When I was in my mid-twenties I was having a stressful time at work and started to feel low. My GP prescribed citalopram, without giving me any information about the potential downsides of SSRIs or suggesting talking therapy.
I took citalopram for the next few years, including throughout my first pregnancy. After my daughter was born, I read that sertraline was the safest antidepressant to take while breastfeeding, therefore my GP swapped me to this. I immediately started to become depressed, was swapped back to citalopram and the dose was increased.
Within a few weeks I had become floridly psychotic and was diagnosed with postnatal psychosis. I made a number of suicide attempts. I was given ECT but didn’t recover for a year after being given a number of antipsychotics.
I had another psychotic episode in 2014 while on venlafaxine (SNRI) without an antipsychotic – this time I was diagnosed with psychotic depression.
I do not believe I have an organic mental illness. I cannot prove it, but I strongly suspect that what I experienced was SSRI-induced psychosis. No psychiatrist has ever acknowledged this suggestion. I have spent over a year of my life in various psychiatric units, in a pit of psychotic despair.
I am now finally withdrawing from venlafaxine very slowly. The withdrawal process is horrible, but each time I reduce the dose and get over the withdrawal symptoms, my thinking becomes clearer and my thoughts less distorted. No psychiatrist has acknowledged that withdrawal from antidepressants is an issue, despite thousands of people reporting similar problems – they have simply told me that what I am experiencing is the return of my depression.
I would urge psychiatrists to open their minds to the possibility of SSRI-induced psychosis and really listen to their patients.
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Lucy became psychotic from antidepressants