I know this subject has been swirled around a bit -- I am constantly amazed at (and empathize with) the posts written by people trying to get off this drug -- and how nothing seems to ever really surface about the potential long-term problems of ADs.
In a nutshell, I was on Z. for 10+ years, mostly 150-200mg. I decided myself to wean off (actually it was the article in Discover a few years ago that convinced me). I took 6 mos to taper off. Despite that I went through 2 months of withdrawal HELL. Then it got better. But replaced now by new symptoms.
I "am" a scientist. I "am not" a medical professional. But I do know that I am not "depressed". I have mild anxiety that is all pervasive -- never had in my life. I have "waves" of irritability that surge through my days. Now here, now gone, no rhyme, no reason. I have sudden outpourings of tears following a sad story in the news. Unfortunately I don't have any manic phases...... : ))
It's like I've gone from DE-sensitized on Zoloft to SUPER-sensitized off of it. And "they" say these drugs have no withdrawal effects?????
Will I (and the encompassing "we") get past these lingering brain effects???? Thanks - just had to vent.....
I had been taking Zoloft for 2-3 years (200mg) and somehow lost my pill bottle a week ago. I have been horribly dizzy, feel like I'm inside a tympanic drum, have mood swings and am sometimes just numb. I even feel "jolted" like I have waves of electric current running through me sometimes. I'm afraid to go back on it when I can refill next month because I'm wondering if I really want to be back on this med and take the chance of "withdrawing" again. I sort of envy those who have been able to go "cold turkey" without side effects. If any of my doctors try to tell me this is "all in my head" I think I will scream. Are there any dangerous side effects that anyone knows about (besides the disorienting ones everyone seems to be having)?
I've been following your story for a long time. I actually read your 6-month withdrawal diary on the depression-forum boards and recognized you here too. I was only on Zoloft for 6 months... and the highest dosage I was on was 25 mg. Higher dosages made me feel like I was on speed, very jittery. Everyone's body responds differently, so 25mg to me may be like 100mg to someone else.
Anyway, I never wanted to go on Zoloft in the first place, but felt like I was at the end of the proverbial rope. About 4 months into taking it I decided to wean myself off... used a razor blade to slice off portions of the medication and spent 2 months slowly weaning myself off this way. I didn't have any withdrawal effects during this time. About 3 weeks after withdrawing I started having some pretty significant withdrawal symptoms... jumpy feelings in my shoulders, weird twitching in my eyebrows, anxiety. I referred to your diary quite a bit during that time because I felt like I was going through withdrawal waves... would feel bad for awhile, then I would feel fine. I've been off the medication for 2 months now, but am still experiencing weird things. For example, about 2 weeks ago I started having stomach problems... I was going through a stressful time, so it makes sense that my body would respond to this. But I have historically had an iron stomach and have never experienced stomach aches and pains. It's just plain weird. I don't even know what kind of medication to take to help... have been standing in the aisle in the drugstore just reading various products to see what works. (If it continues I'll see a doctor of course... I've first wanted to see if my stomach gets better when the stress isn't there.) Someone told me that the digestive tract has seratonin receptors, so it makes sense to me that *maybe* I've altered my digestive system somehow by taking this medication. I also gained 10 pounds about 3 months into taking the medication and I cannot lose it no matter how much I work out. I've never had problems losing weight when I've put my mind to it before. My stomach doesn't feel like it's digesting food properly... it feels like food just sits there. My metabolism feels different too.
It makes sense to me that over time, the body changes systemically -- evolves -- in response to increased seratonin. It's not just your brain that's effected... it's mind/body, since you can't separate the two. So we've altered the way our mind/body responds to stresses. It will just take time for the body to adjust itself and it makes sense to me that we're dealing with aftereffects like the emotional swings that you're having and the digestive tract upset that I'm having.
I've talked about this a lot in other posts, but I'll mention it again... something that has helped me a lot is biofeedback and neurofeedback. It's like weight lifting for the brain -- helps your brain and body learn how to calm down. In fact, it's probably why I haven't been experiencing the extreme emotional mood swings. I have had some anxiety (which is the reason I went on Zoloft in the first place) but I think it would have been much worse without the neurofeedback. I'm currently going once a week to see a neurofeedback therapist since mid July... nothing changes immediately of course (that pesky human problem we have), but over time I've seen a great improvement. There's a book that describes this technology called "A Symphony in the Brain" by Jim Robbins.
Something to also consider. My neurofeedback therapist told me that there's something that biofeedback/neurofeedback therapists see when they start working with people called a "symptom shift." In other words, the original problem goes away and another one crops up. I remember during my first visit with her -- she hooked my muscles up with electrodes and told me to relax my shoulders. I was watching the computer screen and I saw how the tension in my shoulders dropped, but immediately my thigh muscles tensed up. She explained that sometimes the body wants to hold on to the tension... in my case I feel more protected when I'm tense. So if I'm not tense in my shoulders, I'll become tense somewhere else. It takes time for my body to learn to become less tense. So it could be that as we work on lowering my anxiety using neurofeedback I'm experiencing a symptom shift and am now having stomach problems for the first time in my life. And similarly with you, perhaps you dealt with stress and anxiety differently before, but now you are experiencing the emotional mood swings.
Another possibility... It makes sense to me that because you were taking a seratonin re-uptake inhibitor which allowed more seratonin to circulate and therefore increased the number of seratonin receptors, that it will take time for those extra receptors to be "pruned". They're just sitting in your brain (and elsewhere?) expecting to be fed with seratonin... would explain why you have emotional outburts "for no reason." You may indeed be supersensitive because of the extra receptors. I am not an expert on this... it just makes sense to me. I would welcome a more complete explanation from an expert.
A friend of mine told me that her husband went through a horrific bout of depression. He never went on medication, but she said he started learning to meditate and was very diligent with practicing every day. She said it took a very long time, but over time he got better and better and he's fine today. She said he was in terrible pain, and it was the worst time of their lives, but he just kept working on meditating. I think exercises like meditation and neurofeedback (and probably hypnosis, breathing and relaxation techniques, thought field therapy and EMDR, etc.) do strengthen the brain and give you more "gears" to deal with situations. I think we get stuck in a certain rut and we need to show our brains how to react differently. I know that doesn't help anyone here in the short term, but it's something to think about for long term.
As horrible as my own experience has been, I've tried to look at the positive side of everything, even when my stomach hurts so bad that I can't sleep all night. What am I learning from this? How can I experiment with this? What's going on in my life right now that may be affecting me? (Thought you would appreciate that since you're a scientist.)
I am curious about the Discover article you mentioned that motivated you to withdraw from the medication... do you have a pointer to it? Is this a magazine? I'm interested in knowing what it said.
I apologize for the length of this message. I too have been thinking a lot about this stuff. I don't have answers, just my own experiences and questions. I want to thank you for your withdrawal diary. I don't have a scientific background, but I enjoy reading about the scientific process, so that's why I appreciated your approach to the withdrawal process.
Last edited by carrielynn; 12-02-2003 at 02:14 PM.
Yes phigment, that's me, buckets of tears with either sad stimuli, or with wonderful music or a touching scene.
Megansmom, am not sure about dangerous problems other than responses we individually could have to the withdrawal symptoms.
Wow! Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply CarrieLynn. You also have put a lot of thought into the "what" and "wherefore" of the AD's.
The article in Discover magazine was in the July 2001 issue. It is titled "Do Antidepressants Permanently Rewire the Human Brain - The Serotonin Surprise". A scientist states "I think you have to accept that there's a structural change in your brain when you take drugs like Prozac". The article brings to light that after the 15 years serotonin enhancers have been on the market, scientist still do not know the precise reasons they relieve depression.
It has a lot of information regarding studies from the first development of SSRI's to the similarities with MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine and fenfluramine. Similarities that personally bother me.
You raise some very interesting observations of stress and the mind/body and the transferences or symptoms shifting. Makes a lot of sense to me!!!
I plan to do some research on the biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy. Thanks so much!
Also I just found a link to an interesting site you may have already found or might like
I checked out that web site--Learning Path -- and went through the whole thing. Very interesting. It claims that the more you dream, the more you're trying to process negative emotions (completing the negative thought circle), and that over-dreaming is actually NOT good and can make you feel more tired the next day.
I think I remember you mentioning in your withdrawal diary how Zoloft made you have many dreams. It made me dream a lot too -- I became the Dreaming Queen. I didn't like it at all... it was a constant reminder that I was taking medication.
So I wonder how the Zoloft-induced dreaming relates to their hypothesis that over-dreaming contributes to depression? They claim that ADs reduce dreaming!
I also related to the Learning Path statement, "For a healthy emotional life, it's not more extreme happiness we need, but balanced emotions." I was talking with the Starbucks guy today while ordering a latte and he mentioned that he was really "up" but he knew he would come crashing down very soon. He said when he started feeling down that he would kept wishing he was feeling as good as he was before. I told him that was his problem... seems like we all want to feel That Good all the time and it's just not possible. I've noticed how I can swing back and forth from feeling really bad to really good. When I feel bad I create a lot more bad self-talk wishing I felt better.
Regarding that Discover article talking about anti-depressants causing structural change in the brain... I think just reading that could cause a lot of panic. The good news, which we discovered in the 90's, is that the adult brain IS plastic. So what if you might have structurally changed your brain? (Whatever that means, anyway. You change your brain when you eat a banana.) You have the capability to turn things around. (Thank you Christopher Reeve, for persevering and showing people what's possible.) These are the thoughts that keep me going whenever I get down about my progress.
What is that Chinese proverb? The Journey of 10,000 miles begins with but a single step... I keep trying to take those steps in the right direction...
Thanks for your insight and pointers... keep 'em coming. I find this stuff fascinating.
Last edited by carrielynn; 12-02-2003 at 08:32 PM.