Lydia posed this week’s question for Mental Health Monday:
Can anti-depressants/SSRI’s stunt creativity?
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (in other words, medications like Prozac, Zoloft, etc) block the reuptake of a chemical called serotonin from the synaptic cleft (the space between nerve cells where chemicals are “sent” from one cell to the next–it’s kind of like passing notes in class). What this does is keep serotonin in that space longer so it has more time to get from one cell to another. (Translation: the message gets received–bonus!)
So what does that mean? Well, a lack of adequate serotonin is thought to be one of the causes of depression and anxiety. Therefore, taking the medication alleviates the symptoms by increasing the amount of available serotonin. Cool, huh?
Well, that’s the neurology lesson. Now on to how this translates to real life…
People with depression often feel sad, tearful, down in the dumps. They have little motivation and energy to keep up with every day tasks. It’s hard to find interest in things. Concentrating becomes too effortful. Appetite can increase or decrease. Sleep either becomes too sparse or too excessive. Thoughts and intent of suicide may arise. Symptoms of psychosis (delusional thinking or hallucinations) can develop.
Add the anti-depressant and all of these things can be ameliorated. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for everyone, but anti-depressants have helped millions of people get better.
Regarding creativity, there really isn’t much in the research literature regarding this, so I’m going to go on anecdotal information.
Some people experience a relative blunting of their emotional response to things. This has been expressed as feeling “blah,” not upset over what would ordinarily upset them, and feeling calm.
Others may feel differently, but in my opinion, emotional moderation is not the same as creativity. In fact, a depressed person adequately treated with an anti-depressant will likely regain interest in things like hobbies, engaging with friends and family, and investing in arts and leisure. They will regain the energy they’d lost and actually pursue their interests.
You know, I’ve had many many many people describe depression as a dark cloud, a black shroud, a dulling of life. After treatment, the veil lifts, the vitality of life returns, colors appear brighter, and interest in life returns.
Since each individual’s experience is soooooo unique, I am curious to hear what y’all have to say on the subject! Feel free to chime in, folks. 😉
AND, be sure to check out Lydia’s post on Medical Mondays.
As always, this is intended for writing purposes only, and is NOT to be construed as medical or psychiatric treatment or advice.