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  1. #1
    Cynical Demon Maou's Avatar
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    Default SSRI and cognitive decline

    Before I begin, just wanted to say this is in no way an attack on people who have to take these in order to function. This is just my experience.

    Last year in August, I was going through a very difficult time in my life. I visited my abusive family for the first time in almost 10 years for closure, and my long time cat passed away suddenly with cancer. Many people I knew, had passed away. I was starting to have a difficult time functioning without being on the verge of a panic attack, and or suicidal thoughts. So I went and seen a doctor for my depression and they put me on Zoloft. I took this for about 4-5 months. During the time span, I noticed significant changes to my thought processes. It turned off my "anxiety", but my brain didn't know how to function without it. My memory especially, was affected. I was confusing reality, with something I dreamed more than once. I would forget simple tasks, or forget what I came to the store for. My recall, suffered heavily. But hey, it helped with my depression right?

    No, not really. It just killed my emotions. I stopped feeling positive, or negative. It was endless apathy, without anxiety. Therefor nothing felt exciting as well. This, combined with my cognitive decline in sharpness, began to bother me more than anything else. I began to miss some of the aspects of my condition, because they helped me function in certain ways better than without it. As the whole 3 days grace song says "Id rather feel pain, than nothing at all", resonates with me. Because without pain, I do not even feel alive. So I tried switching what I was on, to Lexepro, and it turned out to be much better for me. But still, it does the same thing as Zoloft where it fucks with my memory. While it isn't as bad, it does allows for some of my condition to seep through to give me something emotional to work with. I got diagnosed with cPTSD, and probably have PMDD. I will soon be off these SSRI, and hopefully, my memory will come back.

    Has anyone else experienced something similar on these drugs?
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  2. #2
    another world's science Earl Grey's Avatar
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    ~ Disclaimer that I'm no medical professional ~

    This is not at all uncommon. In fact, your psychiatrist would readily communicate to you the potential side effects and ideally ask you to report back on how the medication is affecting you while you're taking it. It's a good idea to communicate such things with your psychiatrist so they can possibly look into giving you different medication, give you extra medication to take along your medication to mitigate the side effects, or work out a new dosage with your current medication. It's very common to be 'numbed' on various antidepressants and different people have different reactions to medications, what works for someone may just worsen someone else, or certain side-effects may show up in one person, but different side-effects may show up in another. Something important is that usually, the psychiatrist(s) prescribing these drugs have (hopefully) weighed the possible negative side-effects against the symptoms of the illness, and decided that the medication is at least worth trying or at least better than the symptoms you are having. Or, more commonly, that the medication is part of of a therapeutic regime where side-effects would be dealt with or you would be working through whatever you're getting medicated for- anxiety, depression, etc.

    Your psychiatrist should have told you these things when prescribing drugs. If you do not have a treatment plan / therapy, it may be worth communicating these things if you think something else might work better for you or if the side-effects are too unbearable, or result in things you cannot afford to have to function (eg. loss of focus, excessive fatigue, etc).


    EDIT: Oh, and testament to that, Zoloft did the opposite for me- it sharpened my focus, though it wasn't prescribed for depression.
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  3. #3
    Fangtastic🌒🌕🌘 Feline The Cat's Avatar
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    I call them shut up pills because ime they prescribe them like hey take these and shut up. They made my condition worse.

    drinking makes the side effects worse btw.

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  4. #4
    🌼🐇 Luminous's Avatar
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    My mind may have been a bit more sharp before I went on generic zoloft (sertraline), but for me, it was something that drastically changed my life for the better. I suffered with anxiety for decades before trying it. I wish I had tried it much sooner than I did. It's not a cure all by any means, but it has helped me feel much better. And I do still feel just as deeply as I did before I went on it.
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  5. #5
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    That's interesting, since the memory issues you describe are common to anxiety and depression suffers because their concentration is naturally different, if your concentration is a particular way to begin with it may not be that you have trouble remembering so much forming memories in the first place.

    I'm aware of this as I've known bi-polar sufferers who got worried about cognitive decline, even to the point of going to a memory clinic and fearing early onset dementia but it was the memory formation rather than recall which was the issue.
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  6. #6
    Fangtastic🌒🌕🌘 Feline The Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    That's interesting, since the memory issues you describe are common to anxiety and depression suffers because their concentration is naturally different, if your concentration is a particular way to begin with it may not be that you have trouble remembering so much forming memories in the first place.

    I'm aware of this as I've known bi-polar sufferers who got worried about cognitive decline, even to the point of going to a memory clinic and fearing early onset dementia but it was the memory formation rather than recall which was the issue.
    Good point as well.

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  7. #7
    blackbird, fly Julius_Van_Der_Beak's Avatar
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    i don't feel like my memory is negatively impacted at all. The only thing I notice is that I feel more tired, and maybe there are sexual effects as well. For what it's worth, I take Lexapro and Wellbutrin. Now, I have been on dopamine blockers before to help with sleeplessness, and those definitely make me feel less sharp.
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  8. #8
    alchemist Legion's Avatar
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    I didn't think I'd been on an SSRI, but from googling information about them just now I realised that I have. I've been on Lovan. I didn't take it for very long on the occassions I took it, so I guess I didn't notice the benefit. I did notice heavy withdrawals if I skipped a dose.

    It's interesting that an SSRI would cause memory problems and apathy, since it increases serotonin levels. I would expect it would increase feelings of confidence, productivity and so on.

    When I first got on anti-psychotics, I noticed that I was having extreme troubles maintaining thoughts (internal monologues etc.) as well as learning new information. I thought my recreational drug use had damaged my brain irreparably. I mentioned it to my psychiatrist and he told me it was probably a side effect of the medication, though he couldn't be sure. I had a year without anti-psychotics, and found that I was thinking a lot again. So yes it was the medication, and it returned to how I wanted it when I stopped taking them (though I also seemed more unstable once off them, and I guess that's to do with the brain-changes from being on them so long, which would take a while to return to normal).

    In general there seem to be mixed opinions amongst people who take psychiatric medications. A lot of it is probably to do with whether the chemicals they're increasing/decreasing in the brain were in fact too low/high, or if the problem was something else. If their method of effectiveness doesn't apply, then the effects would presumably be negative. I've read that when you come off the drug, the effect will be the opposite, so SSRI withdrawal would likely consist of the symptoms of low serotonin. I expect that the brain returns basically to normal after that, although I don't know how long it takes.


    I read just now that Zoloft can cause low sodium levels, and low sodium levels can result in "confusion, problems concentrating or thinking, memory problems", so perhaps that was the issue?
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  9. #9
    Cynical Demon Maou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Legion View Post
    I didn't think I'd been on an SSRI, but from googling information about them just now I realised that I have. I've been on Lovan. I didn't take it for very long on the occassions I took it, so I guess I didn't notice the benefit. I did notice heavy withdrawals if I skipped a dose.

    It's interesting that an SSRI would cause memory problems and apathy, since it increases serotonin levels. I would expect it would increase feelings of confidence, productivity and so on.

    When I first got on anti-psychotics, I noticed that I was having extreme troubles maintaining thoughts (internal monologues etc.) as well as learning new information. I thought my recreational drug use had damaged my brain irreparably. I mentioned it to my psychiatrist and he told me it was probably a side effect of the medication, though he couldn't be sure. I had a year without anti-psychotics, and found that I was thinking a lot again. So yes it was the medication, and it returned to how I wanted it when I stopped taking them (though I also seemed more unstable once off them, and I guess that's to do with the brain-changes from being on them so long, which would take a while to return to normal).

    In general there seem to be mixed opinions amongst people who take psychiatric medications. A lot of it is probably to do with whether the chemicals they're increasing/decreasing in the brain were in fact too low/high, or if the problem was something else. If their method of effectiveness doesn't apply, then the effects would presumably be negative. I've read that when you come off the drug, the effect will be the opposite, so SSRI withdrawal would likely consist of the symptoms of low serotonin. I expect that the brain returns basically to normal after that, although I don't know how long it takes.


    I read just now that Zoloft can cause low sodium levels, and low sodium levels can result in "confusion, problems concentrating or thinking, memory problems", so perhaps that was the issue?
    Im not sure on low sodium, since my diet contains copious amounts. I think this thread kinda proves how different neuro-chemistry varies by individual. I believe I am far too "disassociated" for certain drugs to affect my mind beyond memory. I do believe a lot of memory is formed in the emotional part of the brain, and an ssri might make it go elsewhere or not at all. Either way, its interesting.
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  10. #10
    alchemist Legion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maou View Post
    Im not sure on low sodium, since my diet contains copious amounts. I think this thread kinda proves how different neuro-chemistry varies by individual. I believe I am far too "disassociated" for certain drugs to affect my mind beyond memory. I do believe a lot of memory is formed in the emotional part of the brain, and an ssri might make it go elsewhere or not at all. Either way, its interesting.
    Well yeah, it's probably not the sodium then. Side-effect lists given for medications often miss a lot. When I look at the side-effect list of anti-psychotics, there's a lot of the possible physical effects, but not that much of the psychological effects which I'm clearly experiencing as a result of the medication. Perhaps it's because these are more difficult to describe and measure.

    Disassociation and memory are related in a kind of inverse way, as far as I understand it. Being disassociated will likely interfere with memory formation. Some people are naturally quite disassociation prone, whereas for others it indicates more of an issue. I don't know which it would be for you. Recall - perhaps not everything to do with recall - is related to Si, so by the sounds of it, the SSRI made your Si harder to use. I don't know quite how that would be interpreted, because it's a type dependent thing, and I don't have a set opinion of what type you are, but that's what it sounds like.

    I'm trying to figure out the association between neurotransmitters and cognitive functions recently, but I only have a few pieces so far.

    So: I think the SSRI is probably changing the balance of neurotransmitters in a way which reduces your ability to use Si, and that may be type related.

    I couldn't find any information when I quickly googled it earlier, regarding the difference between Zoloft and Lexapro on neurotransmitters. They both increase serotonin, but probably do other things as well, and maybe increase serotonin differently.

    This is a relevant topic to me, because due to a recent medication change, as well as a reduction in stress, my serotonin levels have been increasing over the past few months and will continue to increase. Some other neurotransmitters are effected as well, but it seems that there are like... 4 factors that are going to increase serotonin, from way below baseline, to way above baseline. I don't think I was technically depressed last year, but I had signs of it, which have been going away. Supposedly I'm more "animated" (correlating with extroversion).

    I think the changes I am experiencing are predominantly positive, since it is an elimination of one of the major stressors in my life (forced anti-psychotics), but I'll have to wait and see what the downsides of too much serotonin are.

    The drug (?) I'm on now is Lithium, which has been described as having a dampening effect on emotions, similar to what you describe, but anti-psychotics do that too (e.g. when coming off anti-psychotics I tend to cry a lot, after perhaps not crying in literally a year), so I haven't noticed that particular effect. I wouldn't want my emotions to be dampened, since that to me is an integral part of life, but I suppose that if emotions need to be put under control to deal with things better, a drug which reduces emotion could be useful.

    Oh, and there's Evanescence - Lithium, about not wanting to lose your emotions, even if they are painful.

    But yeah... it's too difficult for me to know what Lithium does, because I'm going on it at the same time as coming off anti-psychotics. It's hard to tell what is causing what, and there's a lot more to it than just the chemicals, but things are certainly looking up.
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