Posted by: jedwardswright | December 7, 2011

Will Antidepressants Change Who I Am?

The idea that taking antidepressant medication will somehow affect a person’s personality is a common concern. People are afraid of becoming “zombies” or losing their creativity, or being “high.” In my experience, being on the correct antidepressant has made me better able to be myself without constantly battling apathy, exhaustion, and extreme mood swings (although in all honesty I do not have complete relief from these problems).

You don’t have to take my word for it though. Here are statements from other sources.

“antidepressants are designed to change only certain chemicals that underlie the symptoms of depression, not to change your personality. Most people who take antidepressants are actually happy to feel like themselves again, rather than feeling like a different person.” — [i]National Mental Health Organization (NAMI)

“SSRIs perhaps can be viewed as personality-normalizing agents” — LiveScience[ii]

“Will the antidepressant change my personality? The short answer is no. Antidepressants will reduce the amount of excessive or disabling depression you will feel.” [iii] — Brochure from Boynton Health Service, University of Minnesota

It’s true that taking an SSRI changes the chemistry inside your brain. This causes subtle changes in the way you feel, act, and behave [but] you just might like the new you. In one of the few studies measuring personality changes in response to antidepressants, those taking SSRIs felt more emotionally stable, outgoing, trusting, and assertive, and less hostile.”[iv] — WebMD

 

Although a recent much-publicized study conducted at NorthWestern University at Evanston, Illinois indicates that the Selective Seratonin-Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Paxil does cause “personality changes,” these changes were limited to a decrease in “emotional instability and negative mood” and an increase in “outgoing behavior and positive mood,” and so far this research has only involved this one type of antidepressant. However, it is widely being assumed to apply to all SSRIs.[v]

In other words, SSRIs may cause patients taking them to feel less depressed, have fewer mood swings, and be less reclusive. This supports my own experience. All are positive changes that have not impaired my creativity, nor have they made me emotionally flat or chemically high. I am simply more balanced in my moods.

If you do experience any flattening of mood, there are two possible explanations. One is that you are not on the correct antidepressant for you, and you should discuss this possibility with your doctor. Another is that this is a side effect which is not consistent with the medication’s intended effect. In this case, your depression may be only partially treated and your response should normalize with time or an increased dose.[vi] Please don’t be discouraged. It is still likely that you can be successful treated with antidepressant medication.

So we return to the original question: will taking an antidepressant change who you are?

No, it will not affect your basic personality in a negative way. In fact, if you have been experiencing significant depression, there is a very good chance that you will feel more like yourself when taking medication.

Yes, it very well could help you become a more positive, less emotionally volatile version of yourself who enjoys activities and the company of others more – but you will still be you!

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Responses

  1. Great work with your article! I found this article via Google and I’m glad!

  2. • Taking medication inappropriately puts you at risk for drug interaction and serious health consequence.

  3. They assist in reducing health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight problems.


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