1. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Antidepressants and Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TerraIncognita, Jun 4, 2010.

    I was wondering if anyone else had experienced this issue. I was put on antidepressants years ago due to some major health issues. As you know they manipulate brain chemicals. The one I'm on (weening off of) is a SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) Which means it affects both serotonin and norepinephrine.

    I've heard serotonin is involved in creativity. I used to have an average output in writing of 2-5 pages day. Since being on antidepressants I struggle to get 5 pages every couple or three weeks.

    So here is my question, am I the only who experienced a severe decrease in creativity once on antidepressants? And does anyone know if there's any merit to this or is it just coincidental?
     
  2. Montag
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    Montag Senior Member

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    Well, I know from experience that depression causes a severe decrease in just about everything that you normally do, especially creativity. I've never taken antidepressants due to my aversion to any sort of psychiatric meds, though, so I can't say what effect they might have. I wonder if it is more the meds, or the depression, that is causing the problem. It may even be a combination of both. But it's likely that the depression itself is playing a large part.

    Regardless of what you determine to be the problem, I strongly urge you to keep your health above your writing on your list of priorities. After all, you can't write when you're dead (bones can't grip the pen)
     
  3. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it the antidepressants or the underlying depression (if that's why you're on them) that is robbing you of your creativity?

    I know that true clinical depresion can create a very "grey" world, and strip you of any real enthusiasm for anything, including, I would presume, your writing, as well as compromising your ability to focus sufficiently due to the general "haze" in your mind.

    I don't have the expertise to answer your question, but I wish you well, both with your health issues and with your writing.
     
  4. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I have an easy self test to check if I'm ok to write: I play some quick games of go vs an AI in a 9x9 board.

    After four or five games (one or two minutes) I know if I'm in full possession of my mental abilities or if I should go find other, less intellectually demanding, occupations.

    I've never taken anti-depressants, but I'm pretty sure I could evaluate their effect on my mind in much the same way.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't know about Antidepressants, but I'm bipolar, and some of my best writing was done when depressed.
     
  6. izanobu
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    izanobu Senior Member

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    I was on Lexapro for a few months in college, and I found it totally killed my ability to write, mostly due to the distance I felt from my emotions while on it. However, crippling depression also killed my ability to write, so I think depending on what you're taking the meds for, there can be a balance struck.
     
  7. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first outpouring of creativity I ever felt in my life was when I was first put on antidepressants. Now that I'm off them, the only times I don't feel creative is when I can feel the depression trying to suck me back in. I didn't have the fun, Edgar Alan Poe-type depression, though; for me everything was just kinda flat and gray and I was totally apathetic toward everything. Spent most of my time just curled up on the couch alone in my apartment not looking at anything or doing anything. Sounds like you've got the other kind, unless you're bipolar, which is the other mental illness which has fueled many a creative career.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Thanks for all the replies guys.

    To answer your questions.
    It was for anxiety and pain (cymbalta helps nerve pain) I had a massive benign spinal cord tumor that nearly crippled me.

    The doctor and I both agreed that the side affects were not worth taking the medication any more and that I didn't need it now that the tumor was taken care of. I'm am not by nature an overly anxious person. I'm generally pretty happy unless I'm in an extremely stressful situation like the one I was in prior to all the treatment.

    I'm pretty sure it's a result of the antidepressant because: I was more productive before I was on it and the pain I was in was enough to drive most people insane and it nearly did that to me. I had pain so bad (nearly three years) that I cried in my sleep, took up to five scalding hot showers a day, and had to put bags of ice on my back. I later learned nerve pain is best treated with sensory distraction, but that is beside the point. The point is I was in all this pain and basically reduced to agoraphobia because I was so anxious and still wrote more than I do now. I had doctors telling me and my parents I was lying, being an "overly dramatic teenage girl" (15 at the time), or that nothing was wrong with me. And yet I still wrote significantly more. I wasn't being treated in any way for the pain at that time. I was taking as much advil and tylenol as I could without killing myself.

    I was extremely depressed after my first surgery obviously that is circumstantial. I then had another surgery the next year and radiation later that year. It's been three years since the first one, two years since the second one, one year since radiation, and also one year stable (!!!:D)

    It wasn't so much feeling depressed as feeling nothing that made me want to get off of it. I had to really work to feel anything and to put on a show like I felt a lot more than I did about anything. When all these things were things that should have had a big effect on me emotional (good or bad). I felt like there was a haze between me and all of my feelings. It's called depersonalization. Which cymbalta is notorious for though the company that makes it would rather you not know that.

    It's been months trying to get off of it. There are a lot of nasty side affects that come with withdrawal. It turned out the doctor told me the wrong way to get off it and I was basically swinging my brain chemistry all over the place. I met another woman who had gotten off antidepressants and told me about a book a doctor who had dealt extensively with it had written. So now I'm going about it the right way and things are going smoother. Problem is withdrawal is accumulative. So I keep having stuff flare up now and then such as- affected cognitive abilities, fatigue, mood swings, bloating, hormonal issues, etc. The doctor said this is normal and that it means I went about the wrong way getting off this for a very long time and it'll take time to straighten out. :/

    I apologize if I made no sense in parts. I'm extremely tired right now.
     
  9. Blacklungs
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    Blacklungs New Member

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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/10154775.stm "Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative."
     
  10. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    So I suppose this means that the antidepressants are a likely cause? Since they are inhibiting my mind's usual processes? Also there is sporadic depression/anxiety in my family. I do have one great aunt that is clinically insane. lol
     
  11. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Terra, I was on ADHD meds for a few years but I found it so inhibited my ability to write that I just junked the meds. I'm a much happier camper for it now and I found that, after getting off the meds, I could finally write again.
     
  12. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Glad to hear it. :) Yeah I'm thinking things will get better when I'm totally off this s***. I know I needed it at the time but it's been hell on earth to try to get off of it.
     
  13. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I'm glad you'll be getting your creativity back soon Terra :)
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Sadly I have no idea when it will be. :( I've greatly reduced the dosage so I'm hopeful it will be getting better before too much longer.
     
  15. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    The earlier the better I always say :)

    And I'd reckon just start back writing short stories, then gradually build back up to your normal levels.
     
  16. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    For some reason I completely suck at short stories. I can't ever condense something that much. I guess I'm too verbose. ;)
     
  17. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not all antidepressants cause the same reaction in a person. Had you been on a different antidepressant, you might not have noticed any difference in your usual creativity level.
     
  18. Eoz Eanj
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    Eoz Eanj Contributing Member Contributor

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    The medication you are describing sounds like something that would be used to treat mental illnesses such as Bipolar and Schizophrenia.

    People with Bipolar tend to suffer from episodes of mania -a common symptom of mania is the uncontrollable urge to engage in a creative activity, such as writing.

    Schizophrenic individuals on the other hand (by the way I use 'schizophrenic' very vaguely, there's a very wide spread spectrum of schizophrenia and schizophrenia related disorders), may experience rapid, fleeting thoughts, hallucinations, delusions and grandiose visions, which are.. I would presume.. contributors to a very rich imagination and source of creativity.

    In your case, my guess would be that when you were put on the medication these 'creative episodes' may have stopped occurring, because the medication is designed to settle and stablize your neural activity.. so basically the 'sources' of your creativity we cut off by the medications collective effect over time. Although so, this is just an opinion, and it's important to recognize that everyone's reaction to antidepressants/anti psychotics/neuro-salts, are different.
     
  19. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Thanks for your replies Eoz and Marina.

    Marina, that is true because I was on lexapro first for anxiety and it didn't really do anything like that to me. It just leveled me. Part of the problem was that there was a major war going on in my body and I didn't know it. (along with major family issues) I was aware on some weird subconscious level for years. I knew something was wrong but didn't know what, then the pain started, hence the extreme anxiety. Then they put me on cymbalta because it helps with nerve pain. Now that the circumstance that caused all my anxiety is through with my doctor and I both agreed I should get off of it.

    Eoz, it's interesting you say that. Someone just posted an article on this thread about how the brains of people who are very creative work in a similar manner to those with mental illness. It also said creative people tend to think differently and their brains operate in a different way than the norm. Also that people who have depression or mental illness in their family are more likely to be creative. Which I find absolutely fascinating because my dad has depression, I have a great aunt who is mentally ill, and my grandma (paternal) suffers from anxiety. My doctor says I don't have a chemical imbalance so it's okay for me to get off of the medication. That it was a circumstantial thing. Also while I sometimes get very strong urges to write or make art it's not ever uncontrollable. It makes sense to reason that the antidepressant has dulled that by possibly diverting the natural pathways of how my brain worked.
     
  20. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    HAhahahaha! I know just what you mean! As many of my posts here can attest, I don't write short, either. I think the closest I came to a short story was 47 pages and 6,541 words! Nope. Don't do shorts. But I keep trying because I love the challenge. It's great exercise for the brain.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You do know a short story can be up to 24,000 words, maybe more?
     
  22. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    lol LEMEX YOU RUINED MY TRACK RECORD!!! D: hahaha Now I'll have to say my posts are short stories rather than novels. :p
     
  23. Eoz Eanj
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    Okay, so you were put on this medication because you were experiencing general anxiety from this nerve pain? Well, that makes sense then, being that serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake would've helped calm your cognition and physical bodily functions down to prevent you from feeling anxious. Although, I find the thing with antidepressant medication is that it tends to 'dull' the edge of the knife.

    I had panic disorder (I say had, because I've recovered from it and am now, like you, in the process of being taken off the medication), of course panic and anxiety are different, however I did feel anxious all the time.

    I was a very creative person during that time, and when I first begun on the medication, it seemed to dull my feelings and I was no longer able to reach that 'threshold' where I'd begin to have a panic attack. Of course this was good, the medication did what it said it would, but for a couple of months whilst I was adjusting to it, I found it difficult to be creative.

    I think for me, and this may be similar for you, the source of my creativity, which were my heightened emotions, was taken away as a side effect of the medication. Luckily for me however, I was able to find another 'source' of creativity; I found that after adjusting to my medication, my thoughts became a lot clearer and it was easier for me to focus and think. This clarity actually really helped improve my writing. If you ever read my writing I've done from 2008-09 and compare it to my most recent writing, '10, you'll find the styles to be very different.
     
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  24. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Yes. It went beyond general anxiety though I was having panic attacks a lot and was basically reduced to agoraphobia. The pain was so bad. Every doctor I've ever met asks me how I endured it. :/

    Maybe that's it. I'm not sure though. It probably is though. I've always been a very emotional person and being on cymbalta really drastically changed that. I haven't felt like myself in a very long time. Which is why I'm getting off of it. Plus the doctor said I'm good to because I've learned coping skills and the cause of the anxiety is no longer there.

    I feel pretty out of touch with my emotions. I have for a long time. They are starting to come back though. :)
     
  25. themistoclea
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    themistoclea Member

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    I just wanted to say good luck with everything, I too know from experience the difficulty there is with balancing mental health issues, and the possibility of compromising your cognitive faculties...
    It's reassuring in a way to know that other people go through the same
     
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