A Journey Into Madness and Back Again: Part 2

In 1995 I had a very frightening experience that I have never discussed publicly before. At that time the main symptoms I was experiencing were frequent panic attacks. My psychiatrist at that time had the perfect solution: an SSRI antidepressant. He told me this drug was the best on the market and that it had no side effects. As most psychiatrist he had been fooled by the drug reps.

A few days after I started taking the SSRI terrible thoughts came into my mind. I wanted to harm my wife and newborn son. Every time I saw a knife or thought about one I got an incredibly strong urge to injure them. I had never experienced anything like this before. This went on for some time and I obviously did not dare tell anyone, neither my psychiatrist nor family. I continued taking the drug and suffered in isolation. The feeling gradually disappeared.

I had the same experience in 2003. At that time I was terribly depressed and in and out of hospital. The doctors who were treating me had no idea how they could relieve my suffering. I was taking various drugs. New drugs were being tried or the dosage changed. My wife, who is a scientist, was very worried about all the drugs I was ingesting. By looking at the scientific literature she realized that some of them were being prescribed above the recommended dosage. I did not listen to her.

The violent thoughts struck me during the summer. As before, seeing or thinking about knives created an almost irresistible urge to harm my wife and two children. I was terrified. My wife sensed that something was seriously wrong when I asked her to hide all the knives in the apartment. I was able to tell her in a roundabout way what was going on in my mind. I also alerted some of my friends. I was finally hospitalized at the end of the summer. And the solution to stopping my thoughts was … yes, you guessed correctly: bilateral ECT. As a result big sections of my memory from this year were permanently erased. I was able to piece it together by talking to my wife and reading emails I sent.

In 1995 and 2003 I experienced a terrible feeling. The guilt that these thoughts create is beyond describing. It haunted me until June 2009, when I read a book that has gradually enabled me to escape this crushing guilt. I cried when I read these lines in Dr. Peter R. Breggin’s book Medication Madness (2008):

Within a week of starting Prozac, Emily began to become obsessed with killing her mother. Never before had thoughts like these entered her mind. She imagined taking the eight-inch chef’s knife from the kitchen. She saw herself sneaking up on her mother at an unsuspecting moment … and plunging it into her back.  The drive to kill wasn’t wrapped in any reason, excuses, or rationalization. Emily didn’t feel upset with her mother. In her words: ‘It came out of nowhere’ (p. 58).

This was me in 1995. Now I felt absolved. But Emily’s story did not explain fully what happened to me in 2003. I had to read further into Dr. Breggin’s book to find an explanation:

Consistent with most of the cases in this book, severe adverse psychiatric reactions often take place within a day or two of starting or changing a dose of SSRI antidepressant, or adding other drugs (p. 135).

This is exactly what I experienced in 2003. I felt absolved again.

In a recent paper Yolande Lucire and Christopher Crotty list diverse drugs that “all induce suicidal and homicidal thinking as an occasional side effect.” More specifically, Thomas J. Moore, Joseph Glenmullen, and Curt D. Furberg list 11 antidepressants that have consistently been tied to elevated risk of violence, “even when compared with antipsychotics and mood stabilizers, which are used in psychiatric patients populations in which violent acts may occur.” In 1995 I was taking one of these antidepressants, and two in 2003.

This experience has made me feel violated by psychiatry. I have longed for justice after I realized that the psychotropic drugs were most likely responsible for the violent thoughts that I had towards the people I love most dearly. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this possibility?  Even though reading Breggin’s book relieved me of most of my guilt, it did not make me very optimistic that difficult subjects like these would eventually be discussed openly.

Shortly after reading Medication Madness I realized that this would never happen. It was Dr. David Healy’s book Let Them Eat Prozac (2004) that made me realize this:

No matter how many physicians or others reported to SmithKline suicides or homicides they thought related to [Paxil/Seroxat], SmithKline would deny any evidence for causation while there was no randomized controlled trial evidence. The fact that they had never undertaken any trials and had no plans to do so smacked of washing their hands in the face of crucifixion (p. 222).

We all remember stories where individuals committed unspeakable acts violence against their loved ones. At the invitation of Big Pharma and complicit psychiatrists I am in the horrible position of understanding what was going on in the mind of some of these individuals. I assume that there are many more of us who did not give in to this terrible urge. I hope my story will relieve the crushing guilt of some of these individuals. Now I finally feel vindicated.

18 COMMENTS

  1. I feel lucky that this never happened to me, in spite of having been on maximum dosage of escitalopram, clomipramine and sertraline.

    The side effects that I experienced were physiological (kidney, liver malfunction, elevated cholesterol levels, feeling sleepy most of the time, to the point of having to take dextroamphetamine (Adderall to stay awake, etc). And of course, I went through my share of withdrawal symptoms when I stopped the drugs cold turkey.

    And yet, I feel that this part of the psychiatric scam is not told enough. What I find even more strange is that a Google search gives plenty of results published online about reports of people who became violent or did despicable things while under the influence of SSRIs or neuroleptics. So the online world is full of these references published by respected news sources (CNN, FoxNews, the New York Times, you name it) while if you watch these same media -case of CNN or Fox-, you get the opposite message, namely, that these drugs are “safe” and that they “help” the majority of people taking them. The disconnect is astonishing.

    The most plausible explanation that I have found to this divergent editorial stance of online vs TV media is the money that comes from direct to consumer advertising from Big Pharma that goes primarily to TV. TV editors are reluctant to attack the hand the feeds the companies they work for. It’s a prime example of conflict of interest: these editors are renouncing their roles as journalists for the sake of profits.

  2. Thank-you for sharing your story, Steindor. I believe you implicitly. Despite many differences in our stories, we share these absolute similarities: the pseudo-science of psychiatry, and the poison pills of Pharma, did us far more harm than good…
    Education leads to understanding, and understanding leads to recovery and healing – and away from drugs…
    “We shall know the truth, and the truth shall set us free.” The truth does not, can not, will not, come in a PILL…
    Best wishes,
    Bradford

  3. Hi Steindór,

    Thank you so much for having the courage to share this part of your story. It must have been very difficult. I know from my own experiences, and from listening to others, that the kinds of thoughts you had were not uncommon for many people who are taking or have taken SSRIs. Many people do not speak about it.

    Subjects like these should be discussed openly. The psycho-pharmaceutical folks have no interest in talking about it, however, because it is bad for their business. And those who are having similar terrible experiences on these drugs are rightly hesitant to talk about those experiences because of a justified fear of being misunderstood in general and also out of sheer self-preservation given the nature of the psychiatry system in particular.

    It is a bizarre and twisted feature of psychiatry that if one were to reveal these sorts of thoughts to a psychiatrist in hopes of finding a solution, then one will be met with punishment rather than help. (Very few psychiatrists will ever admit to even the possibility that their drugs caused these problems in the first place!)

    It is difficult not to feel shame, but I think it is only human, and the fact is that most people would not likely have ever had such disturbing thoughts, feelings, etc., if they had never been prescribed these drugs.

    Congratulations on overcoming so many serious challenges, and thank you again for your bravery in shining a spotlight on yet another horrible effect of SSRIs. The harm they do should not be underestimated: They have been handed out like candy for too long, and their destructive power needs to be taken seriously. You have set an excellent example by speaking out about them.If I may say so, you really should feel vindicated.

    Best wishes!

  4. Hi Steindor,

    I think you were very brave and generous to share your story as a warning to others. Dr. Peter Breggin is my great hero in that he helped me save loved ones from being destroyed by what I call the “mental death profession.” I’m glad he was able to help you too with his many brave, whistle blowing books, web sites and constant articles in the media to warn the public of many dangers in biopsychiatry/Big Pharma. That’s why he is known as the conscience of psychiatry.

    I think it was wise of you to wait until you had dealt with this crisis and overcome it before sharing it. Your friend’s experience is a great example of the fact that biopsychiatry in bed with Big Pharma refuses to acknowledge the huge iatrogenic harm they do to their so called patients from bogus, harmful stigmas and toxic drugs with the horrible effects you cite in your article. Yet, because many people in the public at large are uninformed about these problems, I would not volunteer your mental health history to future employers or others who might use it against you due to their cluelessness about these issues. We discussed the risk of your sharing this information on your last blog. Since this type of reaction is a known risk of SSRI’s and you are off them now, you are certainly not to blame, but rather, the victim here. It’s a blessing that your thoughts did not turn into actions for sure.

    By the way, Dr. Claire Weekes, author of Hope And Help For Your Nerves and related books is very famous for helping people overcome panic attacks naturally. I highly recommend her:

    http://www.amazon.com/Hope-Help-Nerves-Claire-Weekes/dp/0451167228

    I’m glad that you have such a wise, supportive wife/family who has stood by you through this ordeal.

    Best Wishes.

  5. YES!, to Dr. Breggin…I first read his “Toxic Psychiatry” in the early 1990’s… Here in the U.S., our FDA-Food & Drug Administration, has required so-called “black box” warnings on SSRI’s since the late 1990’s…These “black-box” warnings must have a black box printed around them on the FULL prescribing and data forms included from the manufacturer. The warnings state that SSRI’s have a high potential to *CAUSE* both suicidal, and even homicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially in teenagers and young adults. Most of the so-called “mass casualty shootings” such as “Columbine”, “VA Tech”, and even “Sandy Hook”, were committed by High School students under the influence of SSRI’s, and other psych drugs…But, of course, “Pharma”, and the Media, do NOT want the general public to know that TRUTH…Psychiatric drugs DO KILL…Yes, sometimes, some people DO do better on SOME “meds”, for some short length of time. But, MOST psych Rx’s are overprescribed, and over-priced.
    The Truth is out there, and we must tell it…
    ***Steindor, I have had great results from gentle Yoga, and Tai Chi, which you can easily learn on-line, or from videos. ~Bradford.

  6. Congrats Steindor! You are an inspiration to all of us especially all those who have been hurt by psychiatric drugs and deceived by their prescribers. It is so good to hear how you educated yourself and overcame this most horrific onslaught on your person-hood.
    It took me decades to find out how psychiatric drugs almost killed me and hurt my family so much indirectly.
    I hope many more people will write their life stories also because the public need to know the truth about our prescription drugs.
    THANKS SO MUCH! http://www.mindfreedomireland.com

  7. When I read this story, I was immediately transported back to late 1997, when the man with whom I would have entrusted my life suddenly became a violent, dangerous predator.

    I too hid knives – anything sharp – down the back of chairs and under carpets before going to bed, after he confronted me with a carving knife, threatening to kill. He would stay awake for up to four days and I knew that eventually, I would need to sleep.

    I knew he was ill, but at the time did not know that his medication was the cause. Eventually, my life became so filled with terror that I developed PTSD and was put on SSRIs too.

    Within weeks I began to develop dystonis, but because Big Pharma failed to release post-marketing data, my doctors were unaware that SSRIs were behind it. It was 2009 before we got to the truth, but by then it was too late. Despite withdrawing from the medication, I was left with permanent tardive dystonia and dyskinesia.

    Thank you for your courage and honesty in telling your story; now I have a view of my former partner’s violence from the other side.