The Pros and Cons of Being on Prozac

Thinking of Going on Prozac?

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 two years. 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 ones that I had the least amount of side effects with it and really did its job: it reduced my anxiety by making it more manageable and definitely reduced depression that I had. On top of that, I really couldn’t feel any negatives while being on it personally, aside from some mild side effects that got better after a few weeks of taking it. One of the reasons many people quit antidepressants 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 (after being on it for so many years), but each time I’ve gone off of Prozac, I actually felt the exact same until at least around six months past that point, when suddenly something is triggered that causes anxiety that maybe normally wouldn’t have or I start to feel my thoughts becoming more obsessive, etc. It was strange to me that it took so long for me to really notice the effects of being off of it. This same thing happened 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 (there’s no way of really telling that, especially if you take a few of them at once). 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. When I say that it sounds positive, but it was really not a positive nor a negative thing. I just noticed that everything was more pronounced. My perceptions were more pronounced as well as my emotions. I also 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 happening after so long of being on a drug that kept more serotonin in the brain. In my case, 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

Many months later 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 mind’s tendency towards obsessive thoughts. I would now easily obsess over things, and this was something that before the Prozac I didn’t notice nearly as much. I was now easily 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 often blowing certain situations I viewed as threatening out of proportion a bit now, out of fear. I still do this, as I think it’s the natural way of my brain. However, I’m much more cognizant of it now and have tools for dealing with it, which gives me more control of it.

My memory is also sharper now. I FEEL much sharper. I noticed I felt so fuzzy while on Prozac in comparison. My brain was just dulled somehow, and I wouldn’t have realized this because it was so subtle, until I saw the difference in how I felt while being off of it. Additionally, I also just 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.

Prozac Dulled My Creativity

I realized that this very buffer that was keeping my emotions and thoughts stabilized, also stifled my imagination. I’ve always been a creative person, and this dulled my creativity. It dulled 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 (or Stay) on Prozac Despite the Downsides?

The downsides will be different for everybody, but no matter what it will still have some stifling effects on your brain. Either way, it depends on your specific situation. My short answer would be: go on the Prozac (or stay on it) if you basically are barely functional without it. Or, if you are just steadily miserable for a really long time despite trying other things. I at one time in my life was barely functional due to my debilitating anxiety, 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.

On the other hand, if your anxiety or depression is mild, it might be OK to go on it short term and see how it helps you. But remember, no matter what it’s all going to rely on you. Try a myriad of different methods to deal with what you’re going through, and don’t just rely on the drug.

I actually regret being on Prozac as long as I was, because I don’t think I needed to be on it quite that long, and mostly I didn’t realize how much it stifled my brain. I feel like I missed out on some ways of relating to the world and developments in my own perception that I would have had without being on it.

Work on Developing Your Mental Tools!

Also, if you don’t feel you have great mental tools in dealing with the anxiety or depression just yet and rely on external sources to ease it (such as drugs, alcohol, etc), 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. Work on being more mindful of your thoughts (also a huge one) – 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/or 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 (it can be really hard to tell – maybe you’re just feeling so good because the Prozac is working!), 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. Also important is the fact that sometimes when you go off of it for a while then decide to go back on, you can pick up new side effects that you didn’t have before. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does I’m unsure as to why. Just something to keep in mind, but that may not really matter in the grand scheme of things.

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 liz@mylifeinbalance.co or leave a comment below. I am here to help!

 

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2 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Being on Prozac

  1. Hi Liz,

    Your post regarding the pros and cons of Prozac was refreshing, I was given fluoxetine shortly after giving birth to my 2nd child, they remain in my bedside drawer untouched, largely due to the fact the doctor very gayley told me I would get worse in these tablets before getting better, which to be frank, scared me more than how I was/am feeling! So I didn’t take them, however I have realised after taking more of an interest in my behaviour that I have been anxious, mildly depressed, aggressive sometimes, intolerant and very impatient most of my adult life, this has been exasperated since having my first child 3 years ago, so I have made an appointment with my doctor to discuss how I can better deal with all of this, and perhaps maybe try the fluoxetine, which led me to your post, thank you for your honesty, sorry for my ‘waffling’ and here’s to hoping I can regain some normality sometime soon for the sake of my family and me. Xx

    • Hi Louise! I know this is a bit delayed of a reply as I was traveling around Indonesia, but I was glad to hear your story. Did you end up going on fluoxetine? It is true that the first 2-3 weeks of taking an antidepressant are always worse as your body is getting used to the medication. I know how you feel. A few months ago I got another bout of anxiety and mild depression, and considered going back on medication. I didn’t end up doing so and eventually it subsided, but there’s a certain point at which it comes down to the thought of… what’s healthier? To continue to put my body through all the stress, or use the medication as a tool to handle the stress better. It’s never fun being on anti-depressants, but they certainly do usually help in times when we really need something!

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