SSRIs & Loss of Identity

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
August 22, 2016 | 34 Comments


  1. I am not sure how to address you but feel that I want to congratulate you on your amazing report and insight into the problems that Sertraline have caused you. To be able to think through all that has happened, to record it all in plain English ( which trainee solicitors don’t always like!) and HAVE IT ALL MAKING SUCH GOOD SENSE is a MASSIVE achievement – you should be extremely proud of this. I’m sure that very many will read this report and find, at least a few facts applicable to changes in their lives also.
    I’m sorry but I’m not here with ideas – why such things happen are way beyond my understanding of things. What I am here with though are a few things from my experience which may ( or may not) mean something to someone somewhere.
    As a retired teacher of almost 40 years experience, having now been retired for over 10 years – you can see that I’m OLD! don’t feel old, hopefully don’t hold ‘old’ ideas etc. but I’m afraid that my memory failings are probably the main pointer to my ‘old age’. I’m with you all the way on forgetting things unless they’re under my nose; what I’m about to say is clear in my head until it comes to my lips and it’s then lost – names(which, as a teacher you’re brilliant at remembering) have become problematic and sometimes words.(Interesting point here is, since I’m bilingual, the word I want will often come in the other language and from that I’m able to translate and find the right word to use). Enough about me – all that I’ve said, of course, is perfectly true of all people of a certain age – to some degree or other. It is not a concern of mine – just a nuisance if you’re in a hurry!
    In my work, I spent the last 15 years or so as a Special Needs co-ordinator and teacher. In that role, I spent many hours working and investigating specific learning difficulties including dyslexia. This was a particular interest of mine, having a dyslexic child at home. Everything that you have said could be said about very many dyslexic persons – except, of course, that they did not take an SSRI which seemed to create the problem. For them, that is the way it’s always been. They can be excitable one minute and in the doldrums the next. They can learn something this morning and have forgotten it by lunchtime – problems transferring short-term to long-term memory. They can have word-finding problems or word blindness. They can have social phobias or they can be infuriatingly social (when they should be concentrating on other things). Self esteem and self confidence are always low – due to their own sense of perceived failure to see the world as others see it.
    As I said, I have only added all of this just incase someone out there can throw a little light on what it is that lies beneath such difficulties. Dyslexia is NOT a memory problem by the way – but it sure creates plenty of memory difficulties.

  2. You weren’t happy with the person you were in the first place and now you aren’t happy with the person you have become – after Sertraline

    This is a big dilemma to all SSRIs and Seroxat

    There was a ‘reason’ to take on Sertraline for you

    Your very coherent descriptions many can probably relate to

    All these ‘changes’ come from the Chemical Persuasion in the gut where the pill is metabolised and then translate to the brain ‘afterwards’ as anxiety, intellectual malfunction, brain fog and the rest – and, as we all know SSRIs and Alcohol are a Death Wish..

    We could say you are neurotic, overthinking the SSRI, generally anxious, at large, but, we won’t.

    Your Sertraline Experience is well thought out, well written and exemplifies your intellectual prowess

    It goes against the Placebo response

    Thank you, for this and good luck with Regaining your Confidence Levels –

    ‘Big Up’ Yourself rather than ‘Down/Drown’ Yourself’

    Thank you for ‘over-thinking’ and try not to ‘pressure’ yourself

    All those Super Confident and Intellectually Superior folks aren’t really……a load of people develop a Front for Public Use Only and this includes Deluded/First Person Contact..Psychiatrists and Doctors

    Thank you for being real and telling us so clearly how this drug impacted on you

    We have been there and the history of doctoring is not ‘that impressive’

  3. Dear Mary,
    I am proud of you and your achievements.
    To everyone who contributes on this forum, you are the ‘keys’ to the locks that that needed to be opened a long time ago.
    Mary, you must have a very enquiring mind because you are always keen to understand and appreciate the ‘finer details ‘of issues that go deeper than the average mind.
    Kudos to you for demonstrating compassion, intelligence and an awareness to want to further understand issues that many are afraid to question.
    The Pandora box, once opened, gives one no limits to what they want to learn.
    Profound understanding of any subject matter, requires perpetual learning.
    From the time we’re born until we die, our DNA is subjected to so much detrimental precursors that impact/alter not only our DNA but future offspring.
    All the medical issues/disorders or health problems, in my opinion, have to manifest from somewhere.
    God, gives us a perfect mind/body/spirit.
    Unfortunately, from the time we are born, some are jabbed, subjected to pollution, contaminated foods, adulterated water, unsafe meds and the list goes on and on and on………………
    Past generations have been impacted from precursors also, even though everything seemed simple and less complicated. Altered DNA is passed one from one generation to another. Somewhere, some place, along the way, the fine fabric of life was tampered with in some way, shape or form.
    Once one bad precursor is added to another bad precursor, there is no end to the damage it can cause.
    Why are some people born with medical issues?
    My answers:
    Whilst the foetus was developing, the DNA could have been damaged by:
    – altered genes from previous generations
    – the ingestion of alcohol
    – all the injections the mother has when she is pregnant
    – medication
    – radiation etc………………………………
    Problems have always existed since the evolution of man.
    DNA and cell structure, are delicate interwoven into the fabric matter of who we are and anything can cause damage to this fine balance.
    We can do all the right things however, there will always be something that causes interference to our finely tuned bodies
    I now leave everyone with a song to carefully reflect upon.
    ‘We didn’t start the fire’ by Billy Joel, so courageously and honestly puts forward a message that all the problems we have today have to manifest from somewhere.
    From the time our world was created, man has created problems and it still goes on and on and on……………………

    • Good grief Carla, I hardly recognise myself from your kind words – thank you all the same!
      I so agree with your list of likely pre-birth causes of our ills. We only have to see the devastation caused by the Sika virus to understand the truth of your list.
      I think that alcohol has an awful lot to answer for very many of our ‘newish’ problems – ADHD, autism, specific learning difficulties etc., to my mind, are as likely to be seen in ever-increasing numbers due to our mis-use of alcohol and other drugs as for any other reason. Sure there were children in the olden days who had problems with learning but this new-age learning difficulties all seem connected to an inability to cope with surroundings such as sound/ light/ order/ communication etc. The children of years ago, say when I first left college, were different – yes sure there were some who found learning difficult but that was, in the main, due to low IQ problems. That is not the case today. Within any classroom of children, you have many more children with average or, in many cases, above average intelligence who have additional learning needs than there are children with low intelligence learning needs.
      It is a sad state of affairs that we, adults, are not prepared to take stock and think of the consequences of our actions. To my mind, it is the same lack of forward planning that send us rushing for a quick fix for ailments without considering the possible consequences – by doing so we allow the big companies to prosper without due care, resulting in the loss of life and ruined lives that we are so concerned about.
      Carla, you say that God gave us a perfect mind/ body and spirit. That is perfection – the trouble comes with the fact that he also gave us ‘choice’. Adam and Eve made a hash of it and, instead of learning from their woes, we’ve just carried the same pattern on from generation to generation by our greed.
      Sorry if this sounds like a sermon but I detest any wrongdoing that can be harmful to children and our lack of accepting our responsibilities.

    • Very interesting comment for me as I have just been diagnosed with Pyrroles Disorder, Undermethylation and high unbound copper. I am being treated by a Walsh trained doctor and taking a nutrient protocol to see if it improves my mental symptoms.

      I am not sure that the nutrient treatment will help as I have taken Zoloft, Xanax and Valium for decades and worry that the damage is permanent.

  4. Yep, all of that. Yet another victim, but nothing ever changes. Doctors creating new victims every day. Shame on them. How’s your sex life by the way?

  5. I can’t help re medication / supplement ideas, nor chemical explanations – BUT this “verbal behavior” training program – quite inexpensive – may help. Other “brain training” has been shown not to work – SMART training is based on 35 years of research into basic building blocks of language and cognition = intelligence. Check it out and the research discussed here – – i have NO financial interest in this, simply trying to help others.
    Warm wishes
    Rob Purssey – Psychiatrist and ACT therapist, Brisbane ACT Centre

  6. I took a cocktail of SSRI’s for 15 years and I can totally relate. Dr. Peter Bregin and his book Your Drug Might Be Your Problem awoke me to the reality of those drugs. You may want to research him and his books, he’s one of a kind.

  7. A comment from Greg Martin (@yablonowitz), via Twitter:

    1. @RxISK You claim that there is “no doubt” that SSRIs can cause permanent dysfunction. How does one have hope after seeing that?

    2. @RxISK I keep going in the hope that things will improve. Idea that they will not is awful to think about.

    Greg’s dilemma in trying to withdraw from SSRI’s and benzos was outlined in a series of blog posts last year, starting here:

    • A bit more here:

      From @RxISK:

      @yablonowitz Wd just say the key word is “CAN” cause. Not inevitable. But those who claim permanent ill effects should not be discounted.

      From Greg:

      @RxISK No, but “permanent” is a loaded word. I certainly don’t discount long-term. But I need to believe the brain can re-adapt.

      @RxISK Heck, I can even deal w/lifelong changes as long as improvement to a level you can live with is natural outcome after stopping.

    • Very worried that I have permanent disfunction from taking Zoloft.
      Have joined Exit International as I am now 68 and feel really hopeless as side effects of Zoloft are getting worse.

  8. I agree with everything you have said, Mary.
    Alcohol, causes damage to the developing foetus, also.
    We always have to accept responsibility for our ignorance and incoherent behaviour.
    Our actions will always have positive/negative repercussions however, we must not always be too harsh on ourselves because some things are out of our control.
    Many parents, try to do what is right at the time.
    Others, for whatever reason, were never given the opportunity to be shown the skills that are required for life.
    Adam and Eve certainly did a brilliant job in the ‘lack of not complying’ department.
    Indeed, Mary, we all have a free choice/will and with it comes responsibility.
    Somehow, along the way we got side tracked and our vision became obscured.
    It is never too late to change.
    Any harm done to anyone, is unacceptable. I agree with you, 100%.

    • Whilst waiting for my liquid seroxat the pharmacist came back and apologised for the delay in my prescription. He said they had an emergency request for liquid seroxat for a new born baby. I was shocked then realised that the baby’s mother was probably on seroxat and the baby was in withdrawral. Quite shocking really.

      • Extremely sad yes. On the other hand, at least the baby was getting a chance to come through withdrawal slowly. Imagine all the babies born to mothers who were still using alcohol right up to the birth – are they going to pop to the pub for a vodka to help those through? not likely, and the results of that are to be seen in pre-school groups and schools all over the country.
        When will we learn to respect our own bodies – as well as those of others.

  9. A Case Study with Centre of R.SK

    Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, QM Innovation Building, Walden Street, London


    With all the controversy surrounding the use of Seroxat, do you think that Seroxat should be on sale?

    Do you think that the benefits out way the risks associated with Seroxat?

    Is this a useful guide to Serotonin, is this a correct description, does RW relate to anyone here with description under the video?

  10. So sorry to go off at a tangent but where can I find facts regarding evidence-based-and data-based medicines please. I’m sure Johanna mentioned recently that there were, either posts or papers/reports here somewhere on the very topics. Hoping to have a discussion soon with a medical statistician who works ‘evidence-based’ who wishes to hear David’s reasons for insisting on DBM. Obviously, I roughly n
    know the reasons but could do with some facts so I don’t waffle my way through!

  11. These meds burn out the short circuit of the brain and cause damage to certain parts of the brain.
    Many lose their identity because they have lost the emotions/feelings that made them once feel fully human and alive.
    Losing past memory, adapting to new ways of thinking and emotional responses to unpleasant/unjust situations can really move the impacted individual to take action and stand up for the vulnerable.
    I understand and appreciate this because when one is maltreated it moves you in a way to take action and stand up for those who are vulnerable in our society.
    You do get upset with yourself if you are unable to do the things you once use to do without batting an eyelid.
    Lack of motivation, lack of energy, health issues that impinge with social relationships etc. suffer because many people do not see the hidden disabilities that these meds induce. Some people judge and assume it is all in your head!
    Many make us feel unhuman because some people have expectations and standards of what it is to be human. Yet, some people’s behaviour is totally acceptable when it suits them to abhorrently behave. It is justified!

  12. Data and evidence: there is a difference!

    Data and evidence: there is a difference! (a commentary and debate on Healy et al.). [Int J Risk Saf Med. 2013]

    1. Introduction

    Randomized controlled trials (RCT) have made critical contributions to healthcare. They have given rise to an approach to medicine now called Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) [1]. But it is becoming increasingly clear that there are a number of ambiguities in the term Evidence and that for instance practising Evidence Based Medicine may be quite different to practising Data Based Medicine.

    • Thanks so much Annie. Shall read and digest tomorrow – rather late for that tonight. Have found wonderful illustrations to explain EBM – which are useful as I’m sure I’ll be expected to understand where she’s coming from too. Only thing I could find for DBM was David’s home page on David’s blog. As powerful as that is, I’m not sure how far I can go in convincing her. Not that I expect to do anything more than show her the true picture of the other side of the coin you understand – feel the need to do that in a responsible way though.

      • Annie, your suggestions are wonderfully helpful. Shall certainly have to ‘swat up’ on them a few times – amazing what we do know but forget until we re-read it! Thanks again.

  13. When I was 14 years old a psychologist (right out of school, inexperienced, and arrogant) mistook the visual disturbance/aura of a migraine attack as “evidence” of psychosis and asked a doctor, who never examined me or spoke to me even once, to prescribe a high dose of Thorazine–not a drug for use on children. This was in the late 1960s when drugging kids was rampant. In researching,
    The effect was immediate and devastating within minutes of taking the first dose: a complete loss of the ability to FEEL emotions in the positive range, like joy, pleasure, satisfaction, etc. It felt like a switch had been flipped off in my head. It was so sudden and complete it frightened me and I ran to tell the staff what had happened but they blew it off as inconsequential. I suspect the dopamine receptors in my brain were fried with that first, large dose.
    Then came the other serious side-effects (head pulled back in spasm, drooling, extreme sedation, weight gain, etc.) which were also ignored but should have gotten immediate medical intervention. After many months of this the incompetent psychologist was replaced by someone with more experience and I was immediately taken off the drug–with the hope all side effects would stop and the ANHEDONIA would reverse. The side-effects stopped. But the anhedonia was permanent.
    I am now 62 years old. My ability to feel emotion in the positive range never returned. I can remember it in instances that took place before the drugging/prolonged over-dosing but that is the extent of it. It did flicker back on, momentarily, in the late 1980s, when my primary care doctor prescribed a diet drug for weight loss, and that gave me hope that this terrible condition could possibly be reversed if someone would study it and at least TRY to help.
    And I have tried throughout the years to get help in restoring me to my original condition but, again, find nobody to take it seriously. After all, it didn’t kill me–I am still alive and breathing–so what do I have to gripe about?
    Living with anhedonia is very difficult in too many ways to list. I have a dial-tone emotional range. It has taken its toll, socially. I look years younger than I am because emotion never got the chance to carve lines in my face.

  14. I’m very sorry to hear of your experience, I do hope you are recovering and your cognitive abilities have started to return / improve. Your article is very well written, I must commend you on that.

    I took paroxetine for 5 years and got off this year, apart from months of chornic withdrawals, I was hit hardest by the fact that I’d lost my cognitive abilities. I had mixed drugs, alcohol with ssri’s for 5 years and had given up the process of thinking deeply / critically and reflecting. I am now 6 months off the drug and feel so inadequate and inferior to everyone, they all seem to know things and think certain ways that I have no idea how to do. Everyone seems smarter, more knowledgeable than me. It is very scary to feel like I am dumb, but that is how I am now. I can’t remember easily, can’t focus, don’t have any knowledge, don’t know how to solve problems. I pray things will improve

    • Brendan

      I was on Seroxat/Paroxetine for almost 4 years, and I had horrible withdrawals and similar experiences to you- the cognitive dampening is awful post- SSRI but it does get better, albeit – it can be painfully slow. You can e-mail me on of you want to..


  15. Please do not use the word “Depersonalization” if you have no idea what it is. In fact depersonalization can be caused by myriad substances, but SSRI’s are not one of them. It can also be caused by severe panic attacks. I suffer from both derealization and depersonalization. If you knew anything about depersonalization, and the horrors of it, as well as derealization and its horrors, you would not be throwing that word around, diluting its true nature. Depersonalization is a shift in the perception and experience of self, where ones consciousness feels detached from the thinking self, and or the body, as if consciousness is observing body and mental thoughts from somewhere else. Your body and thoughts can feel alien and as If not yours. This has absolutely nothing to do with a “loss of identity” in the sense you are speaking of. Depersonalization is a PERCEPTUAL and EXPERIENTIAL SHIFT. It is pure hell. As is Derealization.

    • JG

      You are not quite correct on this. SSRIs can cause profound depersonalization and derealization. Many of those who have PSSD have depersonalization also. Depersonalization and derealization are complex phenomena that have not been explored properly. Its probably the case there are a number of subtly different states that travel under these headings


      • David Healy, Is it possible that my Complex PTSD and DDNOS, diagnosed in 1996, after decades of taking SSRIs, was actually caused by the SSRIs.

  16. Travelling for 25 years

    David_Healy says:
    March 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm
    If the evidence is lacking, why when asked can your drug cause suicide are companies legally obliged to say Yes. This issue is settled – if there is a controversy its like the ones whipped up by the tobacco industry.

    David_Healy says:
    March 12, 2013 at 6:04 pm
    I prescribe SSRIs and hope I have helped some people with them. But I think this is an accurate description of the last 25 years. These drugs are less effective than older antidepressants and the evidence shows more lives lost than saved on them and up to one in twenty becoming suicidal on them. Are you part of the camp that says we should have no warnings because these would deter people from taking these drugs?

    David_Healy says:
    February 13, 2013 at 3:49 am
    On the issue of how to treat psychotic depression, companies making SSRIs had concluded in the 1980s that these drugs did not work for melancholia or psychotic depression. In trials for severe depression TCAs like clomipramine or amitriptyline beat SSRIs every time. In any depression with raised cortisol SSRIs are likely to be ineffective.
    The “studies” have not shown SSRIs are good for severe depression. These marketing exercises recruited mild to moderately ill people but excluded severe depression for the most part. No specific effect for SSRIs could be shown at the milder end of this mild to moderate spectrum. It was at the less mild end that some effect could be shown.
    As regards the word poison, we desperately need to be able to recapture this word and make sure everyone realizes that all drugs are poisons, especially prescription drugs which are on prescription because we have every reason to believe they will turn out to be riskier than alcohol or nicotine etc.
    See We need to talk about doctors. Saying avoid the word poison plays right into Pharma’s hands. In an expert report if I used the words every drug is a poison, lawyers for the company will go out of their way to get this struck off as prejudicial against their client.

    David_Healy says:
    February 7, 2013 at 2:09 pm
    Angela – part of the problem is SSRIs and CBT get used because they supposedly work. They can both be helpful but neither SSRIs or CBT are suitable for everyone and neither work the way an antibiotic does. Both come with serious side effects and both are delivered in settings that have a serious power imbalance. By how much have we actually advanced in the last 25 years – could we have gone backwards?

  17. I am grateful to the writer of this account about the effects of his use of Sertraline. It has made things clearer for me. As I write, I am sitting beside the South Devon estuary which was my son’s favourite place to be. He used to say that there was nothing like the peace he felt, sitting out on the water in a boat, drifting, watching the clouds flitting by.
    He had a lot in common with the writer on Sertraline. The social phobia and OCD would have been something he’d always quietly managed. But like the writer, he was interested in his work, and creatively in the world around him. Initially it was Seroxat that messed him up, given to counteract the low mood effects of RoAccutane/isotretinoin (acne drug, originally a chemotherapy drug). The rot certainly started with Seroxat, then, after a long gap, Escilatopram, then Venlafaxine, then told to stop all that suddenly by a psychiatrist, who later lobbed in Olanzapine. But within weeks, the final addition was Sertraline. I think it was the last two that finally finished him off.

    He wrote that he couldn’t remember who he was or where he was. There were terrifying voids in his thinking. (But he left this description of his pain in a letter for us to read, after he drowned). Whilst he was alive, during those last few days (4 years ago to the week today, which is why I am sitting beside the sea in his special place) he was unable to explain his feelings to us. He was just too ill. The psychiatrists told us to leave him alone as his expressions of suicidal thoughts were pure attention seeking moves, just being used by him to frighten us!! Now, having read what Sertraline can do, I can see so well what was happening to him. Why could the psychiatrists not do so? Why couldn’t they have cut him some slack, and supported him and us? One cannot help reliving that last week, over and over again, and longing to have understood. But at least some parents, families etc can now read this Blog and be warned. Go with your gut reaction, do not be beguiled, in your fear, by medics who really can offer nothing but criminal denial. You know better than they, the real person inside, the person that was always there, and hopefully, one day, can be again. Stay close to the one who suffers and assure them they are not mad, but sadly, a world that allows this situation to continue, is.

  18. I am35 and am 19 months off of SSRIs after having been on them for 16 years. Four years on Paxil, 10 years on Celexa, 10 months on Zoloft, 5 months on Luvox. I am permanently altered, I feel. I had to stop because of akathisia, thoughts of suicide and weight loss. Now, in this aftermath, I am a severe caffeine addict, have disordered eating, switch between hypersomnia and insomnia and (yes this is true( feel as though I have “ghostly” visitors. I do work my job, but have lost all career ambition, cry almost daily over anything, and struggle to enjoy socializing because I simply can’t focus.

    SSRIs are poison. I am BARELY living proof of that.

  19. Everything the writer describes in this account of taking this drug mirrors what I went through taking cymbalta. I felt euphoric and incredibly happy but I couldn’t function when it came to problem solving at work. All my analytical skills and cognitive abilities were gone. I got off it after about two months. It took about 3 weeks of crying and being hurt by everyone around me. The only thing that kept me going was telling myself this feeling isn’t real. This is cymbalta. I think I have returned to normal except I haven’t. My memory is sometimes blank. It used to be particularly acute. In fact people used to ask me how do you remember all that. They won’t from now on. These drugs are toxic. I was put on Cymbalta by a rheumatologist for back pain and sciatica. He never said a word about any of their effects. I am very angry about what they have done to me.

  20. Debbie Hampton took an overdose of antidepressants and end up with brain damage where she could hardly walk or talk. She then learnt about neuroplasticity and how the brain can repair itself and set about the task of getting better. She made a full recovery over two years. Her little ebook is cheap. She overcame her depression too.

    Beat Depression And Anxiety By Changing Your Brain: With Simple Practices That Will Improve Your Life, Debbie Hampton.

    Get blog:

  21. I can relate. They say once a journeyman always a journeyman.. well, I proved them wrong. I feel like a fucking retard now. Everyone thinks I’m stupid too. I hate it! I can’t even raise my son right. I need some relief. It’s made me more depressed than I was to start with. I took zoloft and a bunch of other shit that I can’t remember the name of. It’s very frustrating, I was a highly skilled craftsman.
    Now I just wing it… can’t remember what simple tools are called. Or simple processes and procedures. I gave up on my career seeking relief in isolation. Because I can’t even go into the grocery store let alone handle the competition at work. I’m still a miserable sob.
    So running from it d ont help. I’m gonna buy a harley next, cause I ain’t giving up. Besides work sucks anyways.

Leave a Reply