SSRIs and the end of romantic love
December 18, 2013 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Four months after my husband went on Lexapro, I could see it in his face that he didn't love me anymore. At seven months, he asked to separate after four years of marriage. After finding this article online, I'm curious as to whether others have had similar experiences. Have you or your spouse experienced a decline in attachment/romantic love after starting an SSRI?

Main question is above. This is just background:

He was dealing with anxiety-induced depression for a long time before starting on the drug. He sought out medication after repeated urging from me over a period of several years, in a last-ditch attempt to function and continue working at his job (the source of the anxiety in the first place). Leaving his job is not an option so please don't suggest it; he's on his dream career path right now and it's going to be a long slog to the top. He has no desire to abandon it, only to be more productive. Lexapro has given him that.

It's also made him angrier. Whereas before he was kind and extremely loving toward me, and loathed confrontation, he has been eager to yell back and defend himself since starting on the drug. But it's not just arguments with me--he'll start them himself now, which is a complete personality change. He raises his voice and does all of the things he used to hate it when I did (I'm from a family where we hashed out our disagreements by shouting at each other; he's from one where they never talked about them at all).

Over the summer this anger morphed into a lack of love for me. When he asked to separate, he said that he hadn't felt romantic about me for several months. He said that since we had both been unhappy for a long time, there was no point in continuing, and we should go look for other people to make us happy. There has been no rancor, only this maddeningly cordial rationality.

I always approached our marriage with the idea that it would be forever. I had no fear of conflict because I believed that these issues needed to be discussed so that we could work them out and have a happy life together full of good communication. I believe that Lexapro flipped some kind of switch in him that has removed the love that gives a person the wherewithal to work through conflicts. Now he just wants me to leave and move on with my life. If you or your spouse has experienced anything similar involving an SSRI, I would really like to know what your next steps were or if you have any advice you could give me. Thanks hivemind.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (71 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Way to bury the lede there anon.

Whereas before he was kind and extremely loving toward me, and loathed confrontation, he has been eager to yell back and defend himself since starting on the drug. But it's not just arguments with me--he'll start them himself now, which is a complete personality change. He raises his voice and does all of the things he used to hate it when I did (I'm from a family where we hashed out our disagreements by shouting at each other; he's from one where they never talked about them at all).

That makes it really, really sound like you were treating him like a doormat, and he because he was depressed he just sat there and took it. Now that he's feeling better enough to assert himself, he doesn't want to put up with it anymore.
posted by Oktober at 1:19 PM on December 18, 2013 [47 favorites]


Wow. I completely missed the paragraph Oktober is pointing to. Sadly, the assessment that you were treating him like a doormat before seems fairly accurate to me. Are we missing something?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


He said that since we had both been unhappy for a long time, there was no point in continuing, and we should go look for other people to make us happy. There has been no rancor, only this maddeningly cordial rationality.

I agree with the above, based on what you've written here.

Personally, it sounds to me that without so much anxiety, he's able to think clearer and take charge of what he wants for his life. Feeling more confident and assertive about your needs is a common result of taking a SSRI.

This is a much more logical explanation, given my own experiences with Lexapro, than that it has flipped some switch that makes him incapable of love. Sorry.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:25 PM on December 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm from a non-shouting family and agreeing with Oktober here. Once my own issues with depression were behind me, I lost all tolerance for relationships with conflict...

The stuff about 'shouting' and the idea that not shouting = not addressing things, and 'no fear of conflict' despite shouting, sounds like rationalising a lot of fighty behaviour, and I don't understand how it used to be kosher for you to yell at him but now you're disgusted that he's yelling back.

The "maddeningly cordial rationality" sounds far better for all concerned than a lifetime of yelling at one's partner.
posted by kmennie at 1:27 PM on December 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


I tend to agree with the above answers. It's hard to react to, or care about, or feel anything (positive OR negative) when you're depressed. It could be that the SSRIs brought him out of that, and now he's in a position where he can actually move on from what is, for him, an unhappy relationship.

That said, I went on Wellbutrin a few months ago for a deep and enduring depression. It's helped enormously. I'm not depressed any more. At all. BUT -- and this is a big one -- it leaves me prone to fits of rage. I don't act out on them, but man, do I get really, really angry. Sometimes I get angry at things that are legitimately irritating (but which don't warrant actual anger), and sometimes I get angry at stupid little things. My pdoc put me on another drug, to be taken in tandem with the Wellbutrin, to "take the edge off." Anger, apparently, is not all that uncommon of a side effect on SSRIs.

It may be worth counseling, and it may be worth asking your husband if he could talk to his doctor about the possibility of an additional, secondary drug. From your description, though, it sounds a little bit like he's made up his mind.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:38 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is NOTHING in your question as written that indicates that you are treating him like a doormat, OP. Jesus Christ. What you're saying is that you've always had different argumentative styles (you: aggressive, him: passive-aggressive), and now his personality has suddenly done a 180, and you're confused and scared. Of course you are.

I was on antidepressants for about 2.5 years, during which time I felt more motivated and less bogged down by negativity-- I also couldn't write poetry and constantly fought with my boyfriend, because I never felt the balm of love. Rarely, if ever, did I feel "in love" in the entire time I was on them. I started fights over nothing, and let them spiral out of control because there was nothing in my heart to make me dial it back. I was kind of on autopilot, romantically, and sometimes mean, because I suddenly wanted things and didn't want to compromise, and just didn't care anymore.

I went off them several months ago and I am back to normal and newly happy. I'm honestly glad that I tried them out, because they taught me some ways to deal with demotivation, and broke some of my negative thought patterns-- but it was all maddingly cordial in the way you express, and I'm happy to be feeling real feelings again.

I don't think there's anyway to tell him this convincingly if he's made up his mind, though. He may stay on Lexapo forever; he may go off it eventually and realize he's made a big mistake; he may go off it and decide that it was right for him to break off your relationship. It's hard to say.

Antidepressants are not magic. People are big on saying they change you into the person you're "supposed" to be, but we barely understand them or the human brain.

This is about his personality change, not who is and who is not a yeller. (Additionally, being with a nonconfrontational person who is passive-aggressive is not much better than being with a yeller IMO.) It could be the case that he's never loved you and only now has the bravery and fortitude to admit it, but it sounds much more like he went on Lexapro and became a bit dead to the world and now wants to go seek his fortune in a variety of ways that will probably never be deeply satisfying, because the drug will prevent him from caring.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:39 PM on December 18, 2013 [56 favorites]


I'm now on Celexa (a cousin of Lexapro) and if anything I'm more loving and sweet to be around.

As for the yelling to resolve conflict, that's a non-starter for me. Once Husbunny raised his voice at me and I was shattered. I come from a home where my Mom would yell at me in anger, and I just sat and took it. Now, I refuse to allow anyone to treat me that way.

You don't have to yell and argue to communicate. Your premise is flawed here.

It may be that with the anti-depressant, your husband is now realizing that he would rather not live with someone who yells at him, and he's now in good enough shape to verbalize that to you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:39 PM on December 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


Just a quick note: Wellbutrin isn't an SSRI. But I, too, had fits of rage and deadened emotions on it. I thought the deadened emotions were 100% great, taking the edge off and helping me break free until a few years later when I realized how little I cared about anything at all. Family and my partner had been of the utmost importance to me-- on antidepressants, I didn't care about any of them, which freed me from some negative and toxic situations, but which also gave me little to no meaning in life. Life is complex.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:41 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The first 4 posts are ridiculous. You in no way give enough information for us to assume you previously treated him like a doormat and the only issue is that you don't like it that you no longer can. All we can tell from what you say is there is a definite turnaround of communication style from before he was on meds. It seems like perhaps there WAS a major personality change for the worse (sorry didn't read the article), and this COULD be a kind of negative side effect of the medication (as opposed to it being perfectly clear that he's now more "himself" and refuses to be treated like a doormat). I don't think we know enough to make any judgments as to what's really going on. Maybe talk to a therapist who knows all about meds, weird side effects, and how medication changes lives for better, and for worse, and both.

Yes, this --" There is NOTHING in your question as written that indicates that you are treating him like a doormat, OP. Jesus Christ"
posted by Blitz at 1:43 PM on December 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


The OP said she raised her voice, not necessarily that she shouted at him. There are many degrees between raised voice and screaming, and most arguments can involve at least a raised voice.

Even if he had been "a doormat" the OP was taking advantage of (in which case, why would she have been pushing him to get help?) replacing "Lexapro killed our love" with "Lexapro let him see what a monster I am" is assuming a lot.

OP, I have not had experience with this drug in a relationship, but have had some with depression/getting it treated; it can force couples to confront things they were avoiding.

Are you talking to anyone? Have you two done any counseling? If he refuses you can't make him, but if your relationship was in fact loving beforehand (or you thought it was) then it can't hurt to talk to a professional about the side effects or emotional fallout. Maybe there was something you didn't see that was a problem obscured by his depression. Maybe he's using the excuse of drug side-effects to make a change he was too afraid to make before. Maybe there are deeper mental issues going on.

Also, I am sorry you are going through this, it sounds terribly confusing. Make sure you take care of yourself. It doesn't sound like things have been easy for a long time.
posted by emjaybee at 1:43 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


It may be that with the anti-depressant, your husband is now realizing that he would rather not live with someone who yells at him, and he's now in good enough shape to verbalize that to you.

Through... yelling at her? I agree that yelling isn't all that great and don't yell much myself, but if he doesn't like yelling and now reacts to it by also yelling, rather than a deeply held principle it could be heightened sensitivity/fits of rage that occur frequently on antidepressants. (Or maybe he's yelling back because he feels like it, and has no opinion on yelling-- but if antidepressants are making him act in a super inconsistent/irrational way, i.e. yelling about yelling, maybe they are affecting him negatively, and he needs to shop around.)
posted by stoneandstar at 1:43 PM on December 18, 2013


I did experience some blunting of my emotions, lack of motivation, that sort of thing on SSRIs -- but this wasn't what caused me to stopped wanting to be with my ex. It was that once I stopped focusing so much on how I felt about myself, I was able to focus on how I felt about him... and how I felt was that the relationship had long run its course but that I had been comfortable being slightly miserable because I feared being alone.

My feelings about breaking up didn't change once I was off the SSRI.

This just my personal experience, obviously, and you know what they say about mileages. They vary.
posted by sm1tten at 1:47 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Depression is often described as a numbness, a lack of ability to feel properly. It is not, from what I can tell anecdotally, at all unusual for those feelings to come back kind of piecemeal over time, and for the early emotions to be things like anger that are not necessarily productive. So it's believable that he might have been angry for a bit, but it sounds like he's worked through that stage, and yet he's still not interested in continuing this.

But you're not, here, exactly selling that there was much worthwhile in the relationship beforehand. Even take out what people mentioned above about conflict styles, you've got very little here about how great things were before, just about how you thought that this was permanent. "I thought this was forever and so I didn't worry about any of this stuff before" is basically the definition of taking someone for granted. The up side is that if what you're really mourning here is the loss of stability, there's a lot of potential that you're going to wind up with a far better relationship than you had before.
posted by Sequence at 1:49 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm going to suggest counseling -- couples especially. Are you both willing to unpack all of this stuff together and then decide to separate?

Is your spouse in counseling to compliment his medication?

I'm so sorry that this breakdown is happening, regardless of why or the final outcome.
posted by mamabear at 1:50 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Folks, let's focus more on the general experiential thing here and have less inter-user arguing about notional shouting, etc. Asker can follow up via the contact form if they want to clarify something there, in the mean time try to keep this more constructive.]
posted by cortex at 1:52 PM on December 18, 2013


This is about his personality change, not who is and who is not a yeller. 

Wake up and smell the coffee.

"... he has been eager to yell back and defend himself..."

His personality change removed the haze of depression, and he saw how you were treating him. He is now standing.up.

Respect his wishes now - especially now that he can flex his newfound independence.
posted by Kruger5 at 1:57 PM on December 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


There is NOTHING in your question as written that indicates that you are treating him like a doormat, OP. Jesus Christ.

Except, well, this:

he has been eager to yell back and defend himself since starting on the drug

Note, OP says "yell back" (emphasis mine) - as though she has been yelling at him since the beginning, and he only recently started to return the favor. Why the shouting, and why the shock that he now shouts back? Moreover, if someone feels the need to defend themselves to their spouse (instead of just presenting the facts calmly and rationally), that raises many red flags for me.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:58 PM on December 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


Hi, I could be your husband. I had anxiety and depression in my marriage for about 2 of our 4 years. I didn't start SSRIs until I was out of the house, but I started therapy about a year before then. I'm on Prozac now.

SSRIs didn't make me love anyone less. But it did help me see that the relationship was failing to meet my needs, and that I could leave without feeling like a failure. They made me calmer and less reactive. It helps me take a mental step back and see the situation for what it is without getting into yelling matches.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 1:59 PM on December 18, 2013 [17 favorites]


it sounds to me that without so much anxiety, he's able to think clearer and take charge of what he wants for his life. Feeling more confident and assertive about your needs is a common result of taking a SSRI.

I wanted to add that this is true, and probably does help a lot of people break free of unhappy or even abusive relationships. However, sometimes emotional deadening is good (takes the edge off self-defeating thoughts!) and sometimes it's bad (never feeling quite as happy or in love). Sometimes more confidence and assertiveness is good (respecting one's own needs), sometimes it's not (lack of patience, lack of empathy, generally giving up on people and not working with them). I always think of my medicated self as critically lacking the ability to stick with people through difficulties-- always thinking "why don't I just move on, I owe it to myself, why waste time on others who can't get it together." It was good at first, but became a little psychotic.

Also with due respect to Sequence, this doesn't quite sound like taking for granted:

I always approached our marriage with the idea that it would be forever. I had no fear of conflict because I believed that these issues needed to be discussed so that we could work them out and have a happy life together full of good communication.

It sounds to me like the OP had no problem bringing up issues in the relationship or things she was upset about (which sometimes came out imperfectly, with voice-raising) with the goal of hashing them out, while her husband was more in the practice of avoiding things that seemed too confrontational. Now he's suddenly engaging, but angrily, and being a lot more confrontational, which is already a new-medication warning sign. There is a great advice column on the Hairpin that ran a piece about addressing issues in a relationship instead of avoiding them, because you're missing out on so much intimacy by avoiding them. In that sense, it is possible that the OP's partner was avoiding intimacy, and also that the OP might be better off finding someone who can work through issues better.




Kruger5, I came in this thread to say that I behaved exactly like OP's husband on antidepressants, and realized almost too late that I was acting like an asshole because they had blunted my ability to love. I don't need to wake up and smell anything, it happened to me.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:00 PM on December 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Once again, assuming that antidepressants always magically lift a haze and reveal the true person underneath is terrifically naive. A lot of people have good experiences on them. A lot of people have bad experiences, and experiences that change.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:02 PM on December 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


In some ways, you could be describing me. Only what went on in my head and what you think has gone on in your husband's head are completely different.

Please don't take this the wrong way. I am only relating my own experience.

After just under 4 years of marriage, I began taking Lexapro. I had been depressed and listless for months. Lexapro gave me a foundation to stand on from which I could see that the things that were awful in my life could be fixed, and the main one was that I was enormously unhappy in my marriage. While depressed and without the SSRI, I thought that I deserved no better, that I had brought it on myself, and that there was nothing I could do about it. Lexapro allowed me the sanity to leave my now ex-husband.

I paid a high price to do so. I paid him a ridiculous amount of alimony for 6+ years in exchange for him not raising a fuss at my place of work, where I was trying to establish a career. That's just the kind of thing he would have done, too, since he was comfortable with scenes. I'm not comfortable with scenes and I really don't believe in yelling at people to make them love you. He thought that would help. All it did was drag me down further. Anyway.

This part of your post since we had both been unhappy for a long time, there was no point in continuing, and we should go look for other people to make us happy really hit home for me, because what I said to him was, "Both of us are very unhappy and I don't think that we need to be. However, I don't think that we make each other happy. But I do believe that we can be happy. Just not together." That's almost word for word.

He had always said that divorce was a nonstarter and that marriage is for life. But he used that as license to treat me badly. He was condescending and argumentative, and he belittled my education, mainly because he had chosen not to go to college and later regretted it. And although we probably weren't a good match prior to the wedding, the stuff that he started after we were married made it impossible. I tried for 4 years but as soon as I was no longer depressed, I left.

And I have never regretted it. Not for a minute. Yeah, I wish I hadn't had to pay that blackmail, but my life without him is worth the price.

Again, this may have no relationship to what is going on in your relationship. But you asked for experiences with Lexapro and relationships, and that's mine.

Hope all works out well for you.
posted by janey47 at 2:03 PM on December 18, 2013 [20 favorites]


I started taking Wellbutrin (an antidepressant but, as stated above, not an SSRI) while I was dating my future husband. I had tried Zoloft earlier in our relationship but quit because it gave me nightmares. I don't know if we argued more before I started taking Wellbutrin or after but I think the arguments we had before were related to my crushingly low self esteem whereas now they are about other things.

I had dated other guys while depressed but not taking medication. It was rare for me to dump people. I am not proud of this but I was in a place where I would cheat on people rather than dump them. I don't know that they're related but I felt like I didn't really have control over the situation which I think is a symptom of depression but also I was a self-absorbed jerk at the time so who knows.

I can relate, to some extent, to your partner being more assertive now that he's taking an antidepressant. Before antidepressants, I didn't feel anger, just sadness. I never had any energy. But while on antidepressants, I occasionally get angry. For a while, it was kind of fun - well, this is a different feeling!

But, and maybe this is me, when I feel angry, the anger doesn't control me. I try to slow down and come up with a way to express myself. So it will be almost funny, in that husband will do something like come home late and I won't know what to do but maybe the next night, out of nowhere, I'll say, "I felt upset when you went out late last night." And he'll be kind of surprised but we can talk. Sometimes I won't be able to put my finger on why I'm upset and I might bring it up again later just because I'm trying to identify the root cause of my feeling upset (was I not invited? did I think we were going to do something? was I just lonely?). So two nights later, I might say, "I was upset that you were out late because I thought we had talked about going to bed early and I had told you earlier in the day that I missed you. But I recognize that you invited me to join you so it's no big. Let's just try to get to bed earlier."

In my experience with Wellbutrin, it has given me more energy which has made me happier. I think it blunts my negative feelings which is important for me because without it, I quickly spiral from "this day sucked" to "this day sucked, tomorrow will probably suck, I am going to die miserable, hopefully sooner rather than later."

Hope that makes sense and I'm sorry that you're going through a rough time.
posted by kat518 at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't know about whether the OP was treating the husband as a doormat or the husband being passive-aggresive. Neither point of view seems conclusive to me, but it basically doesn't affect what I have to say.

So, OP: do you believe the marriage has any chance at all left? Do you still want to work things out between the two of you? Do you love him? If you search your feelings, are you mainly afraid of being in a failed marriage and are scared of having to move on? Only you can know, and it can be hard to offer comfort or advice if you're not even sure.

If you still love him and want the marriage to work and think it has a chance then try and get him to see a couples counseler. Maybe you'll both learn some things about communication and you can repair things together. A counselor can be the impartial observer it looks like you'll need if you want to save your marriage. If it doesn't work, well, you'll know you did everything in your power to make things work between you again. What do you and he have to lose?
posted by Green With You at 2:12 PM on December 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


I 100% agree with Green With You.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:16 PM on December 18, 2013


Is this mood change something that you or your husband ever discussed with his doctor? Aggression is a side effect, if rare, of Lexapro use. I don't think we have enough information to know if the personality change is a result of the depression lifting or if it's the drug itself. I've been on a low-dose of Lexapro before. For me, the major effect was a slight stunting of emotions, but such drugs affect people differently. I'm sorry this happened to you -- it sounds from your post that it was unexpected and painful.
posted by megancita at 2:21 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't believe you are necessarily treating him like a doormat, because I experienced this. When my husband was on Lexapro, he was much quicker to anger. He was also less affectionate and generally more cold (and completely disinterested in sex, to boot). We talked extensively about this and decided together that it wasn't worth the impact on our relationship. He turned back into his loving, familiar self within a few weeks and we've found other ways to help him cope with anxiety and depression together.

Have you told him that you've seen a personality change since he went on SSRIs? It's worth a calm, rational discussion. If you can't achieve that alone, I'd say it's time for couples counseling.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:34 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Once again, assuming that antidepressants always magically lift a haze and reveal the true person underneath is terrifically naive. A lot of people have good experiences on them. A lot of people have bad experiences, and experiences that change.

Personally, I don't think that antidepressants can create or remove something as profound as love, but they most definitely affect mood and how you express yourself. So, OP, I think you're right to think that the antidepressants have had an impact on your relationship, but I think that just blanketing that change as "love" or "lack of love" is going to blind you to the nuances of what's going on, and with something as delicate as how a person is medicated, the nuance is important.

It seems to me that *something* is wrong, because a personality change that occurs in conjunction with another medical change is often a big deal. It's hard to know from your account if it's the medicine that's wrong, or the relationship that's wrong, though.

First off, I would try to schedule couples' counseling, because if one major issue going on is that you guys try to resolve conflicts by yelling and these conflicts aren't getting resolved well and your husband doesn't like yelling anyway, then you need to try a different strategy for resolving conflicts.

Second, I'm wondering if you should see a doctor for yourself, to make sure that you don't also need to be screened for depression? I know that sounds bizarre, because it's not exactly an infectious disease -- but it's very hard to live with a depressed person, and people who have the same sorts of problems attract each other anyway, so you wouldn't be the first person who this has happened to (and now that he's not depressed, maybe behavior that before seemed natural and normal to him now seems unhealthy and difficult to deal with). Also, the ways that he's behaving that worry you -- like the yelling -- seem to be behaviors that you're engaging in, too, which I think might mean that, as much as he might not be doing so well, you might not be doing so well, either.

Third, I'm wondering if he's just not getting a high enough dose? A relative of mine was having a similar problem (not with your husband's medication, and not a wholesale personality change, so YMMV, but she was becoming more and more angry and bitter over a relatively short period, and just didn't seem like "her"), and the doctor upped her dose and things got better almost immediately. I'm not sure how you might mention the idea to him, but if he's feeling some good affects from taking his medication but things also aren't quite right, it might be because the dose is too low or otherwise off. Likewise, different medicines work for different people, so he might do better on another medication.

People do get angry and aggressive, medicated or not, but it's definitely not a sign of health to suddenly get much angrier and more aggressive than usual, and to start doing things that you used to hate. I do think that you're right to be worried, even if it turns out that it's the relationship that needs to change, or that you need help as well, and this isn't an issue with your husband (or his medication) alone.
posted by rue72 at 2:39 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


As someone who was on Lexapro and recently came off of it, switching to a different SSRI for a variety of reasons:

Lexapro can make you "maddeningly rational." In fact, there's a whole class of drugs that do this that have proven to be really really good for me this way. Some of them are seratonin or neurotonin reuptake inhibitors for anxiety and depression, some of them are beta blockers for high blood pressure -- the end result of each of them is that they make me able to think before I act.

When I went on Lexapro (or actually, Celexa, Lexapro's older sibling), I was in a very unhealthy relationship. We fought and broke up monthly. I'd moved halfway across the country and knew no one except my roommate, who was involved with my on again/off again's roommate. There was a long series of very very bad situations and scary emotional states.

After going on a drug and getting counseling help, I started standing up for myself a little more. I broke things off with that woman (with only one relapse). I developed new mental tools to manage my anxiety. I got control of my finances for the first time in so many years. I grew a garden, landscaped my roommate's and my house, and started volunteering with dog rescues. I became one of those gosh darned commercials. It was wonderful!

But for lack of a better term, Lexapro really can deaden some people. I was one of them. Switching to a different drug 'fixed' that for me, in the sense that I started having more emotions again. Unfortunately, I didn't quite know what to do with them, because I'd gotten along perfectly fine not having them. But changing drugs is a very personal choice, and one that you do not get to make for your husband. It might be that he feels he's rational for the first time in years, which is how I felt.

If you love him, let him go. If he comes back to you, he's yours. If he doesn't, that doesn't mean that you ever have to stop loving him. It does mean that you need to handle your separation amicably and move on with your life, in whatever form that takes.
posted by SpecialK at 2:46 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh -- and as far as anger goes ... it's not that, on Lexapro, I started being angry. It's that I stopped being passive and keeping things to myself. The only way for me to express how I was feeling with the way I was being treated in that relationship was to get angry. In fact, I got angry once or twice to the point of scaring myself, which was part of the motivation for breaking things off with that woman.
posted by SpecialK at 2:49 PM on December 18, 2013


Honestly, it sounds like he just figured out who he is and what he wants without the fog of depression clouding (no pun intended) his judgment. It doesn't mean the drug has rendered him incapable of love or turned him into a mean man - it just means that it's made him realize that he isn't actually happy with you after all.

Note: I was your husband, way back in my first marriage. I was severely depressed and anxious for years and years, including the first two years of marriage. Then I started Lexapro and counseling, and suddenly realized FUCK! It's not that I'm miserable in my marriage because I'm depressed, it's that I'm miserable in my marriage period. The Lexapro really opened my eyes to understanding the difference between the depression that my medication could resolve and the unhappiness with my life that *I* could resolve. And I hate to say it, but I left him and it destroyed him to see me change into a person that realized they didn't love him, but in the end we both knew that it was the best thing for us both. I'm sorry, that is probably not what you want to hear.
posted by joan_holloway at 3:01 PM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Does he show anger, or love-loss or other changed demeanor towards anyone else? My husband can not take SSRIs. They did something similar to him, but it wasn't just me he was acting different towards, he was having problems with just about everyone. We ended up finding him a different Pdoc who said there are some people who just can't take SSRIs. After stopping the meds and getting therapy, he, and we are much better.
posted by southeastyetagain at 3:04 PM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


He's yelling at you, starting arguments, and clearly doesn't respect you anymore.

Is this how you want to live? You need to accept what's going on. He doesn't love you or value you anymore. It's just time to accept it. He's gone, and there's nothing you can do.
posted by discopolo at 3:25 PM on December 18, 2013


I firmly believe that the effect Lexapro had on me was a large factor in the implosion of my marriage. SSRIs are evil, I'm glad to be off them for good.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:40 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am not going to judge your conflict resolution style. What I will say is that Lexapro has made me less given to anxiety-fueled fits of anger, depression, and avoidance.

I dated someone with your conflict resolution style for a long time, before I started taking medication, and had I been taking it at the time we started dating, I would have been far less fearful of confrontational and far less fearful and anxious about my girlfriend's outbursts and confrontations and less paralyzed about what I wanted out of life and the relationship. My guess is that what has happened with your husband-- he's spent a lot of the relationship paralyzed by anxiety about you, and with the Lexapro, it's gone.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 3:41 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, ignore the people are telling you to just give up on a marriage without trying to make it work.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:41 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


sorry for the serial comments, but that's what you get when you aren't supposed to add content through the edit window

Read Divorce Remedy by Michele Weiner-Davis. It will help you, even if you don't get your husband back.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:44 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm from a family where we hashed out our disagreements by shouting at each other"

"He raises his voice and does all of the things he used to hate it when I did"

"I had no fear of conflict because I believed that these issues needed to be discussed so that we could work them out and have a happy life together full of good communication"

Shouting isn't a form of good communication. From what you've told us, it sounds like you can dish it out, but can't take it. The SSRIs are allowing him to stand up for himself and improving his self-esteem. He doesn't have to take it from you anymore.
posted by matty at 3:47 PM on December 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have experienced something similar-but-not-quite-the same. My husband, who has suffered from major depression on and off (mostly on) for our entire relationship, is very much less confrontational (although by no means a pushover) and I am very comfortable with conflict. I tend to raise my voice when I’m angry and he hates it. I also dial it back when I can see he’s upset and apologise for any hurt my tone has caused him, FWIW. So I don’t see the OP treating her husband like a doormat, I see different, equally valid arguing styles. You don’t have to agree with everything your partner does or always be perfectly calm and collected to be a loving respectful partner.

Anyway. To the love thing. During my husband’s most recent episode of depression, which ended in psychiatric admission, he became extremely irritable. This actually got worse as he got better. This wasn’t him acclimating to becoming more confrontational or being ‘able to stand up for himself’, it was him huffing, putting on what I think of as ‘hate face’ and storming off, slamming doors and generally doing a pretty good impression of someone who loathed me, for example, in response to me for gently asking him to consider some very reasonable requests. (NB no way was I yelling or raising my voice.) It got to the point that I wouldn’t speak with him about anything I knew he wasn’t going to like without a therapist present. It was AWFUL. And it was a major, major personality change. When he is well, he is sweet, kind, loving and we navigate our different arguing styles pretty well. I would have said didn’t have a mean bone in his body. Unwell? Yeah, not so much.

He was taking an increased dose of Effexor at the time the irritability set in, had ECT, and then switched to Dothep, which helped, but it was really only after the last week of his five week hospital stay that I noticed his irritability decrease and what I think of as his ‘normal’ personality re-emerge. I’m sharing this because I guess, Lexapro isn’t the only med out there, the dose he’s on isn’t the only dose there is, and meds aren’t the only treatment for depression. Is he being overseen by a psychiatrist? Or is the medication being handed out by a GP or another practitioner with less expertise? Do you have any chance of asking him to hold off on a separation pending a med review and possible change?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. It may well be that, as other posters have pointed out, he is, sadly, seeing things clearly for the first time and really doesn’t want to continue. Which is awful, and I’m so sorry if that does turn out to be the case. But I think it could be worth at least trying to investigate other medication and treatment options.
posted by t0astie at 3:48 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


From a user who would prefer to remain anon:
This exact thing happened to me and my husband with Lexapro. We're talking the most loving man on the planet suddenly was telling me that he wanted to go "live in a cabin by himself in the woods" and never see me again. He wasn't even affectionate to the CAT anymore, which is what ultimately tipped me off that something was really wrong. It was the most shocking change of personality I've ever seen in a person. He couldn't stand to be in the apartment and he would just plunge into the night randomly and start conversations with strangers on the streets. He also became more aggressive, and he began lying to me in a cool, baldfaced way about things that didn't even matter, seemingly just for the hell of it. It wasn't just a disinhibition effect, it was a total, total personality change. I'm not saying to completely discount the other responders, if what they're saying has any ring of truth at all, but yes this happened to me right down to the smallest detail and it was completely out of nowhere and eventually he did stop taking the drug because of it and was like a man coming out of a dream.
posted by jessamyn at 3:53 PM on December 18, 2013 [21 favorites]


Disclaimer: I have not taken Lexapro. My experience is with several other SSRIs (ie: Citalopram, Prozac, ect.) generally taken in combination with other medications (ie: Buspirone, Lithium, ect.)

That said, I believe any mood-related drug can have a profound effect--for better or worse--on the person who takes it, and on those around them.

In my own case, I went from feeling/thinking too much, to feeling/thinking too much about the sexual side effects I was enduring (which negatively impacted my relationship and quality of life). So the Doc and I switched Rxs. The sexual side effects mostly disappeared but my mood continued to dangerously toed the suicide line. So the Doc and I switched Rxs again. This resulted in substantial weight gain (20 lbs) and a rather abrupt deadening of happiness, excitement or fulfillment. With the weight gain my mood spiraled downhill from there. Now, all meds are being tapered down/off due to their lack of efficacy and others will be tried in a few months.

This constant shifting of meds has certainly created difficulties for my partner and I. Some days I wake up and struggle to think--I struggle to talk concisely---I fail to 'feel' anything about anyone or anything--myself included. Navigating a relationship with a depressed person certainly isn't easy, and knowing that I'm not 'myself' makes it harder for me to be around him because I want to be the best 'me'. I close up and want to retreat.

YMMV, but perhaps your husband is pulling back for similar reasons. Perhaps he does not feel (because of your different communication styles), that he's being his best and the only rational thought in his head is to split. Maybe the Lexapro is stunting the passion he once felt for your relationship, and that without it, it's not a relationship he wants to be in anymore. Or perhaps he's feeling passion now and has become aware that he's lacking it in his relationship with you.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a whole lot you can prompt him to do. See if he's willing to discuss the side effects with his Doc (possible med change). See if he's willing to attend couples counseling, but be prepared for refusal---he might have already resigned your relationship to being over.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:54 PM on December 18, 2013


While I agree that yelling is not a positive form of communication, I don't think that the stance that the antidepressant is allowing him to "stand up for himself" is helpful. That's not how antidepressants work, and that's not what the OP is asking.

I say all that in part because it doesn't really matter whether the medication, or your communication styles, or general long-term unhappiness, or some combination thereof, is the reason that your husband has asked for a separation. If your husband does not share your idea that marriage is forever and that you should work through your issues together, you likely cannot convince him otherwise. Specifically, if you have the idea that telling him that you think his medication is causing him to feel this way, or if you are using the medication to "reason" with yourself as to why the relationship has failed, I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

Your husband is working on healing himself. You should do the same.
posted by sm1tten at 4:14 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno, it sure seems like that's how antidepressants worked for a lot of people in this thread including me. I lost all patience for people yelling at me or other forms of drama on them. It was like night and day. It's really quite possible the same is true for OP's husband.
posted by Justinian at 4:21 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


From what you've told us, it sounds like you can dish it out, but can't take it.

If by "it," you mean him telling her that he wants to end their marriage, I don't understand exactly what that would mean.

There is a lot of obsessing over the fact that the OP was honest about the evidence here. None of this has anything to do with yelling, except that the evidence is that his personality has changed radically to the point that he wants to make a significant life change shortly after going on a new medication.

This is a textbook flashing red light, klaxon in the night-style warning here that the medication has had a big effect, and assuming it just means he's better now and can yell with the best of them is as bogus as saying that he's starting smoking weed and doesn't want to go to work anymore but this is good because the weed has lifted a haze and allowed him to realize that work sucks, man.



(Also, please consider the obvious inconsistency in saying that the OP is an abusive witch for yelling at her husband, but her husband yelling back and even starting the yelling match just means he's cured and "assertive." Yelling is equally bad no matter who does it, I would assume.)
posted by stoneandstar at 4:22 PM on December 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


Ok, so clearly this could be two COMPLETELY different things, a fucked-up reaction to medication OR medication working perfectly. We can't know which from here. OP, I think the first thing to do should be to talk to him and tell him you've heard that SSRIs can sometimes cause personality changes, and to get him to get in touch with his doctor and discuss it. If he refuses, call the doctor yourself. Even if all this turns out not to be caused by the medication, you owe it to your marriage to make sure of that.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:27 PM on December 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


If by "it," you mean him telling her that he wants to end their marriage, I don't understand exactly what that would mean.

I think that yelling is what was meant by "it" in this case.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 4:32 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree with showbiz_liz; we're not going to be able to sort this out here. OP should talk to her husband and/or his doctor (although I'm unsure how much the doctor would be willing to discuss things with OP's wife, confidentiality being very important between a patient and a doctor).

At least the doctor would probably be willing to listen without telling OP anything confidential I would assume.
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed. This is not a trivial issue-- this is a person deciding to a divorce out of the blue after several months on a new, mood-altering medication. You can't stop him, but I think you owe it to both of you to discuss with him (calmly) the idea that the medication has had a profound affect on his outlook, and attempt to speak with a doctor or try counseling.

When he asked to separate, he said that he hadn't felt romantic about me for several months. He said that since we had both been unhappy for a long time, there was no point in continuing, and we should go look for other people to make us happy.

Not feeling romantic for "several months" is a pretty normal blip in a long-term relationship, and I think it's kind of a warning sign if this is what he actually said. But is any of the rest of it true? Have you been unhappy? Has he been unhappy? Can you tell? Does he ever try to communicate with you? Are you generally in the dark about his feelings? Does he listen to and understand yours, even if he's nonconfrontational?

I know he's being maddeningly cordial now, but this is a marriage, which most people enter into without the idea that they'll just politely leave in a few years if things aren't going well.

I think it's a bit telling that a side-effect of antidepressants can be increased risk of suicide, because suddenly one has the motivation. Some people are instantly happy with the results of their antidepressant, but I, personally, would not enjoy looking back and realizing that I make a major life decision so soon after stepping into new territory.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:35 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is he feeling anything? If not, he might want to adjust his medication.
posted by amtho at 4:47 PM on December 18, 2013


[Folks, answer the question don't argue with other commenters.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:52 PM on December 18, 2013


IANAD. i've read that in some people with bipolar the manic/hypomanic episodes can be seen outwardly as a lot of anger/irritability. maybe it's possible he has bipolar II which is the milder form of bipolar and the anti-depressant sent him into a hypomanic state? idk, but it may be something to at least consider. if he is willing i'd have him or you consult with his doctor about the changes in his personality and/or get couples counseling.

i did have emotional blunting on an AD, effexor xr, and my doctor cut my dose in half and had me take it twice daily and the blunting stopped. when i tried to increase the dose the blunting came back so i could only tolerate a very lose dose. when i went off it years later i had horrible withdrawal effects that included irritability/anxiety and other problems which was not at all characteristic of my personality before being on the drug.
posted by wildflower at 4:55 PM on December 18, 2013


i've read that in some people with bipolar the manic/hypomanic episodes can be seen outwardly as a lot of anger/irritability. maybe it's possible he has bipolar II which is the milder form of bipolar and the anti-depressant sent him into a hypomanic state? idk, but it may be something to at least consider.

This is basically what I came in to say -- I have bipolar II and ended up in a hypomanic state when I took antidepressants. It had an effect on my relationship and every aspect of my life and thank God I found a new doctor who figured out what was going on before I did anything unfixable. I was angry and impulsive and irritable and I just wanted people to leave me alone. I don't know your husband and God knows I'm not an expert on mental health stuff so I have no idea if this is what's happening to you but if he's undergone a major personality change and seems disconnected from things he cares about it's worth checking in with a doctor.

Please feel free to MeMail me (or my husband, Bulgaroktonos, who has okayed me saying this) if you have any questions we might be able to answer. Very very best wishes to both of you.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 5:20 PM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


"he has been eager to yell back and defend himself since starting on the drug"

Yell back suggests the OP was yelling before, and it also sounds like he wasn't defending himself before. But there is some ambiguity in the post, and we can't really be certain what things were like.

So, I would strongly suggest three things. First, if she hasn't brought up the possibility to him that the drugs may be affecting his behavior, she needs to do so and suggest he talk to a doctor. Second, if they do have a history of arguments where she was yelling at him while he just sat there taking it, she needs to cop to her side of the problem and tell him she's willing to make some changes. Third, of course, counseling.

It may be that she has tried all of these things, or that he has refused to keep trying with her. If so, whatever it is that has made him decide this marriage is over, I'm afraid it's just over.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:51 PM on December 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I haven't read the thread but yes, when I briefly went on Celexa, one reason I went off it is it was making me nearly homicidal. I was SO ANGRY. Furious. Literally hissing with rage some days.

It also made me anorgasmic, which could go some ways towards killing a romantic relationship.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:46 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another bipolar here who started cycling into mania thanks to a nudge from an antidepressant. Unfortunately, folks with bipolar spend most of their symptomatic time depressed. Doctors are less likely to think "bipolar" when someone presents "depressed." But many antidepressants trigger manic/hypomanic episodes, and it's not all Van Gogh painted all night. Some of my mania is irritability, crankiness, screaming & yelling.
posted by Jesse the K at 9:00 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Imagine if your dynamic with your husband was one where he shouted at you and you hated it so much but you never shouted back because that's not what loving people do to one another, and you found it really hard to communicate that fact because you didn't want to be shouted at. Now imagine that your self confidence was boosted a couple of levels and you realized that you didn't have to cower in a corner while someone shouted at you and you finally shouted back. Imagine that opened up a whole weird world where you not only shout back, but you occasionally shout first. And that in this world, it's a federal fucking crime when you shout because your spouse is the shouter and you're the one who's behaving weird. You go back to your first principles - loving people don't shout at each other - and you're utterly confused and demoralized.

From painful personal experience - it's not necessarily the SSRIs. But you both need to be extremely honest and non-ego-bound in order talk this out. He needs to be aware of the effects of his conflict avoidance and his meds, and you need to be aware that what you thought was a baseline might have been him suppressing his responses to your shouting for a very long time.
posted by SakuraK at 9:58 PM on December 18, 2013 [10 favorites]


This is in relation to a different SSRI, taken for depression and anxiety. I’ve been off it for years and will never take another. I don’t know how Lexapro might feel or anything about it.

I too experienced emotional numbness, loss of creativity, and irritability while taking it (2 years). It’s certainly true that I became indifferent to others’ responses to my increasingly obnoxious behaviour (loss of inhibition, for sure).

I remember seeing facial expressions or noticing tones, recognizing their social relevance in very sort of removed way, and steamrolling over the interaction anyway. I would see the inappropriateness of my action, but was not sufficiently motivated by an accompanying emotion to change course.

This troubled me, to the extent I was capable of feeling troubled. The nature of that dissonance was odd. I knew that I was supposed to care about loved ones (I was single at the time, so in my case it was friends and family), but I didn’t. I knew that I should have feelings in response to events, and I didn’t. I experienced this as a kind of hollowness, and a felt disconnection from my remembered self. (And things I loved to do.)

‘Knowing that’ constrained the degree to which I was inclined to even think of intentionally breaking the relationships I was probably subtly damaging. I.e. I didn’t think of that at all. I still conceived of my friends as my friends, in a kind of propositional way, as known facts about my world, important for me to orient myself within it. I wouldn’t think of ending a friendship in the way I wouldn’t think of moving to Omaha.

So although I was disinhibited and irritable, the intellectual organization of my self-concept and social world didn’t change, and I didn’t want it to change. There wasn’t like a visitation of raging ‘madness’ that reconfigured my basic orientation to people I was supposed to love. I wasn’t all of a sudden open to randomness or flip decisions. I was still committed to my people, by memories and expectations. (But, those were ok relationships to start with, they weren’t strained.)

If Lexapro-in-your-husband is at all comparable, and I don’t know that it is, it could be that his choices are, sadly, informed by longer-standing beliefs and ideas. I regret noticing that he’s still committed to his work. Is he indifferent about other people and important structures in his life? Enough to alter them on a whim?
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:19 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


My old sweetheart had a massive personality shift when he switched from Zoloft to Wellbutrin. He was busy, obsessive, and got really, really angry. It was easy for him to get super angry and he would do weird things he never did before (like punching the steering wheel). I hated it and said I was going to break up with him if he didn't quit taking it, and then he quit taking it and went back to normal.

If your husband is so "rational," would he be willing to try a drug vacation (say, a month, with the blessing of his doctor), to test the hypothesis that his desire for divorce might be drug-induced?

Good luck, anon.
posted by feets at 11:45 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just chiming in that I've also experienced profoundly negative personality changes on psychiatric drugs. I was put on drugs when I was in my early teens and spent a decade believing I was asexual and a "loner" - being around people was very distressing for me and intimacy was emotionally painful and I avoided it as much as I could. When I got off of psychiatric drugs that all did a 180 and I'm now a very social person who really values relationships. These drugs can do scary things - I'd definitely bring it up with your husband
posted by horizons at 7:10 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anecdata, since that is what you seem to be looking for:

I am on an SSRI, I have seen several friends go onto on SSRIs. With me, I have major depression that recurs every time I try to go off the medication, and fades away every time I go back on the medication. I notice no personality changes on the medication - just the absence of depression, which allows me to be more myself.

I have seen SSRIs help several friends. I have also watched a few friends go on antidepressants of various types & not be helped at all. I have never seen an SSRI make some angrier or less capable of loving, but I believe that it could happen.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:48 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just FYI this thread is being discussed over in Metatalk.
posted by planetesimal at 8:50 AM on December 19, 2013


I'm sorry you are dealing with this, OP.

You say you think Lexapro "flipped a switch" and that your husband is unable to love you and work through conflict. Why do you think this? Have you discussed with your husband the changes you've noticed and how he feels about them? Have there been changes in his relationships and affections for other people, besides you? Is he finding this medication helpful in other areas of his life? Are the conflicts in your relationship things that have been ongoing?

These are questions I think you need to ask yourself, and talk about with a couple's therapist with your husband.

I think your question is unanswerable. I think the best answer is maybe. Everyone responds to medication differently, go to couples counseling, your husband needs to talk to his doctor.

Make your mental health your first priority right now. Take care of yourself.
posted by inertia at 8:50 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


My anecdata: A friend of mine is bipolar; the first psychiatrist she saw was dubious and thought she had googled the symptoms. This clinician (who I'd like to have words with, god damn it) prescribed her Lexapro as a "diagnostic." She became very irritable, impulsive, burned bridges in almost every area of her life (including our friendship, for about six months) and only found out at a psych appointment a month later that she was earning a bipolar diagnosis. From what I have heard hanging out with therapists and psychoanalysts, Lexapro and Zoloft are probably the worst SSRIs to be on if bipolar is a surprise.

Speaking less clinically, I've recently come out of depression. Often, the first emotions you feel other than numb aren't the most appropriate ones. I surfaced recently after a shitty year (of horrible things: the death of loved ones, sickness, loss, betrayal and now finally being comfortable again) and the first thing I felt was... anger. It was so refreshing! I think it's a pretty common way to wake up from depression actually, from what my therapist tells me. My own anger can pretty well co-exist with romance and love -- and my partner is able to recognize that me being angry is a good thing, a sign that I'm alive and valuing life again. He doesn't think I'm having these feelings AT him. Well, most of the time; it can be hard on him and I bet it would be a lot harder if he took it personally (or if I directed it at him like you're getting, egads). He gets help too.

Your husband is having these feelings and they suck. You are experiencing a loss and you've been supporting him a long time. I really hope you can find someone to support you. I don't know if it's him or the Lexapro or whatever psychic soup. I know depressed people often go from numb to angry. Speaking from experience, angry feels awesome when you've been numb so long. Also speaking from experience, anger in search of a target is awful. Getting a divorce is awful. I am sorry you're hurting and it sucks.
posted by sweltering at 12:40 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are too many interested parties on Metafilter for me to talk much about my own divorce, so I'll just chime in with general words of support for the OP and an open offer to talk offline.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:50 PM on December 19, 2013


Did him taking the SSRI coincide with therapy?

I ask because if I was seeing a therapist when I was with my ex-girlfriend, I would have gotten out of there way earlier than I did. Meaning, if your husband is started going to therapy at the same time he started taking SSRIs, then the cause of his behavior may not be the drugs, but the therapy.

FWIW, I'm on SSRIs now and love my fiancee more and more each day--despite the fact that it caused my sex drive to decrease. Everyone is different.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:05 PM on December 19, 2013


With regard to the personality change, it's very possible that your husband is bipolar like the several answerers above — many antidepressants are inappropriate and problematic when taken by people with a bipolar mood disorder because they can push them into hypomania (meaning that it's not full-blown mania, but a level below that which is, nevertheless, a problem).

Irritability, disinhibition, much less regard for the feelings of others ... all of these are symptoms of mania. They're symptoms of other things, too, of course, so you can't figure this out without active management by a physician and, especially, some concurrent counseling to get a better idea of the overall situation.

However, there's very little you can do at this point. When someone says they no longer love you and are leaving and divorcing you, there's not much you can or should do to stop them. It's definitely worth mentioning to him, if you can, the possibility that he's bipolar and the the antidepressant is pushing him into a mood that is just as problematic as the depression. But, beyond that, you can't make someone love you and you can't make them stay with you. It's not fair to them, and it's not fair to yourself.

Someone above wrote that they don't believe that these drugs could turn off someone's love like a switch. I think that's true. It could certainly cause some negative personality changes, some conflict where there previously was none, but it's unlikely to suddenly make someone decide that they don't love you.

As painful as it is, you should consider the possibility that he's not bipolar, and he's not been radically affected by the Lexapro such that his "love switch" was turned off, but rather that he had fallen out-of-love with you long before but neither of you realized it because his depression created a codependent dynamic between you where his need for you was mistaken by both of you for love. And now that he's not depressed, that's not your relationship dynamic anymore. This is a much more unpleasant and painful possibility to consider than that his feelings about you were radically altered by the medication, but it's very possible. And it's important to consider because now that he's decided to leave and divorce you, you very likely won't be able to change his mind or otherwise stop him, and believing that this is all some artificial result of the medication will put you in a very difficult emotional place with regard to the divorce while, in contrast, recognizing that there were possibly serious problems in your marriage and it could not continue provides a path for you to reconcile yourself to its ending. Consider that an extended depression by one partner might all by itself alter your marriage in ways that you can't really recover from.

Ideally, you'd both be getting some counseling, independently and together, and your husband with his physician would explore possibilities like that he's bipolar or try a different medication. But that just might not be possible, because you can't stop him from doing what he chooses to do. At that point, you need to look out for yourself, for your own emotional health and your own life circumstances. Good luck.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:12 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


OP, I hope you're doing alright.

We ARE our brain chemistry, so yes, something that alters the chemistry in your brain can alter your behavior. This is quite an antagonistic idea to the idea of free will so you get a lot of strong emotions.

I was listening to this Radiolab today which will hopefully help you.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:53 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been on Lexapro since 2003. Ten years, sheesh.

Thank heavens for it. I was on the verge of crippling anxiety, and some shit went down shortly after starting that I wouldn't have survived without it.

Then I went into a field that I didn't enjoy, and which many would consider high-stress. Again, it let me keep my head down and just keep moving forward.

Now, ten years later, I'm doing something that I love. But this conversation has made me look back at the variety of failed relations over the past ten years and ask some questions.

In particular, why did I date a series of people with emotional problems? Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, rage issues, etc. And I feel like, in retrospect, I needed someone with a large range of emotions because mine are somewhat deadened. Someone normal just seems...distant to me. I've even dated such "normal" people, but I've been sort of indifferent to them. There's just no place for me connect with them.

I'm recently down to 5mg, and hoping to start working my way off sometime in the late spring. And I'm curious/terrified to see what it will entail.
posted by jasonstevanhill at 6:56 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saw above a good question-- is he in therapy? Meds + therapy leads to the best outcomes, usually.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:58 PM on December 19, 2013


While I don't have personal experience with Lexapro, I do have personal experience with a radical personality change from a different psychiatric medication.

I am not a violent person. While I do have anger issues, they manifest themselves via yelling and saying nasty things. I haven't hit someone or even damaged property in anger since I was a child. And even as a child, my violent revenge fantasies revolved around being rescued by dragons and similar things I knew to be impossible anyway.

Then I was prescribed Seroquel for insomnia. Within a few days I began to feel violent urges. These urges increased exponentially each day I continued to take the medication. After a week it was taking all my self-control to not punch people over trivial slights. Fortunately, I had enough self-awareness to realize that something was seriously wrong, so I Googled Seroquel rage and found that it was a rare but known side effect. I stopped taking it immediately and within a few days the uncontrollable rage and overwhelming violent urges dissipated.

If I hadn't stopped taking Seroquel, I sincerely believe I would have ended up killing someone. Possibly enough someones to end up on the national news. I almost became a monster and in hindsight my week on Seroquel was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

Going through that really opened my eyes to just how much changes to one's brain chemistry can change one's personality and behavior. Everything you think you know to be true about yourself, your feelings, your morals, and your relationships can be obliterated so quickly by the right (wrong) drugs.

So yes, psychiatric medications can make you feel, say, and do things that the non-drugged you would be horrified by and thus it's quite possible that your husband is being pushed by the Lexapro to do something that he will deeply regret later.

I hope that you can get him to agree to try a doctor-supervised medication holiday to see if he still feels this way once the drugs are out of his system. I would suggest to him that he write a letter to himself about how he feels now (about you, your marriage, life in general, etc.) and what he wants to do, put it somewhere secret (you should NOT read it so he can be 100% honest with himself), and then review it once he is no longer under the influence of the Lexapro. If his reaction is "WTF was I thinking?!" then the problem was the medication and he needs to try something else (and you should forgive him for the things he said and did while he wasn't in his right mind). But if he finds that he still agrees with most of what he wrote, then the problem is the marriage and the medication just gave him the wherewithal to finally face that problem.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:42 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


OP, if you want to talk further about SSRIs or coping with a divorce, MeMail me.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband became extremely angry, violent even (when he would never have been violent before) on one of his medications. I don't know which one, there have been so many, but I think he was on Lexapro at one time. A few years later, on yet another newly prescribed medication he also became rage-filled, to the point I was scared for my life, because the SSRI had the side effect of contributing to him developing diabetes in just a few weeks of taking it. He denied there was anything wrong with him (expressing my concern with concrete examples threw him into violent, screaming rages that lasted for hours as I cowered and he blocked me from leaving or getting to the phone). On the day I was going to call the police he finally agreed to go to the hospital where they said he would have fallen into a diabetic coma within a few hours because of his blood sugar levels. Waked blood sugar causes disoriented thinking/rages. So the SSRI may be a problem, or they may be masking/contributing to another physical disorder (a malfunctioning thyroid can also have huge impacts on personality/perspective). I am so sorry you are going through this and I hope you have a lot of support in your life.
posted by saucysault at 12:19 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


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