Prozac, or Fluoxetine, was the first antidepressant that I took for depression. I started taking it in late March of 2018 while I was hospitalized for what a psychiatrist called a severe depressive episode associated with Major Depressive Disorder.
I was prescribed 20mg of Prozac, and I was instructed to take it at the same time (or as close as possible) every day. I read about how Prozac works within the body and the possible side effects so that I would be aware of both positive and negative effects.
Potential benefits of Prozac
Prozac is used to treat depression, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, bulimia, and a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. It may help improve your mood, energy levels, appetite, and disturbances in sleep. It may decrease anxiety, the frequency of panic attacks, and unwanted thoughts.
It has also been known to help the urge to perform repeated tasks that are associated with obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as some premenstrual symptoms such as irritability, depression, and increased appetite. It may also decrease binging and purging behaviors that are associated with bulimia.
Potential side effects of Prozac
Prozac has been known to cause a number of side effects. Possible side effects include but are not limited to drowsiness, tiredness, yawning, loss of appetite, headaches, trouble sleeping, nausea, dizziness, sweating, and anxiety. These are the most common, and most of these symptoms should subside after two or three weeks of taking the medication. If they don’t or if any of them become too much to handle, just get in touch with your doctor.
More severe side effects include unusual or drastic mood changes, frequent headaches or migraines, easy bruising or bleeding, muscle weakness or spasms, shakiness or tremors, unusual weight loss, decreased interest in sex or sexual ability, or thoughts of suicide. These symptoms are unlikely, but still possible.
Rare but very serious side effects include unusual agitation or restlessness, fast or irregular heartbeat, eye pain or swelling or redness, widened pupils, changes in vision, unexplained fever, bloody or black stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, severe nausea or vomiting or diarrhea, changes in urine or other signs of potential kidney problems, hallucinations, loss of coordination, severe dizziness, fainting, or seizures.
A severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. An allergic reaction could be a rash, itching or swelling (especially of the face, tongue, or throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.
Males may have a painful or prolonged erection lasting four or more hours. If this occurs, you should stop taking Prozac and seek immediate medical attention. This is a rare but serious side effect. Permanent problems could occur if you do not seek medical help right away.
It is also worth noting that Prozac may affect blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, be sure to monitor your blood sugar regularly and share any abnormalities with your doctor. He or she may choose to adjust your medication, suggest dietary changes, or recommend an exercise routine.
This medication may increase serotonin and could rarely cause a very serious condition called serotonin syndrome, otherwise known as serotonin toxicity. The risk for experiencing this particular side effect increases if you are also taking other drugs that increase serotonin. Be sure to give your doctor a complete list of all of the medications you are currently taking.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you need to either contact your doctor or seek immediate medical attention depending on severity.
I used WebMD to help me list most of the possible side effects that you may experience while taking Prozac. It isn’t a complete list, so please be sure that you note any effects that you experience while taking Prozac if you didn’t experience said effects before taking Prozac.
I am not a medical professional, so please contact your doctor or a pharmacist if you have any questions about possible side effects or drug interactions.
My first month taking Prozac
Like most people, I didn’t experience any changes or side effects for the first week or two. My psychiatrist let me know that it was normal to not notice any significant changes, or any at all, until after a few weeks. Some people don’t notice any differences until after a month has passed.
During the third or fourth week, I started to notice that I was having frequent headaches.
My second month taking Prozac
During the second month, my headaches were so frequent that I was having multiple ones every single day. That alone was a depressive experience. As far as my actual depressive symptoms, I didn’t notice any changes with my mood.
At that point in time, I hadn’t yet seen a psychiatrist since I was discharged from the hospital. I scheduled an appointment with one, but they weren’t able to get me in for a couple of months since I was a new patient to their office. I scheduled an appointment with my nurse practitioner in the meantime, as the psychiatrist I saw in the hospital suggested, so that I could get my prescription refilled.
I let my nurse practitioner know what was going on, including the frequent headaches that I was experiencing. She decided to not increase my dose since I had an appointment scheduled with a psychiatrist. She didn’t want to change anything with my medication in case my psychiatrist ended up switching the medication I was taking, which would make an increase in Prozac rather pointless.
I continued taking 20mg of Prozac through the second month, but I got so tired of the headaches that I decided to quit taking it without weaning myself off of it, despite being told not to by the psychiatrist I saw in the hospital.
The headaches were absolutely miserable. There were days where they were almost migraine-level, and the only thing that would help was sitting or laying in a quiet room with the lights off. Most of the time, I didn’t take any over-the-counter medication for them because I knew it would be an every day thing, which isn’t advisable either.
After I quit taking Prozac, it was such a relief. I still had headaches a couple of days after not taking it, but after that, I was headache-free.
As I waited for my psychiatrist appointment in early July of 2018, my husband and I started to see a marriage counselor to help us with communication. He got a brief history from both of us, including my experience with Prozac. He advised me to start taking it again, despite the headaches. Reluctantly, I did just that.
The headaches came back, of course. Thankfully, June flew by rather quickly for me, which meant that my appointment with my psychiatrist was soon. I was eager to tell her about my headaches.
My appointment with a psychiatrist
After speaking with my psychiatrist, she decided to take me off the Prozac since I didn’t have headaches before taking it, and they subsided after I stopped taking it. She prescribed Zoloft. She informed me of the possible side effects and to let her know if I experience any negative symptoms, such as the headaches I experienced on Prozac.
She told me that Zoloft is a close relative of Prozac and, if I also have negative side effects with Zoloft, it’s possible that that family of antidepressants is not for me.
I’m still in the early stages of Zoloft so I don’t have much to report, but I’ll be writing a post about my experiences with it after more time.
Have you ever taken Prozac? If so, does or did it work for you? If you were recently prescribed Prozac, feel free to comment and let me know if you have any questions or comments, and if you’ve experienced any improvements or side effects. I’d love to hear from you!