depression, anxiety and memory loss
August 4, 2017 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I have depression, anxiety and memory loss. I take adipex-p, 1/2 of a 37.5 mg tablet once a day in the morning; Serzone, 150 mg at night, and Klonopin, 0.5 mg at night. I am titrating off of Fluoxetine and will be done with that medication next week. Nothing seems to be working. I know the Adipex P is risky but it is the only thing I have tried that works for appetite control. Off it, I feel like eating all the time and often binge.

This morning, I discovered that I lost my flash drive. I think I left it at school. That's the second flash drive I have lost since May....with lots of personal information on it. I have lost two very expensive pairs of prescription glasses in the last year. I put something down somewhere, and 2 minutes later I forgot where I put it. I can't concentrate. My house is cluttered. I can't think straight. I don't trust my psychiatrist. He doesn't think the doses I take of any of the meds I'm on can cause these kinds of side effects. I don't know if I'm at the beginning stages of dementia or these symptoms are strictly stress or meds related. I feel stuck. I will see my GP next week to discuss this with him. I have finals next week at school and can't concentrate. Not sure what to do. Does anyone have any feedback?
posted by htm to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm actually quite worried by how upset you appear to be, in what is clearly a bit of a nightmare situation. Is there someone, like a family member or healthcare provider, who you can call to talk about this now? I really think you should.

It just seems like you need more immediate support than Internet people can give.

Hope you feel OK soon.
posted by howfar at 6:59 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you have a lot going on at once and having a doctor deny what you're going through must make it doubly hard. Be sure to ask your GP of they have any recommendations for a different psychiatrist.

If it makes you feel any better, one of my best friends of 16 years loses EVERYTHING (laptop on a bus, cell phones, glasses, etc) and she most definitely doesn't have dementia. Stress does funky things to the brain
posted by littlesq at 7:42 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Even if your psychiatrist doesn't think it's side-effects, he should be trying to help you sort this out. Is he doing anything about that?
posted by hollyholly at 8:01 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it helps, forgetfulness is a major side effect of anxiety. My best friend and I both have very mentally taxing, high stress careers on which we experience a lot of stress but are high performers, we both suffer from anxiety, and we both lose things of value constantly. For me it is prescription glasses and my keys, for her it is her iPhone. My brain gets so foggy when I am in a high anxiety phase that sometimes I forget words and names, or give old addresses and phone numbers when asked. So, if it helps at all, anxiety absolutely can be a major culprit in your forgetfulness. Anxiety fills your brain up with a lot of catastrophic thoughts and pushes mundane things out, like where you left your car keys.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:01 PM on August 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

Both depression and anxiety can affect memory and concentration and of course certain meds can also affect memory. And I can't imagine going to school while dealing with these issues. You've got a lot going on! I'd put aside worries about dementia for now - especially since you're experiencing two likely causes for memory loss and difficulty concentrating - being depressed and being anxious.

Talk to your doctor & Psychiatrist and consider getting a different psych if this one isn't working for you. Hang in there. Hopefully things will ease up a little after finals.
posted by mulcahy at 8:05 PM on August 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Set aside the early dementia fears, seriously. Depression and anxiety can cause memory and concentration problems. The medications to treat depression and anxiety, including the ones you're taking, can also cause or contribute to memory and concentration problems. I'm personally not inclined to put a lot of stock in your psychiatrist saying the doses you're taking are too low to cause negative symptoms, because everybody's body is different.

Stress is also a hell of a drug. My friend's Grandmother was hospitalized earlier this summer after a fall, and they decided she wasn't going to be able to physically handle living on her own in her apartment anymore. After being in the hospital for several weeks, waiting for a space in a care facility to open up, she started to display signs of dementia and serious cognitive decline. Like, not recognizing her own children - that serious. But she was in her 90s so the family accepted that mentally she was just on her way out. Now, a few weeks after being transferred out of the stressful hospital environment and into a (very nice) retirement home, she's fine. Back to normal, as mentally fit as before she was hospitalized.

Definitely contact your school asap and let them know what's going on with your health - it may be possible to defer your finals or arrange some other accomodation. Does your school have an accessibility services department (or equivalent) for students with disabilities and are you registered with them?

In the very short term, take a deep breath and find something calming to do for a little while. Take a bath. Meditate. Do some yoga. Draw in a colouring book. Whatever usually works *for you*.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:39 PM on August 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks much, everyone, for your feedback, support and the stories you shared about yourselves, your friends and family members concerning stress and anxiety! I didn't realize it could have such an impact on memory and concentration! I'm relieved at the thought I may not have dementia. To answer your questions...I will continue searching for in-person support this weekend. At this point, Monday night is the soonest I can see a health care practitioner. I'll see therapist on Monday night and GP (DO) on Tuesday. I haven't seen psychiatrist for apx. 2 months and next appt. not scheduled until 8/19. I'm hoping to find a better alternative before then to be willing to cancel with him. For several reasons, I'm scared to do it, to not go back at least one more time to make proper closure, or to give him one more chance, even though it's expensive. I started with DSS counselor at school several weeks ago and she will arrange for accommodations in the Fall but it's too late to do anything this summer. Trimester ends next week. I saw her today and although she could see how stressed I was, she mentioned nothing about being able to postpone the finals so I'm assuming it's not an option. Most of the teachers take off for the summer, it seems. Thank you again, I will continue to check for feedback. With gratitude, htm
posted by htm at 9:37 PM on August 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree that concentration and memory issues are symptoms of illness. That said, Clonazepam can easily be responsible for memory loss. Are you taking it primarily for sleep (it's a pm dose)? If so, can you switch to trazodone? Benzo withdrawal is A Thing even on low dose so don't try it till after finals.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:09 PM on August 4, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you crazycanuck. A friend of mine, an anesthesiologist, told me the same thing about Klonopin and memory loss this afternoon. She doesn't know much about the other drugs. I had never heard that before until the two of you mentioned it. Don't you think my psych would have known about and mentioned that possible side effect?The Klonopin was prescribed for anxiety, which my psych thought would help me sleep better. I take it at night. Last year, he replaced the Trazadone with Serzone. He told me to work up to 3 or 4 pills a night, and after working up to 2 pills I ended up passing out twice in the bathroom, face first into the litter box. Still, he was sure it had nothing to do with the Serzone. I'm not sure if my GP (DO), who I see on Tuesday, can help me come off of these drugs or even know which ones to replace them with. I don't trust my psych, who I am not scheduled to see anyway until 8/19, and I need help NOW. Recently, I thought I found the perfect doctor. I searched extensively for (and found) an integrative medicine practitioner who is a psychologist and a DO and supposedly expert in both psychotropic drugs and holistic alternatives. He took a blood draw for 2 very expensive blood tests that can't be done in a regular lab like "Quest", sent me home with a urinalysis kit to do 2 weeks after I'm off the Prozac, and told me today via e-mail that he can't manage my meds; he can only help me with the alternative treatments. It looks like I won't be seeing him for at least 2 months until all the lab results come in. I thought I had found a one-stop doctor who could manage everything and provide immediate relief but I was wrong. I feel like I'm back at square one. So for tomorrow morning, I'm thinking of cutting back my Adipex-P to 1/4 pill and either adding back the Prozac or leaving it out altogether. I'm experimenting with all of these changes myself because I have no one I can trust at this point to guide me. Perhaps my GP will have the expertise to helpo me. I'm at a loss.I ALWAYS find help on this website! Thank you again.
posted by htm at 10:36 PM on August 4, 2017

I would strongly recommend against having your general practitioner change the medications you were prescribed by a psychiatrist. You sound like you are very anxious right now (i.e. catastrophizing about dementia) and trying to adjust your psychiatric medications without a psychiatrist's oversight seems like a dangerous idea to me. Your psychiatrist should be the one most knowledgeable about pharmacology who you can consult with (a psychologist's training is oriented towards counseling - therapy is an important treatment adjunct for mental illness too but not to the exclusion of medications). You are on 3 psychiatric medications right now and your general practitioner is right to step aside and let your psychiatrist manage them.

Remember that your psychiatrist has to deal all day every day with people who suffer from anxiety and have symptoms that can definitely be related to anxiety, but who are convinced because of their anxiety that it must be their medications. In my experience I get the impression that this makes them feel a little more driven to try to give reassurance that a patient's medications are not causing the side effects rather than making more ambiguous statements that could feed the fear. If that is the only reason you don't trust him please give him another chance. Yes, it makes sense to get a second opinion if you don't gel well with this guy for whatever reason and don't feel he is managing your illness well, but it's not ideal to do that when you're in crisis because of the delay in being able to see a new psychiatrist, as you allude.

Please, I beg you not to experiment with your medications. Tapering off of Prozac can cause people to feel a lot of funny symptoms for quite a while because it has a long half life. If you start messing around with increasing it and adding it back plus doing other things with other medications, how will you know what is causing what that you are feeling after that? Make only one change at once, and do not make the changes without a physician's oversight.

Regarding Adipex, that is a stimulant similar to amphetamine - which is at odds with your other meds. Did your doctors recommend that you take Adipex? Or did they say it might be an issue but you wanted to take the risk because you felt it was worth it to suppress your appetite? There are other options now to help with this type of issue that are not stimulants. Have you discussed those with your doctor?

Can you talk to your professors about the fact that you're having a mental health crisis right now and talk about making alternate arrangements for the exams or taking an incomplete for now so that you can take the exams once your illness is under better control? They should have protocol for this.

Final note: make sure you're getting enough sleep every night as this can have significant effects on your ability to concentrate and remember things.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:47 AM on August 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

On a more practical note, have you checked the lost and found at school for your flashdrive? I work in a college library and people forget them there often, we either notice them in computers or other students turn them in. And if you drive, check the floor of your car.

I hope you feel better soon.
posted by mareli at 7:45 AM on August 5, 2017

Thyroid issues and low iron counts can cause memory issues, talk to GP about that before changing your medications.
Also do you have non medication ways of managing anxiety? Now is the time to use those skills. I'm not clear if you also have a talk therapist but now would be a good time to get them to help you.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:59 AM on August 5, 2017

Agree with treehorn+Bunny. You need a psychiatrist to make these changes. Best your doc can do is refer you to another one. Your next doctor should take your complaints about problems functioning in daily life seriously.

With these drugs, there is often no such thing as immediate relief. Sure, some act fast. Up a stimulant, pay more attention. Take a benzo, relax. Those come at a cost, which you're already experiencing - increased anxiety, confusion. Not to mention the GI side effects, headaches, and sleep disturbance that invariably comes with every med change.

Really with 3+ drugs in the mix you need a pro and some free time to change things, it is a months long process. The only things you can do immediately are lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, meditation, etc.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2017

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't experiment with your meds yourself. That could lead to potentially really bad experiences.

If the stress and anxiety gets bad enough, you always have the option of an emergency room. I've wound up in one more than once for psych symptoms. (I have bipolar, OCD, panic disorder, and a handful of phobias [including being terrified of you!])

Anxiety and stress can lead to OMG WTF WOW memory issues. I got to the point a few years ago that I was in the ER with all the symptoms of having had a stroke. Left side weakness, aphasia, everything. You know how everyone who walks into your room in a hospital says "Can you tell me your name and date of birth"? I couldn't. I knew that I knew my name and date of birth, I just couldn't find them to tell anybody.

In case you skimmed over that last paragraph: I forgot my name and date of birth.

When stress gets superbad, we can wind up with somatoform disorders - which are basically when the brain gets wicked stressed out and goes "GKJHSUYBN;AEOVM,J'KJNVLSIDK!!!!!!!" and stops working somewhere.

My therapist recommended for me that I take up some type of creative hobby with a tangible output: painting, weaving, sewing, origami, coloring, pottery, quilting, knitting, crochet, anything along those lines. So I tried several. I've got a huge collage of coloring pages up on my wall now, I'll be making origami flowers for a friend's daughter's wedding next year, and I'm currently working on three different quilting projects.

When my stress level gets high, I pick up my needle and thread, concentrate on my stitching, and almost immediately feel better.

Do I still forget things? Yep. Do I still lose things? Oh hell yes. But when I get stressed about it, I have multiple coping methods to deal with it (including slow deep breathing, meditation, muscle tensing and relaxing, my handcrafts, and yeah, medication).

TLDR: Don't screw with your meds. If you need the ER, go. Get a hobby. You're not alone.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 2:43 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: treehorn & bunny, thanks much for your great response! I printed it out so I can address all of your comments. I had my first good night's sleep in a long time last night. (I have been up until 3 or 4 in the morning almost every night this week doing homework, etc.). I feel much better today.

I still don't trust my psychiatrist, but I will give him another chance. I came to that conclusion either last night or this morning. It wasn't my GP/DO that stepped aside and said my psych should manage my drugs; he actually said he would be GLAD to help me. It's the new d(integrative medicine) doctor I saw on Thursday that stepped aside - the "expert" in psychotropic drugs AND natural products. If I'm allowed to mention this...please google Gary Ruelas (I will call him Dr. R.) and check out his profile on his website. Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought he was expert in all of it. I think the main reason he doesn't want to mange my meds is that he knows I can't afford it. He's a fee for service doctor...extremely expensive, doesn't take insurance, and between the new patient office visit and three very expensive tests that need to be sent out to specialty labs, my bill came close to 800.00!!! I'm on disability; my husband was laid off in June. We're living off of our savings right now. I'm very careful with money so for me to spend that much on health care at this time shows you just how desperate I am. I was angry at Dr. R. yesterday. Today, what he said makes sense. Truth is, if he managed my meds as well as these alternative treatments, I would have to see him on a regular basis and I just can't afford it. I won't see him again for a couple of months until all the test results come in.

I understand what you mean about the difficult position a psychiatrist is put in when so many patients want to blame their symptoms on their meds. I have only been on these drugs since 6/21/17, but the truth is, I have been a long term patient of his for many years, and I have been on and off drugs for as long as I have been seeing him. Every time I come off them, I end up going right back on. There's a good YouTube video I briefly glanced at last night on titrating off of meds. The author suggested that the first thing to do is make a list of all the reasons you want to titrate off of them to begin with so you're clear about your motives and don't keep changing your mind. I give my psychiatrist a lot of credit for having so much patience with me being a bouncing ball where meds are concerned this last year. You're right. I had better think about this carefully. Still, I wish my psych had told me about all the possible side effects of everything he prescibed. I would have appreciated his honesty. How could he not know? Harvard educated...I would be surprised if he didn't.

Although I have titrated off of drugs on my own before WITH Dr. supervision over the years, I know the protocol pretty well (although I have forgotten it). I did not start titrating off the Prozac by myself. I met a very nice woman on a trip my husband and I took last year and she happens to be a pharmacist. Out of desperation a couple of days ago, (because my regular pharmacists wouldn't help me and because I was too embarrassed to call psych AGAIN for titration help), I took this woman's advice. She said she would only help me with titrating off of prozac and I had to find a psych to help me with the rest. After doing much internet research on the subject last night, and given how awful I felt yesterday, I decided that I was titrating off prozac too quickly and perhaps that contributed to my stress yesterday. So here's the plan....two weeks ago I took 20 mg every other day instead of every day; this week I took the prozac 3 times; next week I will take it twice and the week after that I will take it once. I feel good about that. I'll see how I feel.

I my again on 8/19. I will tell him my "story", and although I won't be ready to titrate off of anything else for a couple of months or more, I am going to ask him to tell me how to titrate off the Klonopin next, and then perhaps the serzone. I have heard/read many things yesterday about klonopin (clonazapan) and amnesia/memory loss. As a student, I'm dying on the vine. School has always been difficult for me. I need to be as sharp as I can to stay focused. And I don't want to keep losing flash drives and prescription glasses. Of course, perhaps that could have happened anyway, even off the meds.

Regarding psychiatrist is the one who prescribed it....possibly at my request. I have taken it on and off for years. There have always been side effects, some worse than others. And then I stop. And when I can't tolerate the constant obsession with food and the binges anymore, I go back on. And knowing my struggle with this drug as well as the side effects over the years, he is still willing to prescribe it. He has never offered me any alternatives. I am thin. I attribute that not only to the adipex but to years of going to a 12 step program for overeating, a hospital program for the same, to therapy and possibly even to the other RX drugs he prescribed. When I almost passed out from taking my first karate class several weeks ago from rapid heart beat and shortness of breath, I realized something had to go (aside from the karate class)...either the prozac or the adipex p. In my research, I discovered that both drugs can cause rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath and they don't combine well. (Shouldn't my psych have known that, too?). I decided to let go of the adipex p. I called my psych and he said to stop taking it immediately. I stayed on the prozac and through research I found two alternatives which got great reviews on Amazon and elsewhere - A product called Lean PM and one called Lean XT (by Jacked Factory). I had several email discussions with the company owner. I took those supplements for about a week, they worked for a few days and then all my food cravings came back. I went back on the adipex and started titrating off the prozac. I can tell you one this....since I have been coming off the prozac, the floaters in my right eye went away entirely. The Opthalmologist said the floaters had nothing to do with my meds, it was a sign of aging and very common, but they didn't need to be surgically removed at this point. I have got to be my own advocate. The "experts" don't always have the answers. It's very disappointing but it's true. 20 doctors will say 20 different things. I know this from past experience.

I hope I can find an adequate replacement for adipex soon. I recently tried very highly rated stimulant free products that didn't work. I still have heart palps on the Adipex-P, but nearly not as much as when I took the adipex and prozac together. I can live with it. Today, I cut my dosage down from 1/2 of a 37.5 mg tablet to 1/4 of a tablet. I'm not hungry, so I hope that dosage will be just as effective.

I will give some thought to your suggestion about talking to my professors about taking an incomplete and taking my finals later on. Thing is, I'm looking for to a break from anything related to school (after finals) until the Fall semester starts. The school I'm going to is an accredited community college but it's not-for-credit. The only grade that is given is pass or no pass. If I don't pass the one class that I'm particularly concerned about, I will be very disappointed but I "think" I can with it. I'm taking the same class again next semester because I didn't absorb much of it. These classes I have been taking since July are accelerated 4 week classes over 6 weeks (instead of the usual 12). The reason I feel so "desperate" to take them now and to take as many as I can, as I am hoping to be released from disability soon, come out of retirement and get a high paying job that can at least support me if not the two of us in case this happens to my husband again. It's highly doubtful that my skills or my stress will get me that far - I'd have to triple my income to do that - but that's my desire.

Thank you again. Thank you to every one in this group. You are amazing, as always. Thank you Metafilter! I wasn't hopeful that I would get a response from anyone to this particular subject. You have helped me so much.

I will read and respond to other messages asap. I have to make a long distance call now. Sincerely, htm
posted by htm at 8:21 PM on August 5, 2017

Response by poster: P.S. to my last post to treehorn and Bunny: The two supplements I tried for a week and didn't work were "Lean PM" and "Lean XT" (by JackedFactory). According to Amazon (and other) reviews, they seem to help a lot of people and I'm sure they do, but they didn't work for me. Perhaps I didn't give them enough time to kick in, but the Adipex kicks in immediately and my binging/appetite was already getting out of control on the products I just mentioned.
posted by htm at 9:37 PM on August 5, 2017

Response by poster: mareli, Thank you for the suggestion! The school has satellites in several places. I go to two different campuses. I called the main campus on Friday morning - the computer lab and the front desk. They said they didn't have it. When I went there later that afternoon, I checked with the front desk personally and looked through their lost & found stash; it wasn't there. The lab, I found out, closes early on Fridays so I couldn't check again with them. And as my memory was failing me on Friday, I thought it was Saturday and didn't call the satellite site so I will check with them on Monday.

Great idea about checking the floor of my car! I kept the flash drive zipped up in a small, secret pocket in my purse so I doubt it's in my car but I will check! I found something I thought I lost last month in that very spot. Thank you again!
posted by htm at 9:50 PM on August 5, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you SyraCarol. I get blood tests yearly. I believe those tests are on there, and neither doctor who gets the lab results mentioned low thyroid or iron counts. I will keep that in mind though for my next visit with any of my doctors.

Non-med ways of handling my anxiety? I go to several 12 step program meetings a week. I call program and non program friends when I feel anxious, I pray by myself and with others, I go to talk therapy weekly. What I lack is "fun" and I have a "block" that often prevents me from succeeding and taking good care of myself. I saw Dr. R's colleague on Thursday, Dr. L. (a psychotherapist). He's an Eriksonian therapist who focuses on neuroscience moreso than talk therapy. He accepts my insurance. He uses techniques like hynotherapy and EMDR - two things I have never tried. I was very excited about all he had to say at our first appointment. I will see him again for individual and couples therapy next weekend.

My friend suggested I participate in left brain activities like crossword puzzles - adult coloring books, knitting, drawing, painting, etc. I have spent most of my adult life focused on food, television, work, and going to 12 step meetings...survival! Desserts and television are my two primary addictions. After trying and failing many times, I gave up television last month and desserts on 7/23/17. If I hadn't given up television, I never would have had the willingness to go to school. When I'm in a bad place, I would rather be engaging in those two addictions more than anything. So I'm just beginning to practice a new way of life now. Other than my desire to learn how to make jewelry or crafts I could easily make to give as gifts, I have no other interests to speak of. I still haven't worked through the grief of losing my "pet-children" to various illnesses, so getting another pet (which used to keep me very busy and entertained) is not an option right now. I may give the adult coloring books a try. I have heard a lot of good things about that.
posted by htm at 10:14 PM on August 5, 2017

Mod note: A few deleted. OP, sorry, but you are overcommenting, and perhaps also making yourself more anxious feeling it's rude not to address every person answering. Please do not worry! The standard for Ask Metafilter is that the original poster comments very little, just to answer direct questions, clear up any misunderstanding, and maybe sum up at the end how they are choosing to proceed, or how things worked out. Otherwise, just relax, take in the advice and don't worry about responding to every comment. People want to help, and don't want you feeling additional stress about thanking each invididual answerer, so again, don't worry!
posted by taz (staff) at 1:32 AM on August 6, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks much, everyone. I am doing so much better. I have been off the Adipex P since 8/8/17 and when I see my psychiatrist tonight, I plan to ask him to help me titrate off of the other 3 psych meds I am on. My school counselor suspects that I have ADD. Do you think I should bring this up to the psychiatrist tonight? I don't trust him and I'm hoping to make closure once the titration process is complete. If I do have ADD (my home is extremely cluttered, I lose focus, etc.) does that require a medication or can it be treated through alternate methods, i.e. supplements, therapy, etc? Sincerely, htm
posted by htm at 12:36 PM on August 15, 2017

Response by poster: No need to respond. I am doing good now.


posted by htm at 2:06 PM on August 16, 2017

Response by poster: I have been off all psychotropic drugs since October and doing well. Thanks much, all, for your feedback!
posted by htm at 1:19 AM on December 3, 2017

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