that stressed GPs with limited resources often chuck pills at conditions that would be more effectively treated with therapy, or a change of routine or lifestyle. From the experiences of the people around me, I also can’t help but think that they make depression worse in the long run. And, ironically, the side-effects can be depressing in the extreme.

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I had suffered with depression and anxiety since I was 12 years old. When I was 15 I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression and offered Prozac, which I declined at the time due to my age and having exams coming up. When I was 16/17 I went back to my GP with symptoms of depression, and due to my mental health background I was prescribed Citalopram. This seemed to work well for a few weeks. After a while my depression was getting worse, despite being prescribed higher doses of the drug. I was then given Prozac. Prozac seemed to knock me out for a few weeks. I often felt lethargic, dazed, dizzy and sick. I did not notice any improvement with my mood and lacked motivation to do anything at all. My dose was increased once again to 80mg. I had the same side effects, struggled to concentrate, no sex drive, my weight was up and down. I stayed on this for a few months and told it could take a while to see any improvements. I came off the drug and decided to have some time without medication. During this period my depression got much worse, I was having suicidal thoughts and self harming on a regular basis. I then started having weeks where my mood lifted dramatically. I was hyper, bouncing off the walls, going out a lot, drinking more than was healthy for me. Then my mood would go down again as quickly as it came up. I went back to my GP yet again, and was given Venlafaxine. I had pretty much the same experience with this drug as I had with the other drugs. My mood often felt worse, I was still having the suicidal thoughts and harming myself. Again I had the dose increased and was told these things take time. I had also been in therapy on and off during all of this. I was first given counselling when I was 12, then at 15, and again at 18.

I was then referred to see a Psychiatric Nurse weekly, along with group therapy sessions to help with my depression and self esteem. When I told the Psychiatric Nurse about my elevated mood swings and depression, she referred me to see a Psychiatrist. The Psychiatrist said I was displaying symptoms of Bipolar Disorder after talking to me about my mood swings, excessive drinking, spending, self harm, denial anything was wrong/feeling on top of the world. He said he couldn’t diagnose me right away as my mood would need to be monitored. He sent me off with a prescription for an increased dose of Venlafaxine and the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel XR (quetiapine) and told to come back in a few weeks. The moment I took this cocktail my body felt worse. I couldn’t think, my words often felt slurred, I was sleeping 12hours a night and taking naps during the day. It felt impossible to stay awake for more than 5 hours before feeling completely exhausted. I couldn’t go to college for a few weeks, or take my driving lessons. It seemed I was spending most of my time sleeping on the sofa. I went back to the Psychiatrist and told him I didn’t feel better and that actually, I felt a hell of a lot worse like a zombie. He told me the drug balance was wrong, and increased the dose of Seroquel to 150mg. I stayed on this cocktail for some time.

The side effects were awful. I didn’t feel like a person anymore. Instead of having a balanced mood I had no emotions at all. I was still sleeping too much and because of this I gained A LOT of weight which really effected my self esteem and self image. I couldn’t go out and see friends because it exhausted me so much. I found it difficult to keep up with my college work. In fact, I lost all interest in my Fine Art course and anything else I was once interested in. If I ran out of tablets and didn’t have them for a day or so, the effects were horrendous. It was what I imagined coming off hard drugs would be like. I’d get the shakes, headaches, feel sick, dizzy, on edge, my stomach constantly churning. After a year or so of this, I insisted that I had both the drug doses decreased, and came off them myself. This was 2 years ago. I haven’t been on any medication since and generally my mental health has been better than ever. I don’t think I’d like to go on any anti-depressant again in the future should I have a relapse, unless I myself felt it was completely necessary.

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I’ve only been on antidepressants once in the very short term, for anxiety; I was only on them (Sertraline, minimum dose) for two weeks and came off them because of the sexual side effects (SSRIs of all kinds can make it more difficult to orgasm). I keep considering going back on them, but it’s hard to tell if they’re working or if I’m just on a good cycle. I felt pretty good while I was on them, but that’s just anecdote.

 

I was put on Sertraline (an SSRI) on the minimum dosage, and came off it 3 months later. I took the pills purely to allow me to finish my degree.The first thing I’d have to say is that I was high as a kite for several days… I could almost see the music I was listening to – that was all kinds of interesting. I had some side effects: Mild headache (first 2-3 days), pupil dilation and light sensitivity (2-3 weeks), slightly lowered sex drive (my sex drive was always insanely high, but the depression made actually having sex really difficult, so this was ok), slightly faulty motor control and occasional loss of balance (meaning I could only drive in the evenings, shortly before I took my next pill), changes in my hearing (difficult to describe, lasted for 2-3 weeks), hot flushes (lasted the whole 3 months), slight nausea, and drowsiness (I took it at night before I went to bed, so this was ok). I felt very removed, like myself and my experiences were no longer connected. I still had my emotions, but they didn’t affect me. They just tapped on my shoulder and said “hey, I’m here, just to let you know” and that was it. Beforehand I didn’t have a choice. My emotions took over everything. They saturated me and left me unable to think at all. This “removed” effect gave me an interesting insight – because I was so removed from my own experiences, I had the clarity of thought to be able to understand and isolate the things that made me feel depressed, which meant that when I came off the pills 3 months later, I was somewhat able to prevent another relapse. I’d say, overall, my experience on antidepressants was a good one. I had a few side effects which didn’t bother me too much. They did their job, and I’m better off now for having taken them. Even though my experience was positive, I don’t think I’d go back… Those things were crazy enough to make me think I was seeing sounds for 3 days, so definitely not a long term thing for me!

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My ‘journey’ on antidepressants started when I had a mental breakdown in June 2012. Not only was I depressed, but I developed an obsession with working out, which eventually took its toll. I was not eating enough calories for the amount I was working out, and soon after developed bulimia. This is when I was prescribed cirpralex. I had a horrible experience on cirpralex. It not for one moment made me feel better. I was constantly zoned out and had no emotions. I planned a birthday trip to a bigger city and couldn’t even leave my friends house because I couldn’t handle the busy atmosphere. I forced myself to go out one day and in a matter of seconds I became paranoid and my vision was blurry. When I began hallucinating I knew it was time to change it up. I reported these side effects to my NP, and she said the y were possible side effects. After I tapered off cirpralex I began to take effexor, which still left me in a fog and detached from reality. The worst was the vivid dreams I developed. Luckily, I did not have many nightmares, but these dreams were so real that I would be left restless in the morning. I had a few other side effects from effexor, but nothing that at the point I was surprised about. I decided to taper off effexor and onto zoloft. I didn’t even let zoloft kick in before I decided to stop completely. I tapered off it pretty much as soon as I started it (of course, with the approval of my GP). This was in a span of 6 months, which I was in my second year of college and thankfully completed. My experience was really life changing, and I still have side effects from these antidepressants. I still have vivid dreams, and I’m in a complete fog. I just finished my exams, and have been laying in bed for almost a week now! I’m debating on going back on them, and hopefully finding the one that is right for me. It is very discouraging knowing what the ones I’ve tried put me through, but you have to stay positive and keep moving forward. People say that is it all in the head, but depression, anxiety, etc. is a very serious mental illness! Now that I have gotten over my bulimia and obsession, I know that my eating disorder was not the only cause because I still feel completely in my own world! I hope like many other stories I have had the privilege of reading, someone is able to read mine, relate and not feel alone!

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I am 49 y old now, and first time, I was prescribed citalopram by a doctor Gastroenterologist for my stomach problem out of anxiety as an Immigrant in Switzerland 6 years ago when, I was 43 year old. I used to feel terrible pain in night, could not sleep, did many tests of stomach by camera, if any cancer or ulcers are there ! The truth was, i was really anxious in that country because, I lived a better life in my country of origin and when my destiny brought me to Switzerland, I suffered because of my job and social condition. Nevertheless, CP of 10 mg while started and reached till 40 mg did good to me. My mood became stable, stomach pain went away, I became creative, hard working, punctual, man of words and very empathetical towards all. I achieved a lot in this period, such as emotional, financial stability etc.. But whenever, I tried to give up CP, I fallen deep in depression. So, I am on it since 6-7 year and continuing. Recently, it is working little less so, I have to speak again with a psychiatrist to change the medicines.

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I’ve been feeling tearful having anxiety attacks and breathing problems feeling like I am going to die for months, finally got the courage to go see my doctors who prescribed me with citalpram 10 mg. Me being me having to read up and research everything and listening to other peoples fight with depression and antidepressants its made me feel even more anxious in whether to take them or not …weight gain side affects weening yourself of these pills…its like a anxiety attack waiting to happen for me to be honest.

 

Have you got a story to share about your experiences with antidepressants of any kind? Submit it here.


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