Bladder and Bowel Problems After Antidepressants

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January 19, 2018 | 37 Comments


  1. On reading the article about poor Faye Howard, it was clear she experienced real misery and disability from the bowel condition caused by her “migraine meds.” However, it also seems clear this might never have led her to hang herself, but for a tragic double-whammy: An antidepressant prescription for the emotional stress brought on by her illness. Her GP told the Daily Mail:

    “I first saw Faye in 2016 when she presented with abdominal pain and constipation. This was a recognised but not common side effect of Amitriptyline, which she had been taking to treat the migraines she was experiencing. She was advised to stop taking the medication. The problems were normally a reversible side effect but it can take some time, sometimes even months or years to calm down …

    “In January 2017 I diagnosed Faye with low mood and anxiety. When she returned from Scotland [apparently in April or May of 2017] I recognised a significant change in her mood and demeanour, and I prescribed her with anti-depressants …

    “On the 5th of June I saw Faye and she said she had laid out some pills on the table and so I did a suicide assessment. I assessed her risk of suicide as mild to moderate but she had not reached the threshold for the next stage. I didn’t see it coming at all. The last time I saw her she was really positive about everything.”

    Her boyfriend said Faye had “told me she was having thoughts about wrapping her car round a tree or putting tablets out on the table but she explained to me that she would not do it and that it was just a bad moment. I had planned to see her that Friday on my return from Scotland for a meal. When she sent me those text messages on the 29th of June I knew they were serious and I called the police to express my concerns.”

    On the Thursday morning [June 29] she came downstairs with a black sports bag and said to her dad: “I am sick of everything and everybody”, and that was the last he saw of her. The day before she’d had words with an unsympathetic manager on her job, and handed in her resignation.

    She was found hanged later that same day, June 29, in a local park. Beside her were her cell phone, playing music, a picture of her grandfather, and two packets of antidepressants.

    The second set of antidepressants were not named. It seems the GP did not even realize she had been given antidepressants twice. Neither did the Daily Mail, of course. Cause of death: Despair over a crippling physical illness caused by her migraine medicine. I think that may be at best half-right.

    If she hadn’t been the beautiful girlfriend of a popular football star, we’d never have heard her name at all. How many more stories are out there, never really heard by anyone?

    • You put the case so well Johanna – that it takes fame for a person’s anguish to make it to the media. The truth about it is that these drugs don’t care about fame or fortune – they just attack wherever they can.
      It was announced in the Welsh Assembly ( the nearest we Welsh get to being allowed to take care of our own matters – health being one) that in one town in South Wales, 1 in 3 of the inhabitants are on antidepressants. It doesn’t give the age range which is a pity – we assume that, maybe it applies to adults only? However, knowing how things seem to be going, it probably applies to the teenagers of the town, I hope that children there are being kept well away from such prescriptions.
      How on earth have we let it get to this? It’s rather obvious that with that ratio on ADs the problems surrounding their use is also going to be high. The NHS is on its knees – why can’t those in power SEE that the way forward is NOT by prescribing more and more. Ensuring that people have something to live for – i.e. jobs, would surely make more sense.

    • I’m off Seroxat 6 years in March still suffer lots off symptoms one off these being intermittent spells off irritable bowel excessive wind can’t tolerate any fatty foods or it goes through me in no time not very good for your social life if you have a meal with friends then end having to be excused to then end up weeing out your bum all evening lol .Also two weeks ago after suffering all over body pain that started in August they now think I have fibromyalgia? Could this also be linked to 13 years Seroxat use ? I haven’t taken any tablets for the last five years looked into this fybromyalgia label and the nhs guidelines state they prescribe ssris for fibromyalgia two listed were paroxetine and venlafaxine you could make this s@@t up unbelievable. After a bit off research online seems like a lot off long term ssri users have diagnoses off fibromyalgia could the drugs be causing it no it’s abit off the subject but if anyone has seen any links blogs to this would be interested.

  2. I would really like to know more about the mechanisms underlying IC vs some of the other pelvic and bladder conditions. My IC will respond to certain treatments that my pudendal neuralgia won’t. That’s actually how I figure out if the bladder symptoms I’m having at a particular time are IC or the neuralgia because there are some symptom overlap between the 2. I always hope it’s IC because there is more than can be done for it, in my case at least.

  3. I can add a couple of personal experiences: Interesting to see that current thinking relates the problems peeing on tricyclics as related to catecholamine dysfunction, not cholinergenic. When I was on a big, big dose of clomipramine back in 2000 I couldn’t pee at all, got urinary retention one weekend, which believe me is a scary feeling. Lowering the dose relieved the matter but I still remember the fright of simply not being able to go, with a bursting bladder. I thought I was going to explode. Interesting too that it’s more common in men. Now I have what would probably be diagnosed as urinary frequency/irritable bladder although it rarely proceeds into full blown cystitis. But – I have many friends who, getting older and a bit inclined to stress incontinence have been referred to the local Bladder & Bowel clinic (financed by ? not sure, but probably one of the companies which market duloxetine and other drugs as a treatment for stress incontinence. Astellas got into trouble a few years ago for direct-to-consumer adverts (forbidden in the UK) on the back of the doors in women’ public loos. ‘Incontinence? Don’t suffer in silence’ etc – with details about duloxetine. I darkly suspect them to be behind the sudden proliferation of nurse-led Bladder & Bowel clinics).

    The bowel thing is dreadful. Pooing yourself, or leaking, or constipation so bad you need to pump yourself full of laxatives is one of those conditions which are unutterably distressing but receive little attention or sympathy. On tricyclics I was so constipated I only managed by taking a huge daily dose of laxative. Oddly, olanzapine didn’t block me up – but does many people. However, post all those drugs I’m left with a dodgy gut: wind, cramps, leaks (specially at night) and often the feeling that everything has just slowed down. Or, conversely has become overactive. I can understand why people link symptoms to food allergies.

    Strikes me, it’s one of those things that people very rarely talk about and if they do take the problem to a GP – IBS will be diagnosed. My guess is too that the IBS will never be related to drug damage. In the meantime we fart away at embarrassing moments, every time we bend over in my case, change bed sheets all the time and look around desperately for the nearest loo when out, mostly in vain as there are very few. Or kill themselves like poor Faye.

  4. Aside from the IBS and bladder dysfunction,many of these people complain of severe dry mouth,plus a constellation of other side effects ,which suggest anticholinergic effects.Also at least fifty percent of these patients have a history of a dysfunctional gut,plus other complaints such as fibromyalgia,chronic fatigue syndrome,migraine.See my article The Systemic Manufestations Of IBS.

  5. Hi Folks – have you seen the latest news plastered all over about anti depressants with the sensational headlines like :

    ‘It’s official: antidepressants are not snake oil or a conspiracy – they work’

    ‘The drugs do work: antidepressants are effective, study shows’

    yet if you read the study it looks at a time of 8 weeks and yet they are calling for ‘milllions more’ to receive ‘treatment’

  6. Well this is depressing Chris.

    It looks like antidepressants are officially effective and very safe and should be given to millions more. NOT!

    I noticed how the Royal College of Psychiatry are banging their drum again about how great antidepressants supposedly are.

    Thousands more will develop PSSD, protracted withdrawal, movement disorders and commit suicide from akathesia caused by these drugs in the coming years.

    I am glad i have learnt my lesson (a very hard lesson) about the dangers of prescription medicine, but unless my PSSD resolves, it all seems to be a wasted lesson.

    I dont know how we can get the world to wake up and see the dangers of these drugs. There seems to be too many people invested in making sure the dangers are greatly minimised or completely covered up.

    It all seems so hopeless at the moment.

  7. I’m incredibly angry with the doctors who gave me these drugs, and with me, that I was so naive.
    I am a 24 year old man and probably suffering from pelvic floor problems and maybe also hormonal / neurochemical problems after just 11 pills of Trazodone.
    My penis root feels loose, my scrotum is as good as numb, the penis only a little better.
    I have barely any libido left and feel emotionally dulled, previously I was a very sexually excitable and emotionally connected person.
    The amount of seeds is also reduced, but erections are still possible.
    It’s been 6 months since I took this poison and things have not really improved.
    I soon have an appointment in the hospital and I’m in contact with a very competent private doctor and hope there is a way out of this hell.
    I do not know how long I should live like that as a young man.

  8. I have been on Effexor xr for over 20 years and at first, when I experienced overactive bladder including terrible nocturia my psychiatrist didn’t believe me. So I soldiered on, up 3 to 4 times a night, eliminated alcohol, caffeine and acidic foods, but still up 4 times a night.
    My new psychiatrist is more open and suggested I switch to Cymbalta. So I titrated the doses down, experiencing terrible withdrawal and then, at 30 mg of Cymbalta I was up only 1 time at night. Unbelievable! What joy! But 30 mg didn’t keep depression at bay and I seemed to be putting on weight. I went up to 60 mg and the nocturia returned with a vengeance. Because of the weight gain on Cymbalta I retraced my steps back to Effexor and here I am, up 4 times a night and at my wit’s end.
    I am angry my first psych rubbished my side effect, and now these drugs have been around for awhile we see that overactive bladder IS a side effect for a small group of people. My current psychiatrist is much better but he can’t fix this and I just have to endure it. I am worn out by it all, but at least I have confirmed that the oab is not in my head but has been proven to be a side effect of the SNRI’s on my particular biology. Something to think about at night when I am up ….

  9. I’ve stopped taking the antidepresant sertraline after taking it for nine years I’m having alot of bladder problems peeing alot feeling that I want to pee all the time and pain down below when I pee.can you help

    • M

      This sounds like a legacy effect from the sertraline you were on. No-one understands exactly what is happened and until we do there is no good advice that can be given. The best sense of what might help and what probably doesn’t can likely be found on forums for interstitial cystitis

      David Healy

  10. I realise my years of overactive bladder correlate with the citalopram I was prescribed. I also have nocturnia. I feel a constant pressure in my bladder and urge to urinate. I have had urodynamics tests and an ultrasound but nothing has shown up in these. I am young according to consultant, 35 and have never been pregnant. Suggests this is functional but who knows. I have IS symptoms but without the pain.
    Aside from that I have experienced a horrendous protracted withdrawal after withdrawing too fast after 11 years of use. I also have “fibromyalgia” type symptoms though my bloods have not shown anything up so far. The whole thing has been a horror show and all this for a drug that still left me with depressive episodes. I will never have a control version of myself to compare it to

  11. I was on Celexa (Citalopram) for about 15 years to treat anxiety. I wanted to wean off the drug as I was emotionally numb and after years of therapy needed to use skills I had learned. I took about 2 years to be weaned off if the drug with steady lowering of the dosage from 40mg/day down to 5mg/day. I had many withdrawal symptoms such as the brain zaps, sudden brief disorientation, forgetfulness, sudden need to cry, angry outbursts, confusion and the worst which is still ongoing;14 loos/watery bowel movements a day. The gastrointestinal issues were so bad I was not sleep more than 90 minutes at a time through the night. Going anywhere was a gamble on whether I’d make it to a bathroom in time. In the beginning when I had to go, there was absolutely no waiting. It’s get to a bathroom n-o-w or have an accident. How I made it through work those first 6 months is still amazing to me. I went to my primary care doctor. I had blood tests that came back normal. The stool tests came back normal. I was then sent to a Gastroenterologist. I had a colonoscopy with biopsies taken. Everything came back as normal. No polyps. No disease. X-Rays showed nothing unusual. I said this all started after being weaned off of Celexa. Blank stare from the doctor. Oh, maybe you have a bit if IBS and the medicine was masking it. I said I never had IBS in my life. No issues whatsoever with intestines or stomach prior to that medicine. Doctor said if it continues, come back and we’ll address. In the meantime take 2 heaping teaspoons of Metamucil every day. That did help to clump things together but was still going excessively. I went to a second Gastroenterologist and was given food allergy tests. I thought let’s try and see. I am allergic to some foods but nothing that would cause any noticeable symptoms. This doctor stated that my bowels may be damaged and never return to normal. Over 3 years the daily bowel movements dropped from 14 to about 4. They are still soft/solid and at time watery. I take 1 teaspoon of Metamucil after dinner each evening adn VSL #3 probiotic (nondairy) in the morning. From time to time I do take one Immodium AD pill, but in 3 years I think I’ve taken 8 pills in total. It does not offer a lot of help. I exercise about 3 days/week to help calm down my intestines. I really don’t want to go back on Celexa or any other med. I am hoping that at some point in the coming years my body will correct itself. Frustrating.

    • I have a very similar story after being on Paxil for about 5 years. I’ve been off for about 15 years now and still have to manage my sensitive bowel movements. It’s by far not as bad as the first couple years, but definitely not the same as before being on Paxil.

    • I personally cleared some of the same simtoms with the liver cleanse. Look into it. Celexa is messing up with hormons and with liver.

    • Hi Kenneth. I’ve been going through something very similar with my bowel movements. Have you seen any additional improvement since you wrote this post?

  12. I have been taking Sertraline (25 mg) since the end of November. Over the last month or so I have experienced a few light blood drops coming from my penis when having a bowel movement. A small amount of blood also is released during sex. No blood is secreted when urinating or at any other time. I am 72 years old and am taking a diuretic pill and Zocor, but have always had good PSA results. I’ve had several lab tests that show no blood in my urine. Could Sertraline be inflamming my prostrate and causing the small blood secretions when I have bowel movements?

  13. I have taken many ssri’s over the years, and am currently on Zoloft. About 4-6 weeks after starting ssri’s I would notice blood in my semen. Sometime just a trace and other times, enough to make me scared that something is really wrong. I go to the urologist and always get diagnosed with prostatitis. I get prescribed some type of antibiotic and I usually stop the ssri and the problem goes away. So I’m 4 weeks in on my zoloft and yesterday, blood in my semen. I have no other symptoms. So what does everyone think? It has to be from the ssri’s right? My urologist said he sees more and more of this.

  14. Two weeks off of cymbalta. In the withdrawal phase, Peeing every hour at night. Same thing when I was on sertraline, Prestiq and it was not to bad when I was on prozoc

  15. I have been on Prestiq off and on and the most common side affects I see are difficulty in having an orgasm, restricted urine flow and occasionally semen leak when having a bowel movement

    • Hi Chris. I had the same inability to orgasm when on Zoloft. I was switched to Celexa and that problem was gone. However I am now off of Celexa 3 years and 8 months after on it for about 15 years. I now have gastrointestinal problems.

  16. Since taking 1200 mg of gabapentin fgir nerve pain I don’t have to urinate every few minutes in the evening. I have taken antidepressants off and on since 1992 when I was finalizing a divorce. I was just given the prescription and not told when to come back. After one year I felt so baf I left my job and went on Social Security disability for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When on 20 mg Prozac I couldn’t sit still or concentrate well. I was wired. I finally quit it after 1.5 years. I was then given Effexor 37.5 mg. Then it was one AD after another….never went back to being my old self despite a very good second marriage. I believe these drugs make it so one can never get off them and return to their old self. In my case I was just grieving and should not have been treated like I was depressed. Grief is normal after any significant loss and should be allowed to resolve on its own. I didn’t know why I was crying on my way to work or why I felt like nothing mattered. I thought grief was only when someone died. Heaven help us all!

    • I have also suffered tremendous loss after losing my mum and my sister.The terrible sinking feeling,the low mood and hopelessness led me back to my GP to ask for help.Citalopram even at a low dose was awful.Churning stomach so bad,i didnt dare cough or sneeze!!!!!!3 weeks in and i’d had enough.So sertraline was next.Jesus christ,i have never wanted to eat so much in my life.As a former anorexic (now finally recovered)the thought of being as hungry as this brings me out in a cold sweat!!!!.To add insult to injury,i can pee for england.How nice!!!.Sick and tired literally.I honestly believe the best anti depressant in the world is Kindness.Simple.No side effects.

  17. I think we just have to truly listen to our bodies and take what docs say with a grain of salt. I started lexapro a month ago, and while it made my depression over health problems more manageable, and lowered my anxiety so I could focus better and read books again, it also seemed to make my prostate flare up. I’ve had issues with this in the past, but usually just for a night or two. This has been for weeks now.
    I told the doctor and he switched me to Zoloft, and although symptoms are less, I’m also once again on the starting dose. I pee less often on the Zoloft but I feel the prostate is still irritated. I lose sleep over it still. Both meds are SSRI’s, which just makes me think meds aren’t gonna work for me. Trying to stick it out, but not sure if feeling like a zombie or having a chemical sensation all the time is the right option for me. I’ve tried SNRI’s twice and felt very stressed on them. The SSRI’s are easier to tolerate mentally, but considering the nightmares, gassy butt, insomnia, urinary and prostate problems, not to mention sexual side effects, I don’t think I’ll keep up with them.

  18. I am a 35 year old female who was on effexor for 3 year and Prozac for 5 years. Since I have been off I have experienced major digestive problems virtually everything seems to make me sick I also notice my moods coinside with the digestive issues. I suffer from all over joint and muscle pain to the point where I cannot sleep on my sides at all as the shoulder and hip pain is too intense. I also suffer from zero sex drive which is destroying my relationship. And to top it off I still suffer from the depression I originally went on the meds for accept now I have severe anxiety which I never had before. I do not enjoy social settings the way I always did and find myself turning down holiday invites.

  19. Trying to get off antidepressants has been a nightmare literally. Bowel issues galore! Nausea, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain. Doctor says I have IBS. Lots of joint , muscle pain in back especially. Fibromialgia? Was on Paxil for 5 years then Effexor XR for close to 15 years. Been off for 7 months and with all the pain and stomach issues been so depressed and irritable. It seems like I will never recover.

  20. As with you Wend, after year on anti depressants first Ssri for anxiety then amitriptaline for back pain . I’ve been off ssri 2 yr and amitriptaline over 6 months and the amount of gastrointestinal/ digestive issues are pushing me to go back on them . That’s all my dr ever suggests when I tell her my tummy and bowel issues are causing so much anxiety . It’s a no win situation. . I’ve attended counciling and other that scoring full points on the suicidal sheet they haven’t got a clue . I just wish I could find a doctor who was in the know . !

  21. I just found out about the specific side effects of coming off of zoloft within the last couple of months. I have been on it since I was 18. No one told me about the sexual problems it would cause. ED and or no completion. I was told that it was because of my depression, so they would prescribe me Viagra or Cialis. I am 35 now. I have been on Zoloft for 16 years. Almost half of my life. Recently divorced. I have been trying to quit zoloft for the last 2 years. The ED and lack of arousal led to my marriages down fall. After being single for a year, I got a new girfriend and I committed to getting off of Zoloft. Talking with my Dr. we tapered down from 200 MG to 100 MG over over a few months period. It was at that point that I was no longer able to “finish” with my new girlfriend, even with the viagra. But what was more surprising was that I could not urinate. I remember it was just this past December 2019 that I fell asleep on the toilet, waiting to urinate. I could no longer sexually perform, and I lost another promising relationship. It was that exact week that I decided to figure out what was going on with me. And I came across this article saying that there is a risk of Pelvic floor dyssynergia. And reading the comments (from people who are years removed from SSRIs) I feel I will never be the same. I am still young. I was told through my college years that I had ED because of my depression. I don’t think there was anything wrong with me to begin with. I let my grades slip in high school to party and have fun. The next thing I know I’m on this medicine that I’ve now been on for half of my life. I tried to quit once. I moved to Korea to teach English for a year. Everything hit me like a truck. The urinary problems, the ED, the anxiety, the constant wondering what is wrong with me. It was 2010. I skyped my Dr. which was pretty amazing technology 10 years ago, and he told me they were going to give me a 6 month supply of Zoloft. (I had been in Korea 6 months already at the time).

    I just don’t get it. I look back at the beginning and Junior year of high school and I felt normal and had feelings about life and excitement. Now, after reading the article for the 5th or 6th time, I finally decided to comment. And I’m not happy. I feel like this life was pushed upon me by Dr’s who didn’t know what they were prescribing. I look to the future and all I can see is a regiment of pills for the next 50 or so years, and none of them are going to fix what has been done. I don’t care about gut problems. But one person said they were still having issues 2 years after quitting. It’s just not fair. I really felt normal and now I know that I’m not and never will be. I lost a marriage over this drug. I lost another great girl who was just trying to help out. I don’t want 50 more years of this.

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