I was on anti-depressants for about ten years for generalized anxiety disorder and only went off once for about a 6-8 month period of time. Now I’ve been off of them for about one year. My experiences being on Prozac and now being off of it have shown me some very visible pros and cons about being on this drug.
First of all, I think Prozac is a good drug.
Everyone might react to it a bit differently, but overall, this was one of the anti-depressants that I had the least amount of side effects with and it really did its job: it reduced my anxiety by making it more manageable and definitely reduced depression that I had. My anxiety did not disappear, but I didn’t expect it to. I did have a few mild side effects that got better after a few weeks of taking it.
However, one of the reasons many people quit anti-depressants is because it’s hard to tell exactly how it might be affecting you – how it works in the brain, exactly – and it’s generally not fun or beneficial to be on a drug long-term unless the benefits truly outweigh the negatives. But overall, I’ve had both friends and family members go on Prozac with good results.
The Difference Between Life on Prozac and Life off of it
It wasn’t until I went off of it long enough that I really started to feel the difference between life off of Prozac and life on it. Mind you, I wasn’t even on a high dose. In fact I alternated between the lowest dose (10mg) and 20mg, but even a low dose has a very noticeable effect on the brain. Especially when you learn to recognize the differences of not having it in your system.
Oddly, they say it takes a few weeks or maybe a few months for Prozac to fully get out of your system (in particular after being on it for so many years), but each time I’ve gone off of Prozac, I actually felt exactly the same until at least around six months past that point. Then, suddenly something would be triggered that caused anxiety that maybe normally wouldn’t have, or I started to feel my thoughts becoming more obsessive. This same thing would happen to a best friend of mine that had also been on it long-term and would go off for a number of months at a time.
Stabilizing My Brain
Upon going off of Prozac for good, I thought to myself, “I’m really going to need something to stabilize my brain in this process, as it re-adapts to regulating its own serotonin.” I took a number of natural remedies and vitamins, but it’s difficult to say which helped, if any. The main help was that I was at a truly happy place in my life when I stopped, and had come a long way in developing my own mental tools in dealing with my anxiety after all these years.
Once I had been off the Prozac for a few months, I noticed that the world just seemed so colorful to me. This sounds positive, but it was really not a positive nor a negative thing. I just noticed that everything was more pronounced – my perceptions as well as my emotions. I also temporarily became a lot more aggressive and assertive in my personality. Aggression can be a sign of a lack of serotonin in the brain, which I don’t doubt was the cause after being on a drug that regulated my serotonin for so long.
To top it off, I also have petit mal seizure disorder, and researchers have found that those with a seizure disorder very often also have mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression due to abnormal brain activity. So in general, a tendency towards anxiety and obsessive thoughts was in my nature and not usually circumstantial.
My Brain’s Obsessiveness Kicks Back In
Prozac is approved for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which can overlap with anxiety disorders. So, Prozac is particularly good if you have a tendency towards obsessive or intrusive thoughts.
Many months later after going off of Prozac and after the aggression subsided, I felt myself balancing out a bit more chemically. But here is when I noticed a definite difference in my thought patterns. I would now easily obsess over things, and this was something that being on Prozac I didn’t really notice myself doing. I was picking and prying things apart, not letting things go as easily, and investigating things thoroughly anytime I thought something was wrong with ANYthing. I was sometimes blowing certain situations out of proportion that I viewed as threatening, out of fear. I still do this, as I think it’s the natural way of my brain. However luckily I’m much more cognizant of it now and have tools for defusing it.
My memory is also sharper now. I FEEL much sharper. I felt so fuzzy while on Prozac in comparison. My brain was just dulled somehow and I wouldn’t have realized this simply while being on it because it was so subtle. I had to see the comparison after going off for a significant amount of time.
On the upside, I felt a general stability while having the Prozac in my system. It was like I was living within invisible walls and I had a buffer for my emotions and thoughts. However, this turned out to be a double-edged sword.
Prozac Dulled My Creativity
I realized that this very buffer that was keeping my emotions and thoughts stabilized, also stifled my imagination (which is overactive by nature, I might add). I’ve always been a creative person, and this dulled my creativity. It muted what I consider the part of me that I really feel at times makes me different, that comes up with unique ideas; the part of me where a little bit of genius might be able to shine through. It makes sense, though, right? The genius in me can also be my madness if put to use in a way that isn’t productive but rather goes after itself incessantly.
The crazy thing is that all of this was so subtle that it was nearly impossible to see while being on it. That’s why I’m writing this post. It took years of experience of being both on and off of it to really be able to feel and see the difference, and some people may not ever detect the difference if they aren’t listening or watching themselves closely enough.
So…Should You Go on Prozac Despite the Downsides?
If you have been prescribed Prozac or even another anti-depressant and are still unsure about taking it, my short answer would be yes, try the Prozac, IF the following conditions are true for you:
You have a chronic, recurring issue with anxiety or depression. You can tell that it’s something that is more of a product of how your brain works, how it’s “wired,” rather than one life event that triggered your only bout of anxiety/depression to date. Chemical versus situational.
If you are barely functioning at the moment, OR
If you have been steadily miserable for a long time despite trying other things.
On the other hand, if you feel your anxiety or depression is mild, it might be OK to go on it short-term and see how it helps you, but it’s kind of a pain in the butt going on and off meds. My first suggestion would be to try other things. Not just one – a combination. Look into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which has proven to be very effective. Or, if you can’t afford therapy (which many can’t), look for some CBT workbooks you can do yourself on Amazon. Make your attitude about learning to master anxiety. Become a student of it. A proactive attitude will win the battle. Fearing it and trying to escape it will never allow you to fully develop the tools that are so essential in keeping it under control.
And if You’re Already on Prozac…Should You Stay on It?
If your side effects get to the point where they are changing your personality (even if maybe you can’t tell that they are, but other people are noticing) or consistently hindering your quality of life, then it’ll likely be time to make a change. For example, Prozac muting my emotions to the degree it did became unacceptable because it led to other things, such as reduced ability to feel compassion and empathy, which then led to having a shorter fuse with people and less ability to relate to the world. That’s a big deal.
If you barely have any side effects and are just tired of being on an anti-depressant, then I’d talk to your doc. You’re VERY lucky if you take an anti-depressant and it not only works but doesn’t give you many or any side effects. However, it can be impossible to gauge how you will feel off of them and it will depend partly on your personal history with anxiety and depression.
I can’t stress this enough: the downsides/side-effects really will be different for everybody. There are certain listed side-effects of Prozac that will be more likely to happen than others, just based on how the drug works. But there won’t be any solid answer that will tell you what is or isn’t going to happen. It’s such a trial an error process – a jumping into the mystery of the unknown, and having to deal with that in regards to medication pretty much sucks.
Also, many people still do not truly understand anxiety disorders, depression, or anti-depressants. So do not let what other people think of you being on meds sway your decision. It’s not weak, and yes, some people really do need them. Do what you feel is best for you. I at one time in my life was barely functional due to my debilitating anxiety. I could barely sleep or eat for a long time, and I had school and work to plow through. That level of anxiety or depression is where these drugs can be honestly life-saving and totally worth it.
Work on Developing Your Mental Tools!
If you don’t feel you have great mental tools in dealing with the anxiety or depression just yet and tend to on external sources to ease it, you can maybe stay on the Prozac to take the edge off, but work on developing those mental tools. For example when anxiety comes, work on keeping yourself and your mind busy. Exercise more (this is a HUGE one!). Work on eating a healthier diet, and being mindful of your thoughts – it is a constant practice. But these are the things you are going to be able to rely on (and will NEED to rely on) if you don’t want to be on medication forever and if you want to dramatically reduce your anxiety and depression. There is no shortcut or easy way out.
It’s pure hard work and dedication to working on being observant and rising above your thoughts when they do not serve you well.
If you have been on it for a while and aren’t sure if you should go off, you can still try to go off for a period of time and see how you feel. A couple of things to note here though, it’s best to do this when you don’t have a lot of stress or general instability in your life.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or have any questions for me regarding my journey on and off anti-depressants, shoot me an email at email@example.com or leave a comment below. I am here to help and support you!
Scouring the world of anti-depressants is difficult and daunting, because you never know how you’re going to react to these medicines, and most of us might be a little disappointed that we even need anything at all.
You might be in one of the most trying times of your life and just want something to help already, yet we all know that finding the right medicine can be an exhausting process of trial and error.
That’s why I write these blog posts. I want to do my best to help others since I am now on my third antidepressant after battling generalized anxiety disorder and mild depression basically my entire life.
That being said, everybody reacts to medications differently, so I can only document my own experiences and what I’ve read based on research, as well as what doctors have told me. You can take that for what it’s worth.
Also as a side note, think about why you’re going on the medication. Do you suppose it’ll be short-term or long-term? All of that depends on whether your problem has been chronic and more based on your brain chemistry or genetics, versus a set of circumstances that has caused your anxiety and/or depression. I think anti-depressants are great for the former; if it’s something you’ve battled with time and time again. Otherwise, I think other measures should be pursued first (exercise, healthy eating, etc).
Lexapro vs. Prozac — What Are Some Differences?
So let me tell you first about my experience with Prozac. Overall, it worked for both my anxiety and depression. Especially for the depression. I still got anxiety sometimes (I didn’t expect any drug to completely eradicate that), but it “took the edge” off of it, so it was easier to manage. It also helped prevent anxiety because it prevented obsessive thoughts from occurring, which is why this drug works really well for those who also have OCD.
It did have a number of side effects that I didn’t like, and these were primarily mental side effects. I am an extraordinarily empathetic person, but Prozac literally muted my empathy. There were also the famous sexual side effects that people report on anti-depressants, but those went away after the first few weeks, and didn’t bother me anyway.
My concern with antidepressants was always a matter of how it’s affecting my brain in the long-term. How is it affecting my personality?
Prozac muting empathy or emotions in general, is an issue. Because that causes a snowball effect. Once my empathy was muted, I was of course less understanding of others which then shortened my temper. I became less patient as a result, less able to relate to others’ circumstances.
Also, being less in touch with your emotions gives you less “data” so-to-speak about how you feel regarding your surroundings. You don’t realize how important emotions can be, just basic emotions, in giving you information about your natural reactions to things. It gives you more insight into why you are the way you are. Muting this is not a good idea.
After nine long years, I went off of Prozac. That’s when you can really see the contrast of you on anti-depressants vs. you off of them. My life became more colorful, more pronounced, and I got my empathy back.
A few years later though, I entered in another really bad stint of depression and anxiety, with no obvious trigger. My brain just DOES this crap.
I fought it for months. Exercise and even marijuana products (since I had a medical marijuana card), bright light therapy, etc. Anything not to go back on an anti-depressant.
Then right in the middle of all of this, my dad became so ill that he was nearing death and eventually died. At that point, I gave in and decided to try Lexapro because nothing else was working well enough.
I was very nervous, because who knows what side effects I was going to be dealing with this time. Maybe I’d get some relief of my issues, but was I going to become fat and emotion-less in the process?
Lexapro — A Great Drug for Anxiety
I had heard multiple times from doctors that Lexapro was one of the anti-depressants that targets anxiety really well. It also seemed to me that it might be possibly a milder drug for me since it is approved to treat only depression and anxiety, whereas Prozac is used for a number of things like bulimia and OCD as well.
During the time I started Lexapro, I had had sleeping problems and a sickening mixture of depression and anxiety all at once.
Then a week or so after taking Lexapro (because it seems to kick in quicker than many other anti-depressants), I began to just feel normal. Like myself again. Instead of the drug muting my emotions, instead I literally felt like I was back to how I was supposed to feel. My normal self, with appropriate emotional reactions to things. It was incredible.
I hardly felt anxiety. Likely even less so than if I had gone back on Prozac.
I literally had no side-effects. No sexual issues, no weight gain thus far, no confused feeling about my emotions, no personality changes, etc. I felt that it completely targeted the issues I was having, with no big mental repercussions.
I found something that really works for me and I couldn’t be more relieved.
So Which Should You Try…Lexapro or Prozac?
Unfortunately, this still isn’t a question I can answer. There are so many variables involved, not to mention that the response to each drug is so individual. We all want answers…we all want to know how something is going to affect us. Unfortunately we really just cannot know unless we try it ourselves.
But what I can say is this: If something like generalized anxiety and mild depression is your primary issue, I would try the Lexapro first, solely based on the fact that it is known for being a better-tolerated drug among most people.
If your issues tend more heavily on the OCD-side and/or severe depression, you may want to try Prozac first.
If your issues are mild in general and do not recur often, then maybe think twice about going on anything! There are SEVERAL tools that can help you, and I still think that exercise is one of the best anti-depressants there is.
What keeps me mentally healthy? Exercise, social interaction, eating well, striving for optimism, and sometimes the extra aid of 10mg of Lexapro. 🙂
Are you thinking about going on anti-depressants? I wanted to write down my experiences and thoughts based on this topic in hopes to help somebody trying to make this decision.
I’ll just start off by saying there are a LOT of people out there on anti-depressants. At one point, me, my mom, my sister, my best friend, and a bunch of other people I knew had gone on anti-depressants. It made me think, does the brain just have a tendency to really be that unstable during different periods of time? Or is it our society, the expectations it places on us, the lifestyles it dictates for us as well as the diets most people eat and the way they treat their bodies?
Well, I’ve come to understand it’s really a whole slew of different things that could be involved, and it’s usually a combination of them. I was on Prozac for nine years for generalized anxiety disorder. It was only pretty recently that I came off.
My Nine Years of Experience on Prozac
Looking back on these past nine years, let me tell you a little bit about my experience and how I might have handled it differently.
In 2005 I had a major anxiety attack that stayed and lasted for a long time. I’m talking an extremely bad one – I couldn’t function. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or do anything except pace around. I had intense, long-lasting anxiety attacks – and not just attacks, but I was in a constant state of anxiety itself – for the better part of a year and a half.
My mom had some Prozac from when she used to take it and gave me some because she was tired of seeing me like this. Prozac did help; it took the edge off, and all of my emotions were less pronounced. No, Prozac doesn’t give you an easy way out or make you instantly happy. In fact it doesn’t feel good at all to have to be on medication. But it does make the anxiety more manageable, and took away most of my depression that would set in for me after a certain amount of anxiety.
What I didn’t know back then that I know now, is that while these mental issues feel threatening and horrible (especially anxiety), 99% of the time, they are not going to hurt you. Nothing catastrophic is going to happen. You have the reigns to your own mind – you are in control. And even when you feel out of control, yes it is a scary feeling, but you can, and will conquer it. It will pass. Psychological battles are just always the most difficult battles you can fight.
That being said, if you are experiencing something to the extent to which you can’t function, medication is very useful in this case. It helps bring you out of it. The problem is though that you can easily become dependent on this to take your anxiety way and let it do the work for you. I almost consider myself lucky in the fact that I still had anxiety on Prozac and I still mainly had to rely on my own tools and my own self to conquer it.
The Drawbacks of Using Medication for Anxiety/Depression
Many people fall to drugs (either regular prescription medication or illegal drugs) and/or alcohol to distract them from their anxiety. I’ve seen it time and time again. As we all know, this is not an effective long-term cure. In fact, it’s counter-productive. It will just cause problems down the road. But far too many people take this route.
One important thing to consider that I did not know about when I started taking Prozac was how much your diet and exercise regime actually plays a part in your mental health. Especially diet. The amount of sugar, unhealthy carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats that are in the typical American diet (along with some other countries as well) is not doing any good for our brain. It’s disrupting our moods, keeping us addicted to sugar, not allowing our brain to perform functions as well as it normally would. Energy levels are ruined, our ability to fight our own mental battles will be weakened, memory can be affected – the list goes on.
Exercise will boost your brain’s endorphins – especially a long distance run. Sometimes exercise was the only thing that would cure my brain for a while in the midst of anxiety hell.
Another thing is that I work in a creative field, and I found that while anti-depressants did make my brain a bit more organized, a bit less affected by things, a bit less obsessive…they also stifled my creativity, my memory, and my sex drive. This is not to say they will affect you in the same way. But just really think about it to make sure taking them is the right path for you.
My Suggestions and Key Points
The main point I really wanted to get to in this article is firstly that unless you can’t function, medication probably isn’t a good idea to start off with. Try some other things first.
Try changing your diet and sticking to it. Be dedicated to your mental and physical health; they are very intertwined with each other.
Try taking some herbs and vitamins. See my blog posthere about natural methods of curing anxiety/depression. There are so many out there these days!
DEFINITELY exercise regularly.
And most of all – learn to discipline your mind. Yeah, saying that is kind of like telling people to learn to speak Japanese by tomorrow. But what I’m really saying is, in order to build up your tools in fighting anxiety and depression, you need to practice approaching them in certain ways with your mind. Your attitude matters 100%. The more you build up your tools, the more you’ll trust your own brain to be able to fight it better, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy and your mental problems will not be as severe.
Every time I have anxiety I look at it as an opportunity to practice my own mental discipline. Because that’s exactly what it is. Look at and use anxiety as a tool for you to strengthen your own mind and willpower.
I’m not against medication. In fact, I’m grateful it exists for those who need it. But far too many people are ignorant of what types of things are actually causing or having an effect on their anxiety or depression and use medication as a crutch. Far too many become too dependent on it. Sometimes medication is necessary, but many times, it also is not.
If you are struggling with anxiety or depression please feel free to email me. I am always willing to help.
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I'm Liz, a NASM certified personal trainer, nutrition student, artist and graphic/web designer. My passion is helping people eat better, live better and enhance their self-awareness.