Citralopram and SSRI's ..... what to expect

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Notes on my experience - I hope it helps some of you just starting out:

Citralopram and other SSRI's journey

When you're prescribed this type of medicine, it seems all too often that doctors don't prepare you what to expect.  How many of us start taking these pills without reading the information leaflet - I've done it.  How many of us read scaremongering stories about anti depressants or listen to family and friends warning us about the dangers - yup, I've done that too.  So, based on my 15 years experience on this medicine, here's my view:

I was told to take these in the morning to avoid sleeplessness at night. It might work for you.  Everyone's different.

For the first few weeks you'll go through some dreadful side effects - nausea, headaches, weird spaced out feeling, trembling, shakes, heightened anxiety, aches and pains, chest pain, indigestion, dry mouth, yawning, crying, blurry vision, sleep problems, feeling detached, libido problems, strange thoughts, vidid dreams, weight up or down.  See the information for a full list.  Please don't be scared going through all this ..... we've all experienced most of the side effects, been very scared and ill, but they do pass.  Many give up on these tablets too soon.

This lasts around 2-4 weeks.  Some side effects linger, but they will pass.

Every time you increase your dose, you will probably get the same side effects all over again, and you must give them around 2-4 weeks again to settle.

Dose increases need to be supervised by a doctor.

Don't expect to get better immediately.  A broken leg doesn't heal in days or weeks, and neither does this illness.  Some people are quicker to get better, but allow 3-4 months to feel some benefit.

Don't try and hurry recovery along by thinking a higher dose will work quicker.  It won't.  You will just give yourself more side effects.  Remember to give each dose increase about 2-4 weeks to settle, before moving on to the next increase.  Always listen to your doctor too.

When the side effects start to subside you'll start to get an odd hour here and there, or half a day when you feel quite good.  These good times and days will very slowly increase until they out weight the dark days.  Expect a dark day to appear out of the blue too, even if you've been well for months.  This is your body adjusting, and seems to be the way the medicine works.

Slowly you will begin to get better.  It can take months, but these tablets will work.

There are many different types of SSRI's - some work better for different people.  There will be one that is more tailored for you.  But, be prepared to persevere on one type for a few months before discussing with your doctor if you need to change. 

SSRI's are not addictive.  You can take them for life if needed.  People take all manner of lifetime medicine for all ailments - heart problems, blood pressure, epilepsy, diabetes ........ depression is no different.  Depression is an illness ..... don't feel ashamed.

Some people have unwanted, scary thoughts.  I've read that these are a symptom of anxiety, and once the anxiety subsides, the thoughts will become less important too, until they don't bother you anymore.

Depression seems to be a cycle of anxiety/panic/thoughts/depression ... over and over, making you and your mind tired.  Thoughts stick to a tired mind, making you anxious, and the anxiety brings on more thoughts.  So, a viscous cycle is produced.

This medicine eases the anxiety, and when the anxiety fades, so do the thoughts and depression.  The cycle is broken, and so recovery begins.

When you feel you want to come off these tablets, please remember you must not just stop them.  You will be quite ill.  They have to be eased off very gradually - I reduced mine 5mg at a time, from 20mg to nil which took about 3 months.  I had withdrawal symptoms of headaches, trembling, feeling spaced out and a strange buzzing in my head like little electric currents.  It wasn't too bad, but be prepared.  This was my personal experience - everyone is different.  Again you need to withdraw with your doctors help.

A good source to read - Dr Claire Weeks books - Self Help for Your Nerves and More Help for Your Nerves.  She unravels the mystery of depressive illness and all it's symptoms.

Please note - I'm not a doctor or any type of medical professional.  I'm just someone who has suffered first hand with this illness, and have recovered.  This is my own personal experience of SSRI's.

Remember to take your doctors advice.

Patience, acceptance, move forwards ....... you'll get there xx 

7 likes, 11 replies


11 Replies

  • Posted

    Brilliant Kate. As you say everyone is different. Although the common side effects showed up for me too even worse when I increased. 

    Bad days come and go (although they don't feel like they will)

    I'm off to the doctors in a bit to discuss my situation as I am at a low point and having terrible side effects. 

    Will see how that goes 

    I'm been at the low of all lows and hourly it would never go away. But I have been in that drae a few times so I do get through it even if another one comes along. 

  • Posted

    Great advice ..I would just add that withdrawal csnt take doctor was happy for me to take over a year to reduce from 40mgs...and even then I had symptoms of anxiety and irritability ..but I could ride it out
  • Posted

    Thanks Kate for these supportive words! You have basically described me to a t!! I hate the thoughts and the feelings I suffer but I do see light at the end if the tunnel! I too can not wait for a full good day!! Week 4 for me nearly 5!! Thanks always for your advise!!

    Emz! Xx

  • Posted

    This makes a lot of sense katecoggs. I am on week 8 of citalopram and although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel I am yet to start feeling the benefits of the tablets. I have now got over most of the side effects though which is the hardest part. 

    I'm really glad to hear that you have recovered now and are feeling better. There is hope for us all.

  • Posted

    Thank you for your story. I've been terrified to get on antidepressant because of the stories like you mention but I've experience worst with having a nervous breakdown so your post gave me some reassurance that I'm doing the right thing by getting help despite what others may say
  • Posted

    I am on my seventh day of taking cit, let alone any kind of meds, for the first time for work related stress. I am sick leave at the moment.

    Up until today I had not experienced any side effects apart from spasmotic buzzing in the head, which I had when at work. I don't know if the cold I am starting to get over had anything to do with it, but no noticeable problems or side effects.

    Up until today that is. My partner and I walked the short distance into town and I became a little anxious, the buzzing started, I had to take deep breaths now and again, felt fuzzy and had a tense feeling in the bottom of my stomach area.

    Not sure what to expect next, but thanks for your post, really helps.


  • Posted

    Thank you for your post. It was really helpful to read and gives me hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Today is a bad day, week 5 and 2 days, had a good day yesterday, as someone said the highs seem higher, the lows lower. I was so tempted to come off the tablets as I can't remember feeling as bad as this before. Your post was just what I needed to read. Thank you, lets hang in there everybody and support one another xoxo
  • Posted

    Thanks for your kind words.  I read about so many people starting their journeys on here, with each one struggling with the side effects, let alone the illness.  I get quite cross at the lack of information and support that's given by doctors on what to expect when taking this medicine, and patients seem to have to go away and struggle on their own with it.

    Seems this illness and recovery from it, follows the same pattern.  Too many people stop the medication because of the side effects, thinking it's not working, so just hope my post helps.

    Thinking of you all - I've been there myself, so know exactly what you're going through.



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