SSRIs & Loss of Identity

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August 22, 2016 | 65 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’

    • I have been on Sertraline for a long time now and was advised recently to increase my dose to the maximum. In many ways it has helped me but for the past few months I have become increasingly forgetful and assumed that I was developing dementia as it does run in my family. However I’m now wondering if it might be related to the Sertraline. I can definitely relate to feeling flat, my daughter just had a baby and although relieved both were ok I cannot say I felt real joy or happiness. Although I am not suicidal I do get days when I think what’s the point I’m not really living. I’ve been off sick from work for several months now and am due to go back soon but the way I am is making me anxious about the prospect. It’s interesting to read about your experiences and those of others. It has definitely changed my personality and I have a tendency to see the glass as half empty all the time. Social events often seem like too much effort and tbh the happiest I’ve been recently was during lockdown when I didn’t leave the house for 12 weeks due to underlying health conditions. I even reduced my dosage but after a couple of weeks realised this wasn’t a good idea. Anyway I will consider gradually coming off them altogether even if it means I can’t go back to work….

  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..


    • Wow, I find myself in the exact same situation as you! I can’t recall anything if my life depended on it, I find other people a lot smarter than me. I simply sound stupid when I speak because I can no longer put a simple sentence together. I suffered from migraines all my life and was diagnosed with depression when I was in my early 20’s. Recently I decided to stop taking Prozac because my career was at stake, I couldn’t remember words and couldn’t even write a simple email. I decided that I must deal with depression because I can’t lose my job. When I stopped taking Prozac it took around 8 months before I could slowly start remembering simple words, so there is a slight improvement. However, I think when I drink alcohol, all the problems come back as if I’m back on Prozac, I think alcohol is the catalyst in forgetfulness. Alcohol causes inflammation and that’s why it always triggered my migraines. I’ve basically stopped drinking alcohol and stopped taking any and all medications and I’m now pushing myself to eat healthy and exercise… again, some small improvements are taking place, but I’ll never be person I used to be. I considered myself very intelligent and learned everything very quickly, but now I’m just a useless, brainless person – it’s all very sad and I feel for everyone that has lost their intelligence due to these medications.

  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.

    • All ssri’s, snri’s, tricyclic and basically psychotropic agents can cause depersonal8zation disorder, ssri’s and snri’s are among the worst for that

  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.

    • PLEASE READ! HELP! I was on different SSRIs when i was 15 for 1 year until I was put on Zoloft around 16 I am now 32 about to be 33. I only have been off of the 200mg Zoloft while I was pregnant for my two children and for a few years after having them but had to go back on it because I could no longer function in daily life again. I had social anxiety, severe anxiety attacks, ocd, had many phobias, severe depression,manic at times, sometimes sleeps to much sometimes can’t sleep at all, my mind raced and the millions of thoughts jumbled, very emotional. Before I turned 15 and all of these things became me and the struggle just to step out of my room, a constant battle with myself, I was outgoing, loved school, out spoken, opinionated , had goals and dreams, my mind could think rational,I would do things that needed to be done way in advance. I was smart, snappy, I knew who I was, I could remember things and conversations, with that being said however, I did have a part of my early childhood that I don’t fully remember until my parents were divorced at the age of around 11. I only remember bits and pieces of it even before I was ever on the medicine. My father was a sick man and I am guessing I blocked out most of my early childhood without realizing I did it. So I don’t know if its my mind that does this to me with everything now or if its from the medicine. I am now very passive, I procrastinate a lot. I don’t really care about much unless its extremely important, sometimes I feel like I have no emotions at all, I can’t remember a lot of things, I get confused very easily,I feel very stupid, like I can not retain any information.My strengths and skills are no longer there. My short term and long term memory are horrible. I can’t remember whole conversations or things I done in the past. Like I can’t put a whole time line together of my life even as a adult. Its like my life is a fog and i am just getting throu the day to day. Sometimes I want to get off of the Zoloft but I am afraid to because i am afraid I won’t be able to live a daily life and I am single and raising my two kids alone so I can’t let myself fail. However my relationships are not well kept.I don’t kept many people close to me. Thankfully I have close family who put up with the way I am and my at times disconnection, they are always there for me. I had a time in my life where I literally could not cry like at all after my separation with my childrens father.i totally disconnected and was like a robot doing my daily task. I think maybe I am a person that either feels to much or can’t feel anything. Idk. My most recent relationship I am in since the father of my children and I have split up 4 years ago (we were together for 10 years) is now suffering because I can’t remember important things and I can’t remember things from my past. He thinks I lie to him but I truthfully can not remember things and especially not exactly. I do feel like I am a different person then who I was going to be before the medicine but I do believe that my core person is very strong and that’s the reason I can still find bits and pieces of myself. I don’t know I guess I’m just trying to figure myself out and how to be able to feel and remember things and just actually be able to remember my life. Its to a point where my kids don’t even get upset anymore that I forget stuff they just like oh well mom forgets everything. I actually began to rely on them for things I need to remember to do. And of course I make tons of list. Any feed back would be great! Also advice on how to get my mind to work proficient again would be golden!

  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.

  22. I have had somewhat of a similar experience with Sertraline (Zoloft). I took it for 6 months about 16 years ago when I was going though a rough patch in life and thought I might be depressed. I started experiencing emotional blunting after being on the drug and my memory and concentration became highly impaired. I didn’t really feel much of any positive benefit from taking the drug and when I tapered it off, my emotional numbness became a lot more pronounced and I was left completely emotionally “flat” and cut off from feelings. I had no positive or negative emotional reaction to anything going on in my life and it was very distressing. Since then I stopped taking any pharma drugs and my symptoms did improve a bit over time but I never returned to feeling the same as I was before I started taking Zoloft. My symptoms very much align with that of depersonalization/dissociative disorder and it is now a permanent disorder I live with and it has profoundly impacted every aspect of my life. Over the years I found plenty of anecdotal evidence in countless online forums where people taking SSRIs have complained of emotional blunting. Emotions are critical to our functioning because that is how we “feel” our way through life and no one really knows how SSRIs mess with our emotional brain. Each one of us can react to this drug differently.

  23. I read some of this because after 2 years on Sertraline, for work related anxiety (mostly any random public speaking meetings) …. I got off the medication when the company closed down. But now 3.5 months after being completely off Zoloft I can definitely tell something isn’t right. I’m not my usual self. I describe the feeling as, permanently feeling ‘half present’. I never felt depressed before for years, now off Sertraline I feel mildly always troubled, sort of depressed, not nearly as excited or motivated about life, and always before bed I look around at the room and quietly comment to myself that I feel ‘half here’. I feel like this medication is way over prescribed. That doctors telling a person who takes Ativan or Valium twice a week for a public speaking meeting, that its way safer to take Zoloft is very in error. Because at least on the small twice a week Valium I felt normal, present in my life. I worry this stupid Zoloft has permanently ruined my sense of being ‘present’ and attached to life the same way I was before taking it. I wonder if after more months this improves ? As right now I am suspecting with Zoloft comes permanent fogginess and detachment even after stopping the medication. I can promise you if the doctor warned of permanent side effects I would -never- have agreed to take it !

  24. I experienced everything the writer wrote. It’s been 3 years since my withdrawal and I am still having difficulties with tasks and feeling myself again. My memory is awful and I have a hard time empathizing with others like I once was. Right now, all I can hope for is for all these things to be healed through time.

  25. Update on the poster of this article please? I hope the op is doing good. I had the same problem with a medicine called anafranil. I still am having memory issues and non existent emotions

  26. I was very moved and interested in this account. My son , whilst a trainee solicitor, was prescribed sertraline -six years ago. His personality changed almost instantly to loud, inappropriate, boorish and completely uncaring which was the exact opposite of how he was. We approached his GP to voice concerns and he said nothing could be done unless he came himself to the surgery and continued to allow my son to order these online without consultations. We persuaded my son to wean himself off them but he felt really low again and went back to one a day-but he began drinking much more eventually to everyday.
    This has been the case with some serious incidents. He cannot see what the fuss is about but clearly the sertraline and alcohol have had a very bad effect on him yet he does not see it. We as a family have gone back to the doctor and we are now assured he will not get any more-but what does he get if still depressed ?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated , because we are at our wit`s end with the situation.

  27. Damn…reading this made me cry a little. Exactly how I feel, but I’m not scared that it won’t go away, even after stopping my medicine. I’m so sad and mad that maybe the old me is gone forever. And nobody warned me about the side effects. I always took pride from my excellent memory and high intelligence and made fun of stupid people..I guess karma is real and she doesn’t sleep, as I now feel as stupid and “superficial” as ever, without any ability to feel deeper or use critical thinking. Lobotomy at its finest.

  28. I have suspected this for years, but couldn’t get off the meds because I would get physically sick from withdrawal. I have weaned myself off over the last year. I have tiny sparks of memory of who I was, but fleeting at best. Is there any hope for me?

  29. Does it get better? Are there ways to restart and feel again? I was put on Prozac at the age of 8 because I was “shy” and took them until I was 24. I definitely notice that my brain is not functioning correctly or at a normal aptitude when it comes to recalling and retaining information. I’m 26 now and have been off of SSRI’s for only a year. Definitely having issues with emotions as I’ve bever had them in a sense of understanding or being aware of them.. until now. Any information or help regarding “normalizing” the brain afterwards or even ideas, information, support groups, stories etc. thank you

  30. First I have to say thank you for posting this insightful and thorough report. As I read through it I was amazed at your ability to lay out the experiences that happened to you, what you thought about them, and how you saw your life and personality change. I have been looking for answers for my sister, Kaduland Robinson (Kay) for a few years. Kay had been a normal person, just like everyone else for most of her life. She developed a low self-esteem in her teen years that remained with her into her young adult years. I wish I had seen it more. I wish I then knew what to look for, and more that I could have done. But I didn’t know. My family didn’t know. In fact, today I fear that we failed my sister tremendously. At 28 Kay went through the loss of her relationship with her partner. After he left, she was found in her empty home in a fetal position on her dining room floor. Her biological father, whom she was incredibly close to, died that same time frame. He was my step-father. She was sexually harassed on her job. This seemed to set off a new level of depression which was later treated and diagnosed as bi-polar disorder and schizoaffective behavior. My sister had been prescribed a number of toxic anti-depressants, all of which seemed to have very little positive impact on her. None of them seem to work. She got worse. And at 4’11, we were always concerned for her safety in public, as the medications seemed to enhance psychotic episodes. But something happened along the way that changed my sister’s life and personality. She was admitted to a state hospital in Terrell, Texas. There had been previous episodes that required a stint in a hospital, but she had insurance then, and had always been admitted to private institutions. The state hospital was the place that would change my sister’s life in the most dramatic way. Instead of being prescribed Sertraline as you were, she was prescribed Fazaclo, also known as Clozapine without our knowledge. At first she seemed to improve, become more like herself. But one of the side effects is physical, and she started to drag her left leg. Her walking became compromised. and she was loosing her balance. That sense of feeling “flat” or “empty” became more visible, causing my sister to withdraw, and a downgrading of her cognitive abilities, “becoming stupider”, as you say. Not only was she unable to “ruminate,” to ponder, she was nolonger able to have simple back and forth conversations. Today my sister lives in a nursing home at 48. She is incontinent, doesn’t walk, is unable to stand, has little control/use of her left side, and speaks in a whisper. Her reply when asked questions about the way she feels are yes and no. She remembers that she enjoys hamburgers. Legions were found on her brain and she was diagnosed with MS in 2014, and two years ago, breast cancer. I don’t know what happened to my sister, Kay Robinson. Doctors have had very few answers. I am embarking on a new approach to find out what has happened to my sister, and do all that I can to help her find a life of dignity that I know we have access to. Learning from people like you, what you’ve gone through, and realizing that there are far more people than I realize whose lives and personalities have been robbed by the side effects of SSRIs and other dangerous medications helps me put the puzzle together. I do know this. The mind is power. And what we say to it matters. Thank you for sharing your story. You have helped me find more answers today. And I will pass them on to my sister, Kay Robinson.

  31. I have a very different experience than most people here. I have been taking Zoloft for OCD and while I do experience some brain fog, I feel that my personality has been released from the cage of OCD and Panic Disorder rather than altered or repressed in some way.

    That being said though, I have strong evidence of my anxiety disorder being biological rather than psychological, since it’s present in most of my family members to some degree. I don’t know if that makes my case different than some of the experiences being shared here or not.

    Either way, I will take the side effects of Zoloft and day (which for me is fortunately just some brain fog, some trouble focusing without caffeine, and night sweats) than the hell that is my anxiety disorder. It’s like I have a new chance at life now that it’s no longer a battle for me to go through my day without breaking down because I’m stuck in a loop of repetitive anxious behavior, or losing minutes to hours at a time to sudden, debilitating panic attacks.

    These drugs are very powerful, and potentially really dangerous. They are certainly over prescribed, but for some people like me, they’re a far cry better than what our brains do to us naturally.

    I’m not discounting anyone’s experience on here, I just wanted to share. I agree with everyone here that these medications are not someone that should just be given out recklessly, but there are definitely situations where they can be prescribed appropriately.

  32. Hi
    I have just come across this website and just in the last few months have got concerned over increasing memory loss. I found if I was talking to people, I would be getting words mixed up ( only mildly). I was prescribed sertraline ( by NHS GP) in November 2018 and took it for 4 months?. Due to sexual side effects from it , plus a feeling I should stop taking it, I reduced my dose from 50 mg to 25, then stopping it totally. However my memory appears reduced. I am 51 years old. I started taking the drug, after picking up on my husband having an affair. He denied it totally and encourage me to see a GP. My husband called me paranoid, lacking in low self esteem, stressed etc, etc. He has even told our adult children ( living with us) this. I overheard him describing me as ” loopy, but we can’t call it that”, to my son, when he thought I had gone to bed. I now am not taking any medication. I can look back and see how he manipulated me.

  33. Hi,

    Thanks for taking the time to put this information out there. It for sure will help people make more informed decisions. I find people seem to blindly trust doctors, but oftentimes information on the opposing side is lacking.

    I am sorry for what you have to go through.


  34. I am in the same case as you, at only 16 old. My physician forced me to take this for 8 months, and now I’m empty after the loss of my skills… looking desperately for a solution to recover…
    I also took a neuroleptic during 1 month with a small dose, but I’m still thinking that those both ruined my life.

  35. Strange have been on same medication f o r same amount of time, from 1st month gained dream job. Lost weight, never got angry, panic attacks were completely gone, I could identify emotional intelligence quicker. People were shocked basically because they couldn’t emotionally hurt me. And they did not like that. This medication saved my life from abuse to find strength to not be victum. I’d thank the company in person if I ever got the chance.

  36. It absolutely blows my MIND that a doctor told you to take Sertraline AS NEEDED. That’s not how these drugs work! How is a brain supposed to know what the hell is going on when neurochemicals are being made to fluctuate constantly? What an idiot. I’m sorry you’ve had to suffer so much as a consequence.

  37. Any improvements over the years ? My memory and cognitive abilities have been completely destroyed by the ssri I took(escitalopram/lexapro). I would like to know if there is anything possible to improve the symptoms and get back to before.

  38. OCD is extremely distressing but since I had it since childhood I learned to live with it and I considered it a superpower. I could master anything in a matter of hours, I can simulate and improve in my head, I could play a video game once and the next day be significantly better because the brain simulated it in sleep but it isn’t so good for depression, you can’t ever forget about it and that’s why my parents made me go see a psychiatrist. I was extremely hesitant of medication and never took any medication in my life, not even magnesium pills, and somehow the psychiatrist was able to persuade me to take them. Now everything is mute, I’m impulsive, I can’t analyze, they made me think it’s an illness, I lost my identity and feel like I wasted my time adapting to it for whole my life only for it to be gone in a month. I took joy analyzing everything in my spare time and now I want it back so badly. Honestly I can’t ever get over the worst decision of my life and it just might cost me my life.

    • I do mathematics all I’m my head without ever writing anything, I could simulate physics in my head to come to the best path to solution, i could memorize complete lesson to the smallest detail and replay it in my head, I didn’t ever need to take notes, I could recall everything from the age of 4 to the smallest detail with all the emotions, I didn’t talk much because my brain was busy analyzing in the background, I was modest and efficient, I constantly needed to feed my brain information or else it will start attacking me and I will forever regret believing there was an easy solution. I spent whole my life trying not to follow the herd and defending myself from people who want me to conform.

      Now all the memories I’ve been nurturing are blurred, my performance in school is extremely diminished, I can barely do basic math and i have no spatial memory at all.

      I feel like a headless fly roaming through the world, unaware of others intentions, completely lost my my identity and I hope some of it comes back.

      I had been taking Lexapro for a month and since discontinued.

  39. Thank you so much for having the courage to share your story, I can certainly relate to most of what you said. Although I was thrown off when you stated that with your fist pill you started to feel an “empty mind” and you got a “foolish grin” after 15 minutes of taking the drug. This is very unusual because the effect of an SSRI is not instant like a benzodiazepine so I don’t quite understand how you felt that instantaneous effect. On another occasion you said that you “popped a pill” and off you went drinking with your friends thinking that it would help with your social anxiety. I was always under the impression that antidepressants just don’t work on an as needed basis, like Lorazepam or Valium which take minutes minutes to kick in and can be taken as needed. Also, you took this drug on and off for 5 weeks! There is no way that it had a chance to build up in your system. Zoloft takes 6-8 weeks to fully work. On top of that, you were only taking 50MG! I took 100MG of Zoloft for 10 months and I did have the idiot grin but that was clearly over a period of time. I am in no way criticizing you or trying to debunk what you’re saying but I just can’t figure out how such a thing can be possible. What you felt was scary and it you did the right thing coming forward because although your experience with this medication was uncommon, it is important that others know what can potentially happen if they take this drug short term. Like I said I took Zoloft for 10 months after 14 long and horrifying years(no anxiety case exaggeration here) of being on and off Effexor. I have taken Paxil, Pristiq, Cymbalta, Remeron, Cipralex and I did notice that Zoloft performed differently than the others. I found that it just “dropped” be as it was wearing out, it wasn’t graduale like Effexor. I noticed that when I woke up in the morning I felt this hopeless, empty, uncomfortable feeling that I did not feel while taking the other medication. I felt like all my worries about the past, future and present(and more) were all attacking me the minute I opened my eyes. I would then take the pill and yes the grin would appear. Keep in mind I was on 100mg. I made the choice to leave this drug in June of 2020 after 10 months of use because i started to experience mania. I was taking it along side 200mg of Lamotrigine, 100 trazodone at bedtime and 50mg Stratera. Yes I realize that the Statera is an SNRI and that it can induce mania as well so I dropped that to see and I still had mania regardless of the mood stabilizer. I know that I am all over the place with this but i am desperate. I don’t know where I need to post my story regarding my experience with Effexor. I feel alone in this and I could really use some feedback. I was prescribed Effexor XR 37.5 at the age of 23 by my family doctor who diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder. Just like yourself, I was starting a new job and did not feel very confident. I was terrified of people yet I had found a job in the public sector ironically. I was a kid that never got into any kid of trouble and I never drank or did drugs and that changed after two months on Effexor. I went of a rollercoaster of drinking and trouble with the law for 14 long and painful years. I developed an urge to drink and when I drank I became a monster. A real Jekyll and Hide. It took years of seeing family doctors, psychiatrists and 3 treatment centres for alcoholism to receive the diagnosis of bipolar 2 by an internist In 2019 who saw me twice and then got sick and closed his practice. This diagnosis is debatable because it was made while on Effexor and off of Effexor or any ssri/snri I do not have the urge to drink or even the thought. While on Effexor, I had this urge to do was was “wrong”, risky and exciting and that’s why i enjoyed drinking so much because it brought my mania to a whole new level and then straight to jail. I did not have to do any jail time because the law took mercy on me given the circumstances but I was arrested over a dozen times for various incidents caused by being under the effect of Effexor and alcohol. I never drank before I started taking Effexor in 2005. Within two months of taking the drug I started drinking and doing wreckless things because I was finally out of my shell and I needed to let it all out. I felt that Effexor made me function better, my shyness and insecurity transformed into cockiness and arrogance and I loved it. Obviously there was a huge price to pay. For 14 years i was on and off Effexor 150Mg, the longest time being 4 years. The times I would leave it I would feel “good“ for two months and then I would remember when I went on it in the first place. My shyness came back, brain fog, lack of planning and organization, lack of focus and even my stutter came back. What I loved best about being on an SNRI was that it improved my speech and my gathering of thoughts, I wouldn’t stutter or stumble on words, I didn’t get this with the SSRI that much either, hence the addition of Stratera later on. Regardless of the consequences, Effexor did what i wanted it to do and it was hard saying goodbye. I felt that I was more alert, creative, social and much more talkative. The last year on Effexor I was given a mood stabilizer lamotrigine to curb the manic effect but it didn’t work much. I made the choice to say goodbye to Effexor 150mg in September of 2019 and then started Zoloft shortly after. The severe mania and the drinking went away along with it. Please note that the lamotrigine 200mg did not curb the mania at all. Today I am sitting here left very confused, empty and almost brain dead, free of all medication including my trazodone for sleep. I have very little will or drive or motivation of any kind. I am bitter, I cannot organize my thoughts, overly worried, and just plain old fearful. My social anxiety has come back in a big way and at 38 I feel like that scared little 23 year old that went into his doctors office telling him that he was nervous about starting his new job. I have a family doctor who’s knowledge on mental health is mediocre and I cannot seem to find a psychiatrist. Some wait lists are as long as 18 months here in Canada and when you do find one chances are that they are over worked, tired and plain old incompetent. I do not have an official diagnosis of whether I am bipolar or not but since off of antidepressants I have not experienced mania or hypomania so it’s safe to assume(or is it) that my mania is medication induced after all. I am a father of two young children. I no longer work. My job is to raise them to the best of my ability and that is why I cannot afford to take anything that will cause be to be manic. I do however hope that somewhere there is the right professional who will give me the right medication or therapy that will at least help me function like a human being. Yes I know that this is in response to someone else’s post so please forgive me for rambling on but I had nowhere else to do it. I hope that someone will reach out after reading this.

  40. This is a really interesting report, I first began SSRI’s during my first year of college, 2 years ago. I was quite an apathetic person, observant and reserved. i turned into quite a careless, mess in the way i didn’t really care about how i looked socially. i was able to do what i enjoyed very well, at an even better rate than before. my social life was much better and i felt more empathetic and caring of others. as my dose increased i felt as though i was cognitively slowing down, i just couldn’t articulate sentences or involve myself in any kind of interesting conversation. that is totally different to the person i was pre-ssris i felt incredibly stupid and i was known in my class for being dumb, ironically people were asking me to do their coursework because they didn’t understand but whatever (programming). its just the way i conveyed how i felt and thought;

    in my first year i drank alcohol a lot with ssri’s and i didn’t really care, i thought that it was toxicity that was the danger in the mix of ssri’s and alcohol and not neurological effects like these so thank you for this.

    I am now back on sertraline, and i am on my 3rd day of taking them. this is a great caution to me and i appreciate this well written article.

  41. I started taking sertraline 10 days ago, so this was a very interesting read. It’s confusing that you say you took it sporadically as everything else I have read says it can take up to 6 weeks to work, though I definitely observed an instant cessation of mental chatter with the first pill.
    I had taken no antidepressants or anti anxiety meds previously but would describe my mental state prior to taking these as almost the same as you describe yours to be after you had finished with them. Although I had crippling social anxiety on top.

    I am wondering if you might need to address caffeine intake, or take the pills for long enough for them to work. Caffeine withdrawal is a huge deal when it comes to concentration and it can take up to 9 days to recover mentally from a higher than usual dose. It also greatly impacts anxiety both in usage and withdrawal.

    Would love to know how you are doing now, years after writing this.

    • Lynds, I was thinking the same while reading this. Not to say his accounts aren’t true, but I have never heard of anyone taking an SSRI on an “as needed” basis, like you would some Benzos for anxiety attacks. Also, I’ve noticed when reading some reviews, the people who it doesn’t work for are typically people who have come across normal life stresses and start taking medication. The medication, I believe, is only intended for people with actual chemical imbalances not caused by a life event. Losing a loved one, or stress at work is not an imbalance in brain chemicals, it is a sadness that is normal. I’m like you, where I feel the way he did AFTER taking them.

  42. 150mg daily for 4 years. I just thought I was “getting stupider”. What this person has described is exactly what I’ve experienced whilst on Sertraline. I never had issues like this whilst on fluoxetine or citalopram. My recall memory is horrendous and is the main symptom that I’m frustrated with. Others for me are loss of focus, inability to find words to use on queue, brain processing is shot. I’m scared to come off the meds and anxious that even if I do my symptoms will be with me forever. I wish I hadn’t bothered with meds and had just kept on keeping on.

  43. hi , im 17 and i take sertraline … and my parents don’t believe im forgetting things . simple things like putting the milk in the fridge and not the pantry. they think im doing this for attention and it’s frustrating because i cant explain how easy it is to forget.

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