Emotional side-effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: qualitative study
Some people who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants report that their experience of emotions is ‘ blunted’. This phenomenon is poorly understood.
To understand patients’ experiences of this phenomenon.
Qualitative study, gathering data through individual interviews, a group interview and validation interviews; and searching patient websites for relevant posts.
There was strong evidence that some people taking SSRIs experience significant emotional symptoms that they strongly attribute to their antidepressant. These emotional symptoms can be described within six key themes. A seventh theme represents the impact of these side-effects on everyday life, and an eighth represents participants’ reasons for attributing these symptoms to their antidepressant. Most participants felt able to distinguish between emotional side-effects of antidepressants and emotional symptoms of their depression or other illness.
Emotional side-effects of SSRIs are a robust phenomenon, prominent in some people’s thoughts about their medication, having a demonstrable impact on their functioning and playing a role in their decision-making about antidepressant adherence.
Antidepressants such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely used to treat major depression. Although they have reasonable efficacy they also produce adverse effects, of which the best known include headache, changes in sleep pattern, changes in gastrointestinal function, and changes in sexual functioning.1 Worsened anxiety and agitation may be seen in the first few days of treatment. Other subjective side-effects are not usually considered by healthcare professionals, yet ‘blunting of emotions’ is mentioned by some people who take SSRIs, in clinic and on web forums. They report that, although they feel less emotional pain than before, they also experience a restricted range of other emotions that are a normal part of everyday life. It is unclear whether these experiences relate to the mode of action of the antidepressants. Although some research reports have emerged that may be relevant to such complaints,2–4 there has been no systematic investigation of people’s experiences of this phenomenon.
We aimed to understand, from the patient’s perspective, the phenomenon of SSRI-associated emotional blunting. Furthermore, we aimed to use this understanding to develop an item bank that would inform the development of a reliable and valid questionnaire measure of this phenomenon. …
Apathy figures prominently in the list of symptoms of SSRI toxicity. It’s also a consequence of electroshock trauma and lobotomy. Can there be a clearer illustration of the true role of biological psychiatry in society? It’s simply a way to allow victims to continue participating in a system of increasing social dysfunction. As with genital mutilation, obstetrical abuse and breast deprivation of infants, it’s all about social control.
Psychiatry is about enforcing power imbalances for profit. It’s hard to think of a more mercenary business model.