My Story and My Fight Against Antidepressants

David Fox
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My name is David Fox, and I am a registered Psychologist living in Sydney, Australia. In the past five years, I’ve focused predominantly on counseling people with anxiety, depression and a range of other issues. I was also on antidepressants, myself, until a few months ago. I’d like to share a bit about what happened to me after being placed on these medications, and how I successfully got off. Until recently, I was embarrassed to talk about my personal experiences publicly, as I’m a professional who specializes in anxiety and depression. Today, medication free, I feel better than ever before, and I am now on a mission to help my current clients get off medications, and to inform others through my writing about the dangers and pitfalls of starting antidepressants. This has not been an easy story to share as the stigma of depression and anxiety disorders remains strong, but I feel compelled to do so, in the hope that it will help others.

I was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa and when I was twenty-three years old, I suffered from a panic attack when I received my Master’s thesis back from my supervisor with a range of corrections on it. I felt a wave of panic wash over me and I can remember thinking something like, “I will never get this done; I have just spent five years of my life for nothing and I will not be given my degree because my thesis is no good.”

It had been two long and hard years of studying for my honors and masters degrees one after the other. Our lecturers joked with us before we started our honors year that we should take a photo of ourselves and give it to our family and friends because that would be all they would see of us for the next year! (They weren’t entirely wrong either.) I was very fatigued after not only completing the honors year but then, to my great surprise, being accepted to do my masters degree right afterwards. I can now see why I experienced a panic attack on that fateful day in February 2000: two years of intense studying, pressure, lectures, papers, exams, theses to complete, and all the while managing this with an underlying propensity for anxiety and stress. I remember curling up on the bed and shaking, thinking I might be having a heart attack. It shocked me to my core.

In addition to worrying about the thesis itself, I’d had two unsuccessful interviews for internships, which were highly competitive. My thoughts once again began to rumble: “What if I don’t find an internship? How will I ever fully qualify as a psychologist if I can’t get one?” I vividly remember cold-calling organisations to ask them about taking me on as an intern. I got an interview at one of them, and on the morning of the meeting, I was in the depth of my anxiety and depression and found it an incredible struggle to get out of bed and make my way to the interview. I was so worn out by the time I got there that I was sweating with anxiety and fear, convinced that the interviewer thought I was on drugs or just plain crazy. This sent me even further into despair.

After this experience, I got a referral to see a psychiatrist. She took a brief history and then suggested I start a course of antidepressants known as Ciprimal (Citalopram, or Celexa). At the time, Ciprimal was a newer antidepressant and I remember one of my close friends saying that he’d spoken to his GP about me, and was told that I would feel better taking them than I’d ever felt in my whole life. I took this to be an encouraging thought from a GP whom my best friend swore by and said was one of the best diagnosticians in Johannesburg! I have made that mistake more than once now: trusting doctors or other “professionals” without much questioning. Never again.

What happened next was something I was simply not prepared for, whether by my psychiatrist or anyone else for that matter. I went from feeling anxious and somewhat depressed to feeling like I had fallen into a deep, dark mental hole that I could not get out of. Every morning I awoke with abject panic in my body and mind at the thought of getting up to face the unknown day. It would generally ease somewhat towards the late afternoon and I would often feel almost normal in the evenings when everyone came home. Each night, I was so shocked by the dramatic change to my thinking and moods that I’d be absolutely convinced I’d feel better in the morning. However, every morning for the next six weeks, I struggled with my thoughts, deep feelings of anxiety and lack of ability to motivate myself to do some of the most basic things. Having a shower seemed like an ordeal to me. Shaving seemed like an impossibility! I remember thinking I would not wish this kind of anguish on my worst enemy. I feel the same way today.

So, what was happening to me? Well, I now know that in the first few weeks getting onto antidepressants, they completely alter the neurotransmitters in the brain, which then goes into defensive mode by decreasing the amount of serotonin receptors, which can actually create more anxiety and depression. I started to feel better after the six-week adjustment period and at the same time managed to secure an internship at a company in their human resource department. I ended up staying on Ciprimal for about a year before slowly tapering myself off it. I did not start taking antidepressants again until May 2004.

So what happened that led to me going back on? I’d flown from London back to South Africa to have a major jaw operation called an osteotomy (a nightmare of an operation that involves going in through the top of your teeth, slicing your skull and moving your top jaw forward so as to align better with the bottom jaw.) The recovery was one of the worst physical experiences of my life, and I was due back to London in a few weeks. The operation had set us back financially, and I was determined to make our London experience what we had initially imagined it would be, which including traveling a bit in Europe, and saving some money in order to immigrate to Australia. However, I was in intense pain, and was struggling psychologically with the changes that had been made to my face, and the fact that the trusted family surgeon we used had done some major nerve damage.

I could hardly feel my bottom lip and very little from my bottom lip to my jaw, and I was experiencing electric shock-like sensations running along the left side of my face and every time the tip of my tongue touched anywhere in my mouth. His response to this had been “Don’t worry boykie [a South African colloquial term for young man], it takes six months to heal properly.” Nine years later, I still experience the same unsettling sensations, but am now used to them, and have accepted them as part of my experience of life. At the time, however, I was desperate to resolve my pain, and wanted to get back to London and my wife as soon as possible, so I agreed with the doctor’s recommendation that I begin taking antidepressants for a short while to help me achieve this. And so in May 2004, I started taking them again.

Things settled down in London and after another six months we immigrated to Australia. Not long after being in Australia and finding a job, I started tapering off the antidepressant, but not without major withdrawal reactions. I started seeing a psychiatrist in Sydney and he seemed to be very helpful,but— and this is a very big ‘but’– he never once suggested that I look at coming off the antidepressants. I told him about the withdrawal reactions when I did try to come off and his view was that it was the depression returning or that I needed to be on them because of my “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. Seriously, knowing what I know now, I could scream! It was the antidepressants themselves driving my anxiety and the withdrawal symptoms making it all but impossible for me to get off. We tried Aropax (Paroxetine, or Paxil, which I now know is considered to have incredibly difficult withdrawal symptoms, including agitation and anger.) I knew something was wrong when I yelled at my two-year old son one day and I went straight back to the psychiatrist and told him I needed to switch. Again, he agreed to switch but it never once entered his mind to suggest coming off or how it could be done in the most safe manner possible.

So, here I was, trapped with anxiety that was being sustained for the most part by the actual medication that was supposed to be helping me. And I couldn’t seem to get off no matter how hard I tried or how slow I tapered off. I remember once using Dr. Joseph Glenmullen’s worksheet and process for getting off. I did it step-by-step and painstakingly slow, but when I stopped taking that last quarter of a tablet, the withdrawal reaction was too much to handle. But again, there was still doubt and confusion as to whether it was withdrawal or my “underlying condition” returning.

This went on for years and years. In looking back, I see that another trap I fell into with getting off antidepressants was thinking,“I can’t get off now, it’s not a good time.” But there was never a good time for me to come off antidepressants; something always came up, even this very last time, when I ended up successfully doing it.

Part of the reason that I was determined to get off the antidepressants was that I was starting to have some strange things happen, including thrashing at night and talking or yelling in my sleep. This was becoming somewhat dangerous for my partner! I had also noticed that my memory of the previous year was very sketchy in terms of simple things like whom I had been to a movie with, or what I or others had said, and it was starting to worry me. I went back to see the psychiatrist and told him about these issues. I specifically asked him if there was a connection to the antidepressants, and his reply was that he’d never heard of what I’d described as being related to the medication. Unsatisfied, I went to Google to do some research, and typed in “thrashing out and antidepressants”, or something to that effect. Sure enough, it came up. I also read through Dr. Joseph Glenmullen’s Prozac Backlash and right there in broad daylight was a discussion of how antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can cause memory loss. Not only that, but there is a legitimate concern that these medications might cause more permanent damage to the hippocampus, the site in the brain that is responsible for memory (see page 58 of Glenmullen’s book for more on this.) I was also very concerned that after being on antidepressants for nearly nine years, my brain might have experienced structural changes or permanent damage that would render it impossible for me to ever get off. These were very real concerns for me.

Around this time, I was in a training session to become a national workplace facilitator for Beyond Blue, an organisation in Australia whose primary purpose is the de-stigmatization of depression and anxiety. One of my colleagues happened to ask me if I’d read a book called Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker. I hadn’t heard of Robert but was intrigued. She didn’t tell me exactly what it was about aside from it being a brilliant account and history of psychiatric drugs themselves: where they came from, how the psychopharmaceutical industry started, etc. I thought this would be interesting and help develop my knowledge of the whole field in greater detail.

I ordered the book and when it arrived I was absolutely gripped and enthralled from page one. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who is currently taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. As the pages unfolded, I learned, for example, that the first antidepressants were discovered accidentally during research for other treatments. My life was changed forever when I read a very important fact that has been effectively hidden: these medications came before any understanding of why they appeared to help (or not help) people with anxiety and depression. And yet, we have all been told a very different story. Talk to a doctor or psychiatrist and they will likely tell you something along the lines of: “People with depression and anxiety need to take medication just as a diabetic needs to take insulin, because just as a lack of insulin causes diabetes, a lack of serotonin causes depression and anxiety.” And this story simply isn’t true.

What Anatomy of an Epidemic shows is that this theory of the cause of depression has never actually been proven. In fact, there are studies done that have found no difference whatsoever in the serotonin levels of depressed versus non-depressed people. How can this be, when it seems that every doctor, psychiatrist and pharmaceutical company is telling us that a lack of serotonin causes depression, and thus that these drugs are needed to cure depression and anxiety because they artificially increase serotonin? Well, in the case of the pharmaceutical companies, it seems pretty obvious to me why this is so. As for the doctors, I imagine this is what they’ve been told by the pharmaceutical companies and drug reps. Indeed, it seems like the easy solution: give the patient some tablets and they will be fine in four to six weeks, with no need to explore why the patient is depressed or anxious.

So, I told my psychiatrist that I was determined to come off no matter what. Very casually, he suggested that I go onto Prozac. Why? I asked. Because it has the longest half-life of all the antidepressants, I was told. The newer drugs take only a few days to leave one’s system, and thus can cause some major withdrawal reactions. In fact, Cymbalta (also made by the same company that makes Prozac, Eli Lilly) is the focus of a class-action lawsuit in the United States right now for not properly informing the public of the difficulty that patients have coming off it. Prozac, however, stays in your system for weeks. I was told that because of this, coming off of it can be easier than with other drugs. Whether this is true or not, I’m not sure, but I can say that in my experience, coming off of Prozac was different than my previous attempts at tapering off other drugs.

My usual experience after taking the last tablet involved electric shock sensations in my brain, vertigo (feeling like I might fall over), emotional upheaval, crying spells, massive anxiety and depressive thoughts. So, I was well-prepared for this and still determined to get off, because I wanted to see what happened on the other side. I needed to know if what I had been fighting against all those years—and seemingly losing the battle with—was actually antidepressant withdrawal and not an underlying condition or deficiency, whether physical or psychological.

Becoming Free and Finding Myself Again

I cannot at this stage tell you exactly why I was able to successfully come off. Was it the Prozac’s longer half-life, or was it because I completely shattered the belief that I had a lack of serotonin in my brain? Whatever the factors may have been, after I stopped taking Prozac completely, none of the usual physical withdrawal symptoms appeared. Some emotional reactions occurred, but I believe these were actually a part of my brain’s process of returning to its natural state, and my own process of becoming acutely aware of how I felt about things. I would get emotional about happy things as well as sad things. I also started to feel different in my body, almost like I was waking up. My physical senses seemed to be heightened. I just felt, well…like me again.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe there is never really a “good time” to come off antidepressants, and this was certainly true for me: just after I came off, my relationship of over one year ended quite abruptly, and it was quite complicated because a child was involved. If anything could have come along to take me down and force me back onto the medication it would have been this… but it didn’t. Yes, I grieved and went through the very difficult emotions of this situation, which included not being able to see my daughter more than once a week or once a fortnight. This could and should have caused me to fall apart if I were truly someone who suffered from anxiety and depression and who had a lack of serotonin, but this has not been the case. I have remained off the medication long past any potential for a recurrence. Each day that I’ve gone through without medication has felt like an absolute joy and personal victory.

I also attribute a lot of my successful withdrawal to using everything I teach and have written about in my book. Looking after myself physically with cardio-type exercise, and staying away from caffeine and other stimulants that can play havoc with moods and energy levels, has been helpful. Understanding my emotions and experiencing them instead of denying them. Using mindfulness and meditation to help me relax and achieve peacefulness in my life. Avoiding drinking too much alcohol, using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), and talking to people (including professional counselors).

I started to realize that there had never actually been anything wrong with me—and that I’d been put onto antidepressants for nine years because I’d been feeling anxious about a major life event— and I began to get angry. This anger has given me the determination to help people get off antidepressants and stay off them for life, because I know firsthand how hard it can be to get off, and the ongoing psychological and emotional trauma that it can put a person through.

 

The author has written a Part II to this story, which can be accessed here.

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95 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Mine is very similar so it is particularly helpful to hear. I finished my tapering 4 months ago. I am still feeling withdrawal symptoms (I think). It is very validating to hear that others experience withdrawal symptoms, and then an eventual return to feeling like oneself. I would be very curious to hear how long your taper lasted (mine was 1.5 years, after being on the medication – welbutrin – for 7 years) and how long after your last dose did it take for you to feel better. Thanks again!

  2. Congratulations for having the courage and self-awareness to question your treatment and to act on it successfully. By taking control of, and responsibility for, our issues and well-being, our spirits heal and we grow.

    I tapered off of 9 meds (after 20 years on one cocktail or another) over a period of two years, supported by herbs, acupuncture, and Qi Gong to regenerate organs and energy. Chinese Medicine is based on healing and restoration, rather than considering any condition to be chronic or degenerative.

    Still, withdrawal was rough (to say the least), and my body continued to expel toxins for a while, but it was well worth the effort and hard work this took. Within a few years, my health and life had transformed, and my life as a diagnosed ‘mentally ill’ person is now a thing of the past, after two decades of having accepted this illusion of me. I’ve since resolved all the trauma and toxic dynamics that had initially caused me to feel ungrounded, overwrought with anxiety, paranoid, and ill to the point of dysfunction. Naturally, this healed my heart and spirit, and therefore, my thinking became clear and focused once again.

    I find it impossible to imagine that spirit and heart wounds would respond to medication. I do believe, however, that living in such a cold society that would offer this as a ‘remedy’ would cause myriad problems for us all.

  3. Congratulations on being free! Thank you for sharing the information about Glenmullen’s book, I had no idea about the hippocampus damage, though I had suspected as much. Your story is very similar to mine, except that I was put on an SSRI for a pain condition. Experimental treatment. It was horrible. Thank you for writing this; this is never discussed enough, though these drugs continue to do terrible harm to people.

    I’m glad you used the diabetics with insulin example, as well. Doctors need to learn that unless it really IS diabetes, there is no reason to insist on this metaphor or to drug patients like this. They have no business telling patients they have an unproven disease/chemical process taking place without having sufficient proof and such dreadful treatments.

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful article. I also took Celexa for many years, and have been off of it (and xanax) for over a year now. My taper was short and very difficult, since no doctor would help me. Like you, I feel better than ever, and I can feel, think, and remember things again. Congrats on your victory over anti-depressants, and thanks again for giving people hope.

  5. I know they don’t work for everyone and I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience with them but for what it’s worth I believe antidepressants have saved my life. My depression was initially identified by my GP after I had been worked up for insomnia, decreased appetite and various other symptoms. On seeing a psychologist I was found to be in the midst of a major depressive episode and what was worse, I didn’t care. My doctor commenced an anti-depressant (pristiq) which I took as I had no spirit left to reject any easily fulfilled request – it was just easier not to fight. After several weeks I have the clearest memory of feeling the sun on my skin and enjoying it. I really think it was the best moment of my life. I felt this incredible, deep happiness and peace and I realised at that moment for the first time that I actually HAD depression. That I hadn’t felt anything even approaching happiness for at least 5 years. I have been taking my meds every day without fail for 8 months and I have never felt better. I can work harder, I’ve made new friends and I laugh and laugh every day. I now recognise when I am getting unwell because I have some happiness to compare it to and am able to implement the strategies my psychologist has given me instead of numbly nodding at her advice so she would stop talking and I could return to my bed as I did in my first visit before starting medications and in the first few weeks until they started working. For me, the medications are not a sole cure, but they have returned me to a state of having insight into my illness and motivation to use adjunctive therapies.

  6. Hi David,

    Thank you so much for your story. I have been surviving pretty awful depression for almost a year and had googled anti depressants when I came across your story. This has given me the strength to keep trying unassisted by meds which I have such a strong natural aversion to. I’m in Sydney too, I live a truly blessed life and want for so little, I’m active and healthy but can’t shake this feeling of inner sadness. You’ve given me the motivation to go back to CBT and work bloody hard at beating this bastard. I know I’ll get there. Thank you!

  7. David:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s very compelling. I have a couple of thoughts after reading it. My first thought is … My god, I wish that I could feel decent enough not to need something to alter my brain chemistry (or alter whatever it is inside me that is making me panicky and anxious and depressed all the time!). I’ve been on and off antidepressants for the past 15 years, and before that I was basically a walking panic attack. Though antidepressants have often not worked, when they have worked I at least had a vision of hope of what’s like to feel “normal,” to not worry about being homeless every day of my life.

    Another thought I had after reading your story is that you seem like you were pretty highly functioning before your first panic attack. I cannot imagine doing half the things you did when you were 23. I basically (in retrospect) have been in a state of constant anxiety and panic since I was a child. My mother was on and off tricyclics before she had me (this was in the 60s), and she is a mess too, so I likely inherited a terrible combination of genetics and environmental abuse that have shaped my brain into the mess that it is today. It sounds like you didn’t have issues of panic and anxiety and depression until you were in college. Perhaps if you grew up in a supportive environment, this was enough to fall back on after getting off the antidepressants. I cannot even imagine working a job full time, much less moving to another country and having a child.

    Anyway, it’s great that you found a way to feel good without the antidepressants. I am always searching for something (exercise, tai chi, yoga, the natural supplement of the hour, meditation, cognitive therapy, inner child work, and on and on) to make my anxiety go away, but nothing ever works. I am completely sympathetic to the views of people like Joseph Glenmullen, but since I am so desperate for a solution to my woes, simply pointing out the flaws of antidepressant drugs is not much of an option for me anymore.

    Chris

  8. I’m in the process of getting off the anti-depressant, Zoloft. I came across this article, and it gave me the confidence to continue the decrease of this pharmaceutical. I have been on it for 6 years. I have been counseling with a psychiatrist for the same amount of time. My doctor believes I need to continue taking the medication for the rest of my life. But at the start of the year I convinced my doctor that I want to start taking half the amount. I usually take 50mg and now am down to 25mg. I tried to do this a couple of years ago, and got depressed, so went back to 50mg. My doctor thinks it will happen again. This time I’m determined to prove her wrong. I am currently dealing with headaches, and moments of melancholy, but I figured it is my body reacting to the decrease. I am post menopausal, but have always exercised and am in good shape. My greatest struggle has always been the lack of self confidence, which tends to make me have negative thoughts. I have determined to have a better attitude, and to work on those things that disappoint me.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It encouraged me to know that I’m on the right track.

  9. I really appreciate your courage by sharing your story with us. I can’t believe that I am sharing a part of my experience with a community dedicated to changing attitudes about mental illness. I am in the process of going off Paxil & Wellbutrin. Paxil relieved my anxiety but increased my compulsion to overeat, gamble and watch TV. I am so sensitive to Paxil that a dose over 10 mg resulted in complete lethargy. After complaining about low energy to my dr, I was then prescribed Wellbutrin. I missed one dose of Paxil last November & suffered horrible flu like symptoms for 2 days. I called a friend at our psychiatry dept & their nurse confirmed I was experiencing “Paxil Flu.” Lovely. Recently I spent $1100 on an overeating program & realized I could have taught the course as I have been trying to end my overeating behavior for the last 40 years. I have explored mindfulness & spirituality for the last 4 years which has been somewhat helpful, but eventually I fall back into my negative thinking which results in anxiety, depression & feelings of hopelessness. I am a self help book junkie and currently have 70 ebooks loaded on my iPhone. Two months ago while looking at self help/spiritual books on Amazon, I stumbled upon an author, Y V Chawla. I downloaded one of his books “Understanding and Ending the problem making mechanism.” After reading just one chapter, a new understanding of how my brain and thoughts work took hold. He has several books which are short and simple, and I highly recommend reading them. I read through his books everyday because my programmed thoughts are so persuasive, but little by little this new understanding is taking hold. My relationships with people are changing (for the good!). I am experiencing joy, and a confidence has emerged that has enabled me to write about my life in this forum. And all this while I am coming off of these drugs. One last thing, I’m down to 5 mg of Paxil & asked my dr to prescribe me the drug in liquid form for a more exact tapering and found out that it isn’t in their formulary. They have to order it & will cost me $40. Well worth it in my mind!
    Anyway, thank you for letting me write about my experience and allowing me to read about yours.

  10. David,
    Enjoyed reading your story and it was very encouraging and gives many of us hope that it is possible to come off of antidepressants. I came across your site because I have an 82 year old father who fell in December due to (I think) antidepressants that he has been on for years. He didn’t break anything but injured his eye and has had to be in rehab. Now he is with me for awhile. I have watched my dad spiral in and out for years with his depression but never feeling good for long.After much research, I was shocked when I read that antidepressants can actually produce more depression. I have a goal to help him get off these drugs and am working with some supplements geared specifically for tapering. I am just starting and hoping it will go well. Have you ever heard of and elderly person coming off of these . He is on Celexa and Lamectal. Thanks

  11. Hi David
    Your last post said” I did everything I could to avoid needing to go back on and it was a nightmare when I did however I am now beginning to put the pieces back together slowly again.

    Are we to understand that you went back onto Cipranil? Just a question, and a concern for you that life dealt you such heavy blows when you were so vulnerable- I was so inspired by your story and your strength and efforts in remaining AD-free.
    If you were defeated by the withdrawals I have nothing but compassion for you.
    We have been victims of trust and belief in doctors, without understanding the full ramifications of what swallowing all those pills has done to us.
    The problem is far too big for me now – I have been on AD’s since I was 29 and I’m nearly 62 now. I remember how I tried so valiantly to stop taking Anafranil – an old tri-cyclic pre SSRIs. I got the brain jolts, dizziness, anxiety etc etc and of course was told by the doc that my anxiety/depression had returned and I needed the meds. This was in the 1980s, when psychiatry was in the very darker ages as opposed to the 21st century, when it is merely still in the dark ages.
    I was a copy editor on an eminent medical journal a few years later. I can still recall my elation when I edited a breakthrough article by a bio-medical research scientist, who described the results of his research into withdrawals from anti-depressant medication as, inter alia, “cerebral jolts, severe anxiety, flu-like symptoms ……… suicidal feelings and even suicide”.
    I felt vindicated, yet also very angry at the medical professionals who had put me on such powerful brain-altering medication without having the vaguest clue as to the devastating effects of withdrawal.
    At least the results of SSRI withdrawals are out in the public arena now, compared to 20 years ago. That does not remove the professional duty which I feel any prescribing doctor has to the patient to warn of the severe and sometimes life-threatening effects of withdrawal from the SSRIs which are prescribed so freely they may as well be aspirin (or Smarties)

  12. aw David, this article brought tears to my eyes. Never have I had more respect for an Psychologist than you..You coming out with the truth that many deny even exist. Im a girl from sweden, was on psyk drugs for 6 years.. the first 2 years was fine, then my hell started, it took me 4 years to be free from it and in the end it was only me who made my own tapering schedule and was fighting alone because what i was experience, no one could tell me what it was if it wasn´t rebound depression. Im free now 9 months, the way here have been so rough, ive lost my boyfriend, friends, jobs, ye you name it.. am I better? YES! My memory is back, i have no longer athasia which was the worst, i remember i went into emergancy named up around 30 different symtoms, i ve been to hell and came out on the other side! This was the craziest experience i ever been thru, and today no one can ever put me on any psykmedicine again . Im still on revocery, wow my ssri really mixed up my fully brain..

    ALL my respect for you David. I admire you really much.
    I am absolutelly also sure this matter will be more clear in the future when hopefully more Psychologist trying to get rid of it and will see that what we all are talking about is nothing we imaging.

    Love from sweden!

  13. Hi David,

    Thank you so much for sharing your warm and moving story with us. I came across it this morning, because I have been searching the internet for articles on major mood and anxiety disorders.

    I have been struggling with depression and anxiety for a very long time. I think that the noticeable signs began when I was a teenager and now I’m almost 42! My reality is that it never goes away for good, it is always lurking there somewhere, comes and goes, but in different intensities and lengths of duration. The impact that major depression and anxiety has had on my life is mammoth. Everything is affected, such as: your personal life can become chaos, your job and career can go down the toilet, relationships can be destroyed, simple daily functioning can become an enormous challenge and death can come to you.

    My brother also had to cope with major depression and in 2012, he took his own life. This had a devastating impact on me and my family. We are left with so many questions and not enough answers. His death changed something in me, I am now far more cynical and skeptical than ever before. I have this void inside me that cannot be filled. It has been almost 18 months since his death, but I am still grieving and still feel so psychologically tortured. Nothing seems to work in making me feel better, sure there are those quick-fixes, but I haven’t come across a good long-term treatment plan yet.

    I have tried so many antidepressant medications and have persevered with them all, but never experienced any positive changes. Some talk of the placebo effect, perhaps I am too much of a skeptic to experience this. I know that it is important to look at some of the root causes of my mood disorder. Growing up in a very patriarchal society where hegemonic masculinity was seen as the ‘norm’ and also the most ideal form of manliness, did impact severely on my self-esteem and holistic health. I am gay and always felt like a second class human being in this very harsh society. The challenges that society imposed on my brother appeared even greater. He was a heterosexual male, but also didn’t fall into this hegemonic masculinity group. According to statistics, suicide is much higher among men than women, except in China. We live in a society that promotes this tough, macho, career orientated, materially successful and highly competitive idea of what it means to be male. When one does not fit into this category or you fall short, you feel like an outcast and you also feel lessor male.

    What has my bother’s depression cost us? Well, I’ve lost my dear brother and best friend in the world forever. My mother and father have lost a son that they love very much. My siblings are also coping with this devastating loss and my 13 year old niece has lost her father forever. My niece was abandoned by her biological mother when she was only 9 years old and now her father is gone. My mother now raises my niece, she is a mother, a father and a grandmother to her. Such conflicting roles and such a challenging path to be on as an old age pensioner. My parents are divorced, so my mother is actually raising my niece as a single parent and grandparent. My niece’s biological mother has been absent from her daughter’s life and even the tragedy of my brother’s death hasn’t brought her closer to her daughter. Life can truly suck sometimes and there is no thing as justice, only just us!

    What has depression cost me? I have no career at age 42. I am unemployed and possibly unemployable, because I have large gaps on my curriculum vitae. I tried to complete my degree, but eventually gave up after the umpteenth time. I have lost all my friends and none were there to support me through my brother’s horrible death. I now call them ‘fair-weather friends’ and I’m afraid to say, that is exactly what they are. When everything is going well in one’s life, then people want to be your friend, but people run a mile when they hear that you are down in the dumps. My self-esteem has slowly been stripped from me over the years and it is often so subtle that you don’t even realize it is happening. I have social anxiety now and the nail in the coffin was my last unsuccessful attempt with full-time studies at university. When you are a mature aged student who is twice as old as everybody in your class and then also has to contend with disrespect and being laughed at, this can badly damage self confidence. I never want to set foot in university ever again, it was a hideous experience. People do not realize how difficult it is for mature aged students to go back to school. They should be treated well, but instead the exact opposite occurs and you feel more like a freak! I have become a bit of a hermit now and do not like going out and hate socializing. Fortunately, I am in a same-sex marriage with a very supportive husband and I have a very loving family. Friends? What is that? That word means nothing to me anymore as I have been terribly hurt by so-called friends, but in reality, they must have been ‘fair-weather friends’.

    The point of my response is that I have found that antidepressant medication did not work for me and I have tried many different kinds over the years. I would take my pills religiously every single day and continued on each medication regime for well over six months or a year. I stopped Prozac about two months ago, because after taking this medication for six months, I found no benefits at all. In fact, my maladaptive behaviours were exacerbated and I felt far worse. Eventually, I stopped and actually feel better not being on the medication. I’ve read many medical and scientific journals which confirm that some people have a placebo effect when taking antidepressants and that it is not always the case that the properties of the antidepressant medications can be attributed to their improved mood. Further more, I spent a fortune on Prozac and various other antidepressants, yet it was actually money down the toilet, because I didn’t get better. These pharmaceutical giants are making millions out of selling this medication and I’m sorry to say this, but they don’t always work on everybody. I won’t go as far as to say that it is a big lie, but I will caution against people who willingly believe everything that their doctor tells them. This can be dangerous, denial can have disastrous effects. My brother was also on antidepressants for many years and saw a psychiatrist, but these are NOT magic pills nor do psychiatrists have magic treatments available. I have heard that cognitive behavioural therapy, electro convulsive therapy, exercise, following a healthy diet, being passionate about an interest and avoiding destructive lifestyle patterns can help with treating major mood disorders.

  14. David, I was so touched by your story. I have intimate experience with SSRI’s through my sister who was given her first prescription during menopause for normal menopausal systems and today she is not even the person I knew growing up and the woman who was a wonderful wife, mother, daughter and sister. I lost her years ago to these drugs. I myself (under pressure from a counselor during a stressful period of my life) took Lexapro only to end up in the ER 3 days later with stroke range blood pressure after the drug caused a 72 hour straight panic attack. I have never been so scared in all my life. I’ve done nothing since but read, research, read and research and have come to the conclusion that these drugs are so dangerous. I want my sister back but it’s too late for her now. 7 years after starting her first med, she was diagnosed with bi-polar and now she is on a cocktail of drugs you would not believe. I have to laugh at the bi-polar diagnosis because it’s not a condition that she had before taking medication. It was drug induced. I miss her so much. Her family all fell for the “try this drug” tactic and they will not admit that the drugs may have caused all this. I’ve spent 20 years watching her decent into mental hell and there is nothing I can do. Thank you for your story. There are so many of us out there. If we speak up, then we are labeled as callous or uncaring to the mentally ill. We have nowhere to go for actual help. I’m fine now but it took a while to get over my experience with Lexapro. Again, thank you!

  15. Dear David! I came across this site by chance, while looking for side effects of antidepressants, as my sister has just been prescribed Paroxetine by a psychiatrist, after telling him that she has been experiencing panic attacks. I haven’t studied medicine, but, to tell you the truth, I’m quite skeptic about the use of drugs, as they try to tackle the symptoms, not getting to the core of the problem. I’m an anxious person myself, worrying about things; and it is probably due to both genetics and my personal history. I don’t want to see myself as an ill person; I’d rather think that I am special the way I am, just like any single human in this world. Who says that we should be “walking smiles” every day; life is made of ups and downs, we just have to accept it. Without darkness we wouldn’t appreciate light… I truly believe that the humans have the key to healing themselves; it’s just that it takes a lot of time, courage, energy and faith to undertake the path of salvation from one’s internal hell. I’ve recently read the book The power of now (Eckhart Tolle), and it simply opened my mind. Thank you very much for sharing your story with us. Greeting to you and to all the people who shared their thought in this forum. Take great care of yourselves because you’re all worthy just the way you are…

  16. I have been Google searching citalopram withdrawal and came across this. I am a working mum and my husband of 10 years and my children have not known me without this horrid medication. tonight I came home and abused you kids and husband and broke down crying. I feel like I’m going for mad. I’m physically I’ll feel mentally exhausted anxious foggy in my head dizzy depressed and awful. I have been tapering off now for 3 weeks. have cut down from 20mg a day to 20mg every 3rd day. I feel like the symptoms a wil never subside. I have been on these since 19. . I’m 35. doctors want me to stay on and they are not helpful. I am appealing to anyone for help and advice as I’m desperate and I want my family to have the mother they deserve. I am not sure how I can do it and if these symptoms will go! going to another type is not an option for me. Please help!

  17. Madwomaninaus, because of the much shorter half life of citalopram it is not recommended to take doses in an every other day or every third day fashion . A much better way would be cutting the pills and taking a consistent dose everyday. Ex. 20mg starting then down to 17.5 for a few weeks, then 15, 12.5 etc. This will minimize any symptoms. Good luck and stay strong!

  18. Hi David!
    I am new on here. I noticed you have not posted since February. Upon reading your last entry it sounded as though you may have had a relapse and had considered returning to the anti depressant. So, what has happened? did you relapse or make it through?
    I myself have gotten off of anti depressants several time and relapsed each time after a few month or more.. Sometimes though I never got through the withdrawals and had to return. Presently I again am weaning considering another option of treatment, feeling the withdrawal effects, trying to keep hanging in there for better days-but I do have an open mind if I have to return. I know when I first tried to get off of them I had very bitter feelings about using them and their damage. I was very critical about them. But I come from a family with chemical imbalances and witness daily the effects of not getting help with medicine when you need it. I now think-It must be far worse living a life of emotional turmoil just because you are against medical treatment than taking medicine to improve things? I have to say when my medicine is the best fit for my chemistry I feel better than I ever have. Healthier mentally and able to make good decisions with out all of the anxiety, and irritable feelings from withdrawals. I do not like the side effects that some brought me-mostly weight gain especially, but at least I could enjoy doing things and smile at life. Without it I am not so happy. At one time I had to be hospitalized for several days just to get through the withdrawals and only to start another antidepressant-that was when coming off of the paxil for the third failed attempt. So me-I just want to feel well and enjoy my family and life-whether I have to take medicine or not as long as it helps not worsens my issues. I am guess I am saying if we can benefit from it great. If not then we don’t take it. But even I needed to reevaluate my own thinking about to take them or not to take them. Also if you see some of childhood self in your child perhaps you might look at it differently. You see sometimes all of the education and self esteem building attempts do not change your chemistry of anxiety and depression. Just as the fact that some people can suffer many of the same type of life problems each of us deal with-but never have to deal with depression. They push through and get to the other side without that battle. Maybe they simply do have a stronger chemistry balance. I know my husband has has to deal with many of my ups and downs, on and offs of medicine, back and forth with work due to the imbalances, etc.-but he never once fell into depression. Did he get frustrated-for sure. But not depressed. Who knows but maybe the best we can do for our children who do inherit some of our genetics is give them tools to help themselves without accepting the stigma that comes with it. We are all different may we all succeed at finding what we need for a more functional life for us and those we love and love us.

  19. Hi David, your story inspired me to get off anti-depressants. I was put on anti-depressants at the age of 22 and I am now 30. If I look back at reasons for the anti depressants being given to me (relationship break-up, failed job attempt) I cant help to think that I was just going through normal feelings a lot of people would have. I live in South-Africa and was proud to see that you are originally also from here. I was on Nuzak(Fluoxitine) and started going off slowly in December 2013 as I was feeling that I did not need it anymore , my emotions were somehow blocked off and was not truly experiencing everything, I was also worried about what I read in connection with damage (memory loss etc..) caused by anti depressants. I went through not being able to sleep at night to extreme irritability, it was quite a battle. I have now been of the meds for 3 months and feel that I am doing ok. I feel more fragile and get my up and down days. My relationship of 5 years has also taken a knock in the last few months and I have thought about going back onto the meds if this is the cause. I hope that everything will work out as I dont want to go back to a.d’s. I think that when you go of anti-depressants all the issues that they were masking come to the survace and you are forced to face them, which in the long run I think will be better than supressing it with a pill until the day comes that, that pill doesnt help anymore and the problem is worse than ever. At the moment only time will tell what lies ahead for me and I am just taking it day by day. I am also curious to know how your battle is going as I noticed in your last post that you had gone back onto Anti Depressants. Thank you for sharing your story as it has had an impact on my life. I wish you all the best.

  20. I have been on and off a few antidepressants over the last 20 years (34 now). I fight to stay off them mainly because I don’t like the side effects and don’t want to rely on drugs to get me through the day. I have tried natural remedies with little success (trypophan, 5htp, etc).

    In 2011, I also went through Jaw Surgery and it was absolutely horrific. I haven’t been the same person since and it has magnified my anxiety/depression ten fold. My depression made me think I needed the surgery done when in fact I could of just lived with a bad bite much easier than dead nerves.

    Anyhow, I recently came off Remeron and I fight physical symptoms of depression daily now. No appetite, low energy, hot flashes, poor sleep quality. I am close to scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist because I just can’t fight this on my own anymore. The remeron was a good fit for me.. Gave me my appetite and energy, but had horrible stomach problems on it. Either diareah or a tightness in my stomach.

    I don’t know how I can live another 20 years like this…

    • Hi all fellow AD sufferers,
      There is a reason you can’t get off this medication. I should know because I’d tried unsuccessfully for years to get off of Effexor. The reason is because Antidepressants trap all the serotonin you have in your brain and prevent it from being uptaken like the brain is supposed to do. This, in turn, tells the brain to stop making anymore and just keep the little you had to begin with locked in. Thus, your depression heals. When you stop taking the medication, you may feel alright for a while until all the medication is out of your system. This usually takes a couple of months. However, when it is out of your system, your brain is still lazy and doesn’t make anymore, thus your depression can come back worse than the time before because now you have no serotonin left at all!!! This usually happens with people who take this medication for a number of years and not with more short-term usage.
      There is only one way to make the brain go back to normal and that is to take something that will actually make more serotonin in your brain until it learns to do it by itself again. For this you need to take 5-htp, an amino-acid found in all drug and natural food stores. The process can take up to a couple of months to complete, but the 5-htp acts as an antidepressant while you are waiting. After a couple of weeks or months, your brain will top up on its supply of serotonin and send you a signal to stop taking the supplement (headache, confusion, irritability and most other symtoms associated with a return of depression). You have to be ready for these signals because you may feel tempted to up your dose when what you should be doing is the opposite. You may also feel really good after just one dose and think you don’t need it anymore. BIG MISTAKE!!! You have to wait until you get the signal from your brain to stop or the depression will come back.
      Also, while you are doing this, you have to take mesures to keep your new serotonin from being depleted again. This means avoiding the most common culprits – sugar, alcohol, tobacco, high stress. Also, you will need to take an omega-3 joy supplement and decrease your omega 6 intake. Omega 6’s are needed for good health, but too much causes inflammation in the body and brain and thus depression and anxiety. Omega 3’s from FISH OIL CAPSULES not PLANT will get rid of all inflammation in 2-3 months. Also, when I say sugar, I also mean starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice, etc. No, you don’t need to cut it out completely, but cut out enough to get you in the 100-150g a day range and eat more healthy fat. By the way, eating conventional vegetables and meat plastered in pesticides and hormones will cause depression as well. Basically, with regards to nutrition, it’s not hard to understand. EAt what people ate years ago before we started having all these health problems. Is it really surprising there is so much depression now when we are killing ourselves with food? I know it is a lot of work to live off medication and so much easier to take a pill and not change anything in your lifestyle, but that is the price to pay to feel better in the long run. Oh, and by the way, gluten we find in bread now is not the same as 50 years ago. It has been modified and absolutely can cause depression, extreme fatigue and anxiety. I tested negative for gluten allergy but when I cut most of it out, I realized I was gluten sensitive, which there is no test for. Bye bye constant fatigue and mood swings!!! Just don’t cut it all out of your diet because trust me you will get withdrawal from it worse than anything you have experienced for AD medication. It may take a week before you do, but when it comes it is not pretty. If you have any other questions, I would suggest you buy the bood ” the mood cure”. Everything I told you is explained in great detail in this book. It is why I have been off the meds for a couple of years now.
      Good luck!!!

  21. Mikeymike,

    Telling someone to take 5HTP while they are on an SSRI/SSNI stands a great chance of leading to Serotonin Syndrome.

    https://www.google.com/#q=5-htp+ssri+interaction

    The only way to get off of antidepressants safely is to taper very slowly. Personally, I think tapering 10% of current dose every 3 to 4 weeks is the best way to go. For more information, go to http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/topic/1024-why-taper-by-10-of-my-dosage/

    • I never said to take 5-htp while on the meds, the whole point is to use it to get off of them!!! If my comment made you think that, then thank you for replying because you are right in what you said and serotonin syndrome is a dangerous reality of taking both TOGETHER.
      As for tapering, yes it is necessary, but I did that for a year and it made no difference to the depression coming back. It’s the last little dose that makes that difference for some reason. After you take the last dose and the withdrawal symptoms come, you take the 5-htp and it will lessen the withdrawal.

  22. Sorry, I misread your post. But it is still my understanding that after you take your last dose of the SSRI, you need to wait a certain amount of time before taking the 5HTP.

    Also, many people have found that taking 5HTP aggravates their withdrawal symptoms instead of lessening it. Just saying.

    Tapering slowly doesn’t guarantee you won’t have depression as it can also result for reasons having nothing to do with withdrawal. But even if it does have something do with withdrawal, my guess is it would have been alot worse if you had tapered quickly.

    • Umm, that’s interesting about having to wait to take the 5-htp. From everything I’ve read and with my own personal experience, you just need to wait for the withdrawal symptoms to start before taking it. That’s what I did and it worked wonderfully. I’d didn’t have hardly any withdrawal at all compared to the other times.
      I’ve never heard of 5-htp aggravating withdrawal unless you are just reacting to the 5-htp regardless of being in withdrawal or not. To know that, you have to try it.
      As for the withdrawal, I’ve done both – cold turkey and slow taper. Neither made a difference to the severity of my withdrawal. But again, the point of my original post was not to question the tapering process. It’s what to do when after a period of time after stopping the meds the depression comes back. That is what has happened to the people who have commented here and that is the reason for my post.
      What is your experience with long-term antidepressant use and how did you come off and stay off? I’m assuming you’ve gone through this or you wouldn’t be reading this.

      • MikeyMike,

        Sorry, I didn’t see this post initially.

        I slowly tapered 4 meds over 4 years. Knowing what I now know, I wasted way too much money on supplements but like everyone else, I was desperate.

        Rebound depression occurs for reasons that have nothing to do with a chemical imbalance and many times are due to withdrawal symptoms. Taking an supplement other than perhaps fish oil which many people can’t even take is not going to solve the problem.

        They might want to try light therapy and gentle exercise in sunlight. As always, our mileage will vary.

        Also, someone can be depressed because life sucks and has nothing to do withdrawal.

        • Yes, I agree with what you are saying and no, supplements will not work for everybody. Nothing works for everybody; however, my solution did work for ME. And if it worked for me, it can very well work for somebody else as well.
          Like I mentioned in my longer e-mail, I had to change other things as well to keep my brain in balance in the long run, BUT none of it worked before I took the 5htp and let my brain go back to ” normal ” after antidepressant use. If not, I would’ve gone back to the meds like I did many times before and always 2-3 months after the initial withdrawal. The depression was worse everytime and does suggest a of type of rebound effect that the meds do seem (notice I didn’t say does) have on SOME people. I was in therapy when it happened on multiple occasions and that did not work. There was absolutely no perceivable reason for why it was happening and my therapist never understood why either. When I took the 5htp, it got better and after 2 months I stopped taking it and the depression never came back.
          Again, I emphazize the fact that I did nothing different besides that and did not come to some miraculous recovery in therapy or discover the secret meaning to life. I had done all the work I needed to in therapy and on other levels and could not see why I could not get off the meds.
          So, I will say it again. If the rebound effect does exist (no there is no proof it exists, but then again the same goes for believing in GOD – that belief, whether true or not, still works for many) then the 5hpt could very well be the answer. Light therapy and exercise will probably not help in THIS case because you are trying to fix a problem caused by the meds and that can take something more direct on the molecule that was affected – in the case of antidepressants it is serotonin. 5hpt works directly on that molecule. If you don’t have this problem, then light therapy as well as all the other things that we see all over the internet, in books, etc can probably help. The only other solution is to wait it out and hope you don’t kill yourself as I almost did.
          By the way, if your depression is caused because of the fact that “life sucks” as you put it, then you need to do a lot of soul searching because life will never be easy for the vast majority of people, whether we think some people have it better than us or not. Perception is not always reality. However, many people do manage to concentrate on the good and not the bad. And, trust me the bad can be aweful in some cases.
          Anyways, I am not going to keep arguing back and forth on the issue anymore because I have solved my issue with depression. it worked for me and that will never change. We can leave it up to other people now if they want to try it – I think we have exhausted the potential pros and cons of the topic, which is probably a good thing because we have hopefully answered any potential questions that may come up.

  23. I’ve been off Prozac for about 4 months now. My anxiety is off the wall & I cry a lot for any little thing. I have a very loud humming in my ear too. I been taking Rosavin (Rhodiola 200mg) but it doesn’t seem to do anything. Willthe 5HTP help?

    • Yes, the 5-Htp could definitely help you. You have been off the meds for over 4 months and are having rebound depression because your brain is unable to regulate its own serotonin because of being on antidpressants. Start taking the supplement and take it for as long as you need until your brain tops off with its supply of serotonin. You should start feeling better right away but will need to continue taking the supplement for up to 2-3 months, if not as soon as you stop taking it, the depression comes back. Let us know how you feel after taking the supplement.

    • If a person quits smoking or cigarettes, the physical symptoms take a month to end, or in other words, it takes a month for the brain to fix itself. Like if you break your leg it takes some time for the bone to heal.
      Then after the bone heals, the muscles have shrunk for not being used, so you could call the leg “diseased”, but all it is, is the muscles need to be exercised again. This healing takes time.
      I.M.O. taking more drugs to fix withdrawal from other drugs is a mistake.

      Look at the other living creatures on the planet. What do they do? They eat, poop, fight and reproduce. Humans have to eat (healthy), fight something/someone, and have sex, just like all the other animals on the planet.

      • This is a very dangerous comment to make, Markps2. What happens if the person kills themselves inbetween? By the way, 5-htp is not a drug – it is a supplement and was the only way I could avoid going back on the medication. It helps wonderfully.
        As a side note, I would say that leaving time for your bones to heal after an accident is not at all the same thing. If your brain is working fine, you can use logic and say that things will be better with time, even though it may be a difficilt recovery. If your brain is not working properly, all logic goes out the window and you CANNOT stay calm and collected.

        • Mikeymike,

          I have to agree with MarkPS although not for the same reasons. Many people in withdrawal have greatly found that taking 5HTP aggravates their symptoms and doesn’t help.

          If you are going to try it, my advice would be to start with 25mg and increase no faster than every 3 to 7 days. And pay careful attention to symptoms and don’t assume that because something isn’t a drug, that isn’t harmless.

          Regarding someone being suicidal if they don’t take 5htp, you’re succumbing to the same faulty arguments as psychiatry in assuming that there is a chemical imbalance with serotonin. And worsening someone’s withdrawal symptoms could also make someone suicidal.

        • @ Mikeymike Regarding “What happens if the person kills themselves in between? ”
          There is two steps in suicide, not one. The person feels something unbearable first, then second, decides on a action. A person can not feel suicide, they can think of the action of suicide to solve the problem they have.

          I maintain the broken bone analogy works. If you suddenly stop drugs, it is the equivalent of removing the cast ( on a broken bone) and expecting to walk with shrunken muscles.
          For myself, I think a quick as possible quitting is the best method. The longer the cast is on, the longer the time to heal.

          “The mind should control the body. When you move your fingers, when you move your toes, that’s done by the mind. Remember this: your body is your slave; it works for you. If you had people working for you, employees, and it was very important what condition they were in, boy, you’d make sure you fed them right, you exercised them, gave them everything they needed so they could do things for you, right?” said Jack LaLanne.

        • Yes AA , it can take longer to withdraw.
          There are two factors like in smoking, physical addiction and psychological addiction/conditioning.

          If you are trying to quit smoking and you switch brands of cigarettes (switching drugs), you still have a physical addiction.

          If your brain is permanently damaged from the psychiatric drugs ( I think mine is), there is no solution, but acceptance. Searching for another drug ( the external fix) is unlikely to heal the damage. Healing comes from your bodies ability to repair itself, and from your soul/mind.

  24. Also, don’t forget: After a couple of weeks or months, your brain will top up on its supply of serotonin and send you a signal to stop taking the supplement (headache, confusion, irritability and most other symtoms associated with a return of depression). You have to be ready for these signals because you may feel tempted to up your dose when what you should be doing is the opposite. If, however, you stop the supplement and your depression really does get worse, then it is because you need to up you dose.

    • lem4,

      As an FYI, my rule is if I don’t understand the advice being provided such as telling someone to take a supplement or I don’t know what information to chose, I don’t do anything. I hear your desperation but unfortunately, as I have found through experience, that can lead to bad choices and make things worse.

      Again, you are 4 months out from your last dose of Prozac and are probably still dealing with withdrawal issues. You need to be patient and let your body heal.

      If you need support, I would go to http://survivingantidepressants.org/index.php?/index

  25. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been on Wellbrutin and Lexapro for the last 7 month’s. I had a lot going on and the anxiety and depression was so much that I just wanted to be numb. Well that’s what I got along with all the “fun” side effects. I told myself I’d rather be sick and ” happy ” than to be sick and sad. I’ve told myself that lie for what feels like more than 7 months.The truth was that I’m not happy and I’m always feeling sick from side effects. I didn’t realize until I read your story that I my loss of memory was something linked to the medication.

    What bought me to this site at 3am was due to me having an emotional break down after work. After feeling sick all day (lightheaded, nauseated, weak and drowsy ) aka “the side effects ” working in retail during the holidays I came home and lost it. I thought to myself thesepills don’t work. There a ball and chain. So Ive decided to get off the meds. Your post has informed me about the serious withdraw symptoms to watch out for. But I’m ready to feel again. Thanks for all the information!

    Candace

  26. Thanks so much for the re-assuring Story. I have had the same issues with Doctor’s advice for years. I am currently 8 days Off Mirtazapine, prescribed about 6 years ago for Anxiety.
    I had been to about 6 different Doctors over this 6 year period (due mainly to changing residential location), and get the same responses to me saying “I do not want to take this drug but the “withdrawals” are really bad”.
    1. You can just stop taking them!
    It is very much like they all, just completely ignore the fact that you tell them you have tried that, and it sure as hell does not work, and in fact is likely quite dangerous.
    During the last couple of years i have reduced my dose from 30mg to 15mg, and as mentioned, tried ceasing all together which was no pleasant at all, and within 2-3 days, back on them.
    I am not going to list all the effects of using this type of SSRI medication, as if you are reading this you are likely more than aware already.
    I was completely an utterly over being on this medication, the fog, the flattening out of spirit, the taking away of me, the lethargy, sexual drive, weight gain….all of it.
    Seeing as i was getting little assistance from medical practitioners, i have had to make some very precise and decisive plans.
    I mentally prepared myself for the oncoming symptoms of getting off SSRI, i stopped drinking alcohol, anything with caffeine in it. Assessed my meditation practices, diet and lifestyle.
    Then i stopped the 15mg Dose of Mirtazapine.
    Sleep immediately went out the window, that is the biggest struggle so far, 8 days in.
    I am not sure if i am going to yo-yo at all, but up until yesterday, it has been a very difficult week, feeling like an Alien in my own body.
    I hope things stay the way i feel today or get even better, as i am feeling the Fog of SSRI lift off me, i am feeling the sparkle of “ME” coming back, i know i could not be on this escape path without the lifestyle changes, diet.
    I am expecting to throw my own “Welcome Back Phoenix” party when i am well clear of these things, as that’s is my goal…to get “ME” back.
    Appreciate your inspiring story, there is light at the end of the SSRI Tunnel…well, when you are not on them.

  27. I don’t see my last comment so I’m putting it back here again.
    I have been off Prozac since August 1st 2014. Went on 5HTP 100 mg daily on Dec 7th & started eating healthier foods. I also exercise daily. I have felt no relief at all from the depression & anxiety. I checked out the road back program which seems to be all about supplements. I checked them out and they all have possible side effects also. I don’t want to trade one side effect for another so what’s next. My counselor tells me this is not withdrawal because it’s been too long since I’ve been off Prozac. Call it what you want, I know it’s real.

    • lem4,

      The DSM, thus most of the psychiatric practitioners, are completely wrong about how long the antidepressant withdrawal symptoms can last (MiA does have articles about this). You’re right, what you are experiencing is real.

      Personally, I’ve had brain zaps, now a known adverse effect of antidepressant withdrawal, since 2000 or 2001. Eating healthy and exercise will do you well, I don’t know that lots of supplements will help though.

      They psychiatrists are being misinformed about the horrible withdrawal effects of their drugs, just keep exercising and eating healthy. Best of luck to you in your recovery journey.

  28. Spot on, sir! What a breath of fresh air. I’m currently discontinuing Effexor XR 150mg and am down to my last few mg or “beads”. I’ve use the tapering method of opening the capsule and removing beads for the past 6 months or so. The last month has been a challenge but I’m determined. Happy to have found this article and your site. Great information. I think one of the major keys to defeating medication is reading articles like this and knowing there are people that have done it and are doing it on a daily basis and are succeeding! Thanks for your bravery and candidness. It wasn’t futile! 🙂

  29. Always good to read about other people’s experience. I’m in the medical field so I can really identify with the difficulties of speaking out. I’m currently withdrawing from AD very slowly after 10+ years on them, and have found the survivingantidepressants site very helpful. I also can’t speak highly enough of using a form of the drug which makes it easy to taper the dose. I switched from citalopram tablets to the equivalent dose (about half) of escitalopram liquid specifically to taper the dose, because I’ve had horrendous problems trying to withdraw several times previously on the tablets. I’m down to 10% of my original dose, with a fair way to go yet due to percentage tapering.

    My psychiatrist is very supportive, but I’m meeting surprising resistance from my GP, who is reluctant to accept that my symptoms are withdrawal and is trying to convince me that I should increase the dose again or at the very least not go off them while I’m dealing with some other (non-depression) issues with a psychologist. As you say, there is never a good time to go off AD, but I’d have thought that doing it while being closely monitored by a professional who can actually teach you non-drug strategies to manage symptoms as they occur has to be about the best plan there is.

    I’ve avoided supplements for 2 reasons – one being that anything which has a genuine effect has the potential for side effects and withdrawal effects, and I have had enough problems with one drug and its interactions; and secondly, I hate having to take stuff every day – I’m not so much an ideological objector to artificial vitamin/mineral/other supplements as lazy.

    The AD have caused quite a few problems which have only been recognised in retrospect as side effects rather than illness effects (which is why I was continued on the drugs for so many years), including worsening depression, mental agitation, suicidal thoughts of an unusual and violent nature, and a suicide attempt (which, obviously, I survived). One thing I’ve noted is that it can be quite difficult using personal stories as evidence for illness vs AD side effects because many people are firmly in either the biological-model-pro-drug camp or the big-pharma-conspiracy-anti-drug camp and will tend to give anecdotal accounts which are rather biased toward their own point of view. One group of people that seem to give a very unbiased account of these side effects as they are occurring are those who are new to the drugs, experiencing symptoms with no preconception that they might be side effects and asking for advice on internet forums. These seem to give a very clear picture that the agitation-weird thoughts-suicidal obsession-suicide group of symptoms are a drug-induced effect which is more common in younger patients but which can most definitely occur in the over 30’s (a group to which I belong and which drug companies still don’t recognise in the black box warnings).

  30. This is not a reply to the above. I just need to ask advice.
    Been off Prozac since August 1,2014.
    I took 5htp for over 3 months with no effect. I saw that it was one of the fake brands (Natures Bounty) that’s all over the news so I switched brands. I went to Puritans Pride. First dose of 2 100 mg made me light headed, dizzy and nausious. I changed to 1 twice a day instead. I’ve been taking it for a couple of weeks. I had some decent days but mostly bad days. The last few days I am so bad I am ready to go back on Prozac which I don’t want to do but I can’t live like this any more. I can’t handle the anxiety and depression anymore. I’ve also been having really bad thoughts that just pop up in my head for no reason. This is the really bad part. Should I go off the 5htp? Do you do it cold turkey or slowly?

    • Forgot one thing. I have an appointment March 20 with a Chiropractic Neurologist who deals in all kinds of mental disorders with exercise and nutrition. I am praying this will work for me. I just wish the appointment were sooner but it’s all I could get. I will leave info here on how I made out. I’m certainly hoping it will work for me. It’s worked wonders with my grandson who has Aspergers. They do deal with anxiety and depression too providing it’s because of your brain not working correctly. I really feel that Prozac had messed up my brain!!

  31. Hi, so I read this blog in Dec 2013, and decided to go off prozac. I felt weak that I needed to take that pill every morning. I went to see my gp and he said that it is fine to start tapering off. It was not an easy process and I suffered with up and down days, not sleeping well, agitation,irritability etc. In March 2014 I had taken my last pill and was looking forward to a life without ad’s. The next couple of months went well and I wondered if I had been taking the meds for no reason the last few years. In August 2014 things at work started to get busy and I had a very stressful situation. I noticed that I was getting more and more anxious every day. I was completely stressed out for every little thing. Over the next few months I was so anxious that I could not think straight. My mind kept spiraling into an abyss of negative thoughts. I would find my self just staring at the branch of a tree as it swayed in the wind while i thought about how nothing was going to work out. I also noticed that it was getting difficult for me to be around people. My self esteem dropped and it was difficult for me to get out of bed every morning. The one morning i could not take it anymore and still sure that I wanted to be off AD’s I phoned a psychologist and made an appointment.I prayed to god that he will help me to feel better. I had a few sessions and always felt a bit better afterwards. One Saturday morning I woke up at 3am. I had never felt it was this bad before. I lay on the couch awake with very bad thoughts. I thought that I could not live like this. That morning my fiance told me that I did not look well at all. I broke down crying and told her how I was feeling inside. She had known that i was battling with this but had not seen me that bad before. She had been so supportive and I dont know what I would of done without her. I drove straight to a gp that day and told him what was happening. He gave me a set of cards with symptoms on and asked me how many I recognized. It was weird, I felt that i was feeling everything. I was also sort of relieved that i was not going crazy. He told me that I was not realizing what was happening and that I am just going to get worse. He prescribed my old meds (prozac) and told me to immediately take 2 when I get home. It was difficult for me to swallow that first tablet as I had known how difficult it was to get off it. I have now been back on the meds for 5 days and can definitely feel a change. The anxiety feels much less. I get up much easier in the mornings. Feels like I can actually live in the moment and my thoughts are not wondering into negativity the whole time. I am just so happy to start feeling this way again. I am not sorry that I had this experience however difficult it was. I know now that i am sick and will probably have to be on Ad’s for the rest of my life. I also know that these meds does not work for everyone but I can say that i am lucky to have found it. I hope that anyone suffering will find a way to get through this dark sickness.

  32. Hi,

    I’ve read ” My story and my fight against Antidepressants’ by Mr. David Fox. As the doctors and psychologists told me I have a deep depression during at least 12 years. I’ve felt it more obvious and believed it when I committed suicide 1 year ago. I moved to Florida_USA for 1 year and it was my first experience to leave my country for long time and also to be far away from my mom and the rest of my family.
    Although, I came to USA with my husband and my 7_year old cute son, I still felt lonely. I tried to enter to university and continue my education in Electrical Engineering and after just less than a month to work with a professor as an volunteer, he asked me to apply for PHD and enter to graduate program.
    I had a terrible stressful time, new environment, new language, new culture and so on made me more nervous and anxious and hopeless. My hope ended when I couldn’t pass the simple language exam and my admission canceled. However, my adviser or better to say my boss, was eager to work with me as his Research Assistant.
    This id a brief story of my life in recent years. From 1 year ago, I saw 4 psychologists and therapist and take some different medicine such as Escitalopram and Wellbutrin. Unfortunately, in spite of all my effort to struggle with this illness (I don’t really know which name I could accept from my psychologists, Major Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder ??? ), I am not successful. Sometimes I think it is impossible to continue life and I cannot find a way or a hope to stay alive. My biggest hope in my life was to be a good mom and work in a major which I always wish to (which is not Electrical Engineerig).
    With reading your story and some comments, I found that I am not alone. I ordered your book and I have that hope to start again from your way.

    Matin

    • Matin,

      Please know that your life is definitely worth something. My husband is also an immigrant who came to the US to be with me, leaving his family, job, and life he knew behind. I can understand how difficult that must be. These life circumstances alone can really knock a person down, but please know that you can overcome this. You are definitely not alone, and I really encourage you to pursue the major that you want. Don’t settle for a major that won’t make you happy.

  33. It may be not the best idea, as you mentioned in a comment in 2014, that you are now going to mention in your book the advices of Dr. Harper and his range of natural supplements and program called “the road back”. People don’t like to feel like they are being sold something, or a particular brand of products. People may even feel that you are a distributor and in it for profits. No disrespect. This is just my opinion as a consumer of many self-help books. For example, weight loss books often tout a particular line of shakes and vitamins, if a common occurrence. It makes one feel like, I bought the book, and now you want me to buy more items from you. But never the less, I would like your opinion on St. Johns Wort. thank you, sorry for double entries.

  34. David Fox, I want you to know how grateful I’m for sharing your uplifting story it truly gave me the strength,.power and will.to quit anti depressants. I was on high doses of clonezepam, sertraline, and risperdal for a period of only 4 weeks which was more than enough time for my body to get addicted to them. I quit cold turkey and went though a week of awful physical withdrawals and then 6 months of depression as you mentioned it was not a diagonal healing process it had its ups and downs. Your story really gave me strength each day. If you (reader) are feeling depressed know that it will go away you just have to keep yourself occupied at all times and make sure you are surrounded by people who cares about you. You can do it!

  35. Hi David – In heading toward your new post of May 2015, I wanted to start back here. I hadn’t commented the first time, largely because the importance to me of your experience with chronic pain and lasting impairment from bad surgery. Interestingly, by way of connection, I just initiated email sessions with Alex, one of the posters in the thread above, who works privately as a spiritual healer and counsellor. To fill him in on my case, it was necessary to discuss physical limitations of mine due to accidental injury, and to talk about the frequently appearing vacuum for efforts to communicate with physicians about troubles about which, however carefully acquainted you have become with their effects on you, the doctor has already stopped listening before you mention the question you specifically needed to ask. I was satisfied with my reaction to your amazing story the second time, and it impacted as strongly as before. My pain was never so enduring or so complex and irremediable as yours, but my further connection to your experience would involve drawing out the consequences of how hard it is to get listened to about pain, illness, or any serious health condition once you bear the label that mental health professionals stigmatize you with. You must have thought a lot about the culturally registered differences in attitude toward psychic and physical discomfort and incapacitation a lot. Wouldn’t you agree that the feeling of pain sets up the best framework for understanding how best to extend care in one of these modes while learning from how to consider doing it in the other?

  36. Hi David!

    I’m struggling getting off antidepressants right now after having been on them for fifteen years. I just wrote you a long email and mailed it to the email address that’s on this page. Let me know if it doesn’t make it to you. In that case I could post it here or email it to a different email address in case you no longer use this one.

    Best regards, Lenita

  37. I’m really grateful for this post. About 6 months ago, I spoke to my doctor about a referral to a therapist for depression and anxiety that I’ve dealt with throughout my life. He suggested putting me on an antidepressant to see if that will help. We started off with Celexa, which was the least damaging, in my opinion. While I felt it helped my mood, I was still constantly on edge and feeling like I couldn’t relax. We switched to Effexor in hopes that it would help with my anxiety and low energy issues. I started out on a fairly low dose, and I began having suicidal thoughts, which is absolutely not normal for me at all. My doctor raised my dosage after I complained about the suicidal thoughts, increased anxiety, continued low energy, and to boot I was having nightmares every night, driving my energy down even further.

    I stopped having nightmares with the increased dosage, but my anxiety was still just as bad. I have since decided that I want to become pregnant, so a couple months ago my doctor tapered me down from the Effexor and I switched to Zoloft three weeks ago. On everything except the Celexa, I have felt withdrawal symptoms even if I miss a dose for a couple of hours. Once I switched to Zoloft, I have had headaches every day and have felt dizzy. I decided a week ago to stop taking all of my antidepressants, period, cold turkey.

    Since quitting, I have experienced vertigo, incredibly poor sleep, trouble concentrating, grogginess/fatigue, irritability, and probably some other things I haven’t attributed to the medicine withdrawal. It is never, ever a good time to quit these medicines, because it interferes with your life so much. I’m to start a new semester at college on Monday and am barely able to focus on things I want to do, but I refuse to start taking my meds again. I have to hope that the symptoms will go away and I will begin to feel better again soon.

    My husband speculated that a GP shouldn’t be prescribing antidepressants to patients, but I told him he must know what he’s doing because he’s otherwise a good doctor. I should’ve listened to my husband six months ago. I have since been doing a lot of research in order to determine the true cause of my depression and anxiety, which are both ever present, but not debilitating. I have discovered that there’s a link between ADHD and depression and anxiety, though it’s not widely known about. I have untreated ADHD starting from early childhood, and when I talk to my family about my complaints of anxiety and depression, my mom and brother both have those symptoms as well. My mom ascertains that we have generalized anxiety disorder (my mom has been on xanax for most of my life due to this diagnosis), but I firmly believe that these symptoms are related to our ADHD. I only wish I had known about this sooner before my stressful experiences with antidepressants.

  38. I was on SSRI drugs for over 20 years. August 2014 I tapered off Prozac. A few weeks later, I started with what felt like withdrawal. Depression, anxiety & mini panic attacks. I tried several natural products but none worked. I heard about a doctor who is a Chiropractor/Neurologist. He started me on brain retraining because SSRI drugs take over your brain & it gets lazy after you get off it so it doesn’t work correctly. After 2 months of brain retraining, I started feeling better. It lasted about a week & went down hill after that. The depression & anxiety was worse than before I started. Mini panic attacks became full blown worse attacks I have ever had. I was living on Xanax & thought I may be addicted to them by then. The doctor told me it would take about a year for the retraining to work. No guarantee it would help either. I could not hold on for another year. After 4 1/2 months I couldn’t take it anymore. I called my son, who I live with, & told him I was coming home to commit suicide. Obviously, he talked me out of it. I went home, went to my doctor & got back on SSRI’s. The one thing I said I would never do again. I’ve been on Lexapro for a few months now & feeling good. I really didn’t want to go back on them but it was the better alternative. One year of hell was enough!

  39. You might want to be tested by a cardiologist. My husband took a high dose of celexa for a short time and he had a life altering heart attack afterwards. There is a black box warning now that the dose should not be given as high as the prescribing physician used. The dose was increased because he was getting worse from the pills and not better. Now the only medication he takes are a ton of cardiac pills. He is mentally fine. Actually feels blessed to be alive. He was feeling mentally well for his entire life except for a small episode and those pills only made the situation worse. Now he lives with chf and an internal defibrillator.

  40. Hi-my mom is 70 and sadly has been on Paxil for close to 25 years. She briefly went off and felt amazing but panicked and went back on. She is severely depressed and gets zero relief. I am convinced the drug is making it worse. She is convinced some new miracle drug will come along very soon and fix her “chemical imbalance ” I have dealt with her depression my whole life. She was recently diagnosed with a personality disorder and the hospital told her they don’t make a pill for that. We struggle through weekly depressed phone calls. Do I try and fix it?

  41. Hi David I’m looking for inspiration to continue i dont want to go back to meds i’ve been off medication for 7 months after months of weaning off i was on prozac 80mg plus 150mg aurorix per day for 20 years its the toughest fight of my life, depersonalization, negative intrusive thoughts, anxiety depression its all evolving along with headaches body pains tensions flu like symptoms its hell on earth it can hoodwink you into believing and feeling anything but good i was little like you meds basically it stop working for me

  42. Hi David!

    I stumbled upon this post whilst browsing the internet to check if other people experienced the same feelings I had when I quit antidepressants: feeling awake, feeling alive. You actually used the same words in your article, which made me so happy.

    When I told my GP I was feeling so much better since I came off my antidepressants (Setraline) she looked at me as if I were a bit insane! She gave me the speech about neurotransmitters and lack of serotonin, which I really was fed up of hearing. I read so much about how this serotonin theory is actually a myth and since then, I am glad I quit the antidepressants (been on them for 8 years!) but I always worry that this is temporary, due to all the stories on internet about people who had terrible withdrawals and had to go back on their medication.

    I am studying Psychology and I also work in a psychological service (as an administrator whilst I finish my studies) and I am shocked about the amount of people on antidepressants and how no one really warns anybody about the actual dangers of long-term antidepressant medication.

    I have started a blog when I was very depressed and up until I was advised a ‘medication holiday’ by a Psychiatrist, and I keep updating it since then. It’s all about self-care and being strong, but life without antidepressants is a life worth living!

    My blog: theroadbacktohappiness.blogspot.co.uk

    All the best!

    C