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My Experience With Taking Fluoxetine (Prozac) for 1 Year
Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
My Experience with Fluoxetine
I debated writing this article due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues such as depression, and antidepressant medication, but this information is valuable enough that it should be shared. The only way for us to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health is to talk about it.
I have suffered from symptoms of depression and anxiety for most of my life, and finally got up the courage to discuss these symptoms with my doctor in early 2018 at age 28. Between the stigma surrounding clinical depression, and the horror stories I’ve heard about the potential side effects of antidepressants, I put off seeking help for my symptoms for over a decade.
As I said in my other article, it is usually best to go to a psychiatrist for mental health concerns, but I chose to visit a primary care doctor (again, it can be difficult to get past the stigma of admitting to having a mental health problem). He prescribed fluoxetine (the generic version of Prozac) during that initial short office visit. He said that women typically respond well to that particular antidepressant drug. Though many people don’t respond to the first antidepressant they try, it seems to be working quite well for my depression symptoms, though it hasn’t been particularly effective for my anxiety symptoms.
I started out with 10mg for the first week, then went up to 20mg. After several weeks, I was switched to 40mg a week after my next follow-up appointment. The 40mg seemed to be working well for me so, so I’ve since declined an additional dosage increase. I’ve been on the 40mg dosage for about a year now. I do still have times where I feel a bit more depressed, and I do need therapy in addition to the medication, but I think that the antidepressants are helping a lot.
Fluoxetine’s Effect on My Depression Symptoms
I don’t think I’ve been randomly feeling sad for no identifiable reason as often since beginning to take my antidepressant medication. I think therapy has helped more than the meds for identifying my feelings and thoughts and working to change my thinking patterns so that I don’t feel as sad and worthless.
Without the meds, however, I don’t think I would have been able to get to a place where I was willing to give therapy a try, however, so both treatments work together to alleviate these symptoms.
Since starting fluoxetine, I’ve noticed that it is easier for me to motivate myself to do things than before. When my depression is at its worst, it is almost impossible for me to motivate myself to do anything. Since starting fluoxetine, I have been able to motivate myself to get things done around the house, work more, and take better care of my health.
Ability to Wake Up Earlier
I have never been much of a morning person. For my entire life, it has been near impossible for me to wake up early. Since I was a teenager, I have found it easier to just not go to bed at all than to wake up early whenever I needed to get up before dawn. While I still have some days where I can’t get myself out of bed, it has been easier since starting fluoxetine.
Since a couple months into my treatment with fluoxetine, I have been able to get up as early as 4:30 am if I go to bed at 10pm on mornings when I need to get up early. With my job, I need to be up by 6am some mornings, which has proven very difficult for me before starting the antidepressant. I am now able to get up early enough to do yoga and meditate before getting ready for work, which was never possible for me before.
Fluoxetine’s Effect on My Anxiety Symptoms
Fluoxetine seems to work better for my depression symptoms and lack of motivation than for my anxiety (I have social anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder as well. I’m not sure if that diagnosis is accurate). After a while on fluoxetine, I started getting frequent panic attacks again. I think they happen less than before I started the fluoxetine, but it bothered me, so I mentioned it the next time I saw the doctor for an unrelated reason. He kept me on the same dosage of fluoxetine, but added propranolol as needed. Propranolol is a beta blocker that is usually used for high blood pressure but can also be used for anxiety and panic attacks (I have hypertension as well, though I have another medication to control that. It still gets a bit too high when I’m anxious, however, such as when I’m at the doctor’s office).
The propranolol works better for my anxiety and panic attacks than the fluoxetine. Propranolol is supposedly safer than traditional anxiety medications like Xanax, since you won’t get addicted to beta blockers.
Side Effects of Fluoxetine
I didn’t really notice any major negative side effects from fluoxetine. I had a little bit of dizziness during the first couple weeks, but that went away.
Reduced Menstrual Pain
I’m not sure if this is the result of the medication or not, since I couldn’t find any information about it online, but since starting fluoxetine, I haven’t had as much pain associated with menstrual cramps. Before starting fluoxetine, almost every month I had cramps so severe that I often had to miss work. I had to take much more than the recommended dosage of Aspirin or ibuprofen just to get through the first day of my cycle. I eventually started using a TENS machine to make the cramps tolerable. Since starting fluoxetine, I haven’t needed to use the TENS machine at all and I haven’t needed more than one low-dose aspirin to deal with the pain.
This seems like a very uncommon side effect of Prozac, as I couldn’t find any information online regarding fluoxetine reducing menstrual pain when I searched online. I believe it is a likely cause of my reduced pain, however, as starting fluoxetine was the only major change I made in the month before I stopped experiencing such intense pain.
Low doses of fluoxetine is apparently also used to reduce the emotional symptoms of PMS in women who experience severe changes in mood before the beginning their menstrual cycle, so perhaps there is a connection. I am interested to know if any other women have experienced reduced physical pain during their cycles after taking fluoxetine.
Reduced Ability to Cry
This side effect may be considered positive or negative, depending upon your point of view. I have always felt like I cried way too easily, so I consider this a positive side effect.
About two or three weeks into my treatment with fluoxetine, I noticed that I no longer began to cry when faced with things that usually sent me into fits of tears. This side effect lasted for several months before I could cry again. I think I still cry less often than before I started taking fluoxetine, however.
Fluoxetine is working quite well for me for my depression symptoms when combined with therapy, though I needed something more to deal with my panic attacks and anxiety. For me, at least, there haven’t been any unpleasant side effects so far. Overall, I feel much better taking this antidepressant than I did before.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Jennifer Wilber