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Medical Antidepressants and IQ?

  1. Mar 24, 2012 #1
    Hi. I created this account to ask this question. This seems like the type of community whose opinion I'd value. Basically, I'm a 19 year old math major at what most would consider a very good university. I'm definitely very smart, but as of a year or two ago have been having emotional problems. I basically have anxiety that is not bad, and I've avoided all medicine. It may be so bad that I need it now. Most of the time I'm fine, so it seems a mild antidepressant would be a good choice - just to keep my chemicals healthy to the point where my anxiety doesn't get too bad.

    Anyway here is the question. Would an antidepressant (SSRI) lower your IQ in any sort of way? Ignoring the fact it would mostly help in situation were your emotions are hurting your intelligence. Basically, I mean if someone who wasn't depressed took an would his IQ be affected? It definitely seems like some psychiatric medicine could, but maybe not antidepressants. Does anyone have any knowledge that could help? Also if anyone has any personal experiences with the medication that would be of greatest help, and if you could inbox me(so its private), that would be much appreciated.


  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2012 #2
    I know plenty of people on SSRIs. It hasn't seemed to affect their mind in the way of IQs. They are just as smart, but maybe more focused and things don't bother them as much. Of course, drugs won't solve your problems 100%. Personal experience... I was told by my doc to either take the medicine or try just exercising. It seems to help my focus and I still have yet to be put on anything.
  4. Mar 25, 2012 #3


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    I cannot offer advice. All I can do is recount my own experiences.

    I was concerned that my SSRI was dulling my ability to program. I used to describe it as "every day is a new day", as in, I would wake up in the morning and have to remember all over again the things I was thinking about the night before. If they happened to be solving a problem, I was worried that this was harming my ability.

    I decided to go off it. Slowly. I found that my concentration got MUCH worse. So much so, I could not do my job. Literally, my concentration ground to a hlat and I had to take a couple of weeks off. Now I'm back on the SSRI, and will be on it for the rest of my life. No two ways about it. I am dependent on it.

    Moral of the story?

    If I could go back and give myself a piece of advice, I would go back tell myself DO NOT START TAKING AN SSRI!
  5. Mar 25, 2012 #4


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    SSRI's do not lower IQ, if anything, most people say that they function much better now. It's different for everyone. I was on an SSRI for a few years and decided it was making me "too calm", so I stopped it cold turkey with no side efects. (do not do this, as I've read it causes many people side effects, consult your doctor before you do anything).

    As has been said, we cannot diagnose you, you should see a doctor about your symptoms. if you are clinically depressed, there are many types of anti-depressants that are not SSRIs, if you do not wish to try one.
  6. Mar 25, 2012 #5
    antidepressants have always boosted my IQ and self confidence.
    I love antidepressants.
  7. Mar 25, 2012 #6
    To the OP: No, it would not. Antidepressants have been tested for I-don't-know-how-long, and statistically significant differences in intelligence would've been something that would've been known by now. Given that I couldn't find anything about it in any paper - and the one paper I found about antidepressants and IQ was about pregnant women, and no statistical differences in IQ were found between the children of women on antidepressants and the children of women who didn't use any - feel free to assume that there is no such link. :smile:

    Also, as Evo has already pointed out, if you consider that the idea behind antidepressants is that they make you feel *better*, it is much more likely that you are going to function better because of them. Thus, it may even seem (although this obviously depends on how much your problems have affected your performance) as if your IQ has raised a few points.

    I obviously don't know about any (other) side-effects you may have experienced, but have you considered trying to get a Ritalin or Adderall prescription? This might help you concentrate, and if lack of concentration is the only reason you're currently using SSRIs, you may experience fewer side-effects (again, presuming you're experiencing any side-effects right now; if not, well, ignore what I just said :wink:).
  8. Mar 25, 2012 #7
    Wow, thanks for the helpful responses. I guess I've had a distorted view. I thought most psychiatric medicine were quick fixes that masked problems, drugged you out, or made you a zombie etc. Perhaps with SSRI's this isn't the case at all. This all seems a little too good to be true. I'm always a little paranoid there are long term affects that are unknown or well hidden. Anyway most of what I'm hearing suggests they are good to assist in difficult times in life :smile: .
  9. Mar 25, 2012 #8


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    I have tried several substitutes, all with disastrous results.
  10. Mar 25, 2012 #9


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    I put my hand up to once again point out my strong opinion that they are a bad thing. For me, it is a road I went down from which I will never be able to return.

    I wish I had recognized and dealt with the underlying problems directly, instead of medicating them, but I didn't know that at the time. (In retrospect, it was really life-stress that drove me to seek help. Counselling would have been the better solution.)

    So, maybe I can't reach back into my own past and give myself some wisdom, but I suppose the next best thing is to pay it forward to someone for whom it's not too late.

    Anyway, we really shouldn't be offering medical advice. I just couldn't help sharing my story as a cautionary tale.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2012
  11. Mar 25, 2012 #10
    That *is* actually something to consider. While meds can certainly help you, it is obviously preferable to resolve the issues directly, if possible. As Dave pointed out, there *are* (or at least: can be) drawbacks to psychiatric medicine. However, I personally think it's totally reasonable to want to use meds either to make it easier to deal with the underlying problem, or because it's pretty much impossible to deal with the problem directly to begin with (as can be the case if you're having a brain anomaly, for example).
  12. Mar 25, 2012 #11
    Thanks. To my understanding you could not successfully quit it when you felt you were ready to? That is definitely something to consider. Was there anything wrong with it while you were on it?
  13. Mar 25, 2012 #12


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    Correct. And I have recently accepted that I never will. (I just finished my very best attempt. Did absolutely everything right. And had the meltdown anyway.)

    Exactly one-and-a-half-things:
    1] Did a number on my libido.
    .5] I thought it was making it difficult to concentrate. As a programmer, I need a sharp analytical mind with all cylinders firing. Turns out, being off the meds is way worse. I'm back on now, and really pleased with my ability to do my job.
  14. Mar 25, 2012 #13
    I definitely agree that addressing the issue directly is the best way to go. I've put the meds off for long and I'm too the point where I should be strongly considering them, in my opinion.
  15. Mar 27, 2012 #14


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    i was on ssri medication too.
    I had that for 3/4 months and stopped coz i felt ok. Sometimes when i feel not ok. I take without consulting or lets say irregularly.
    Will that be bad?
  16. Mar 27, 2012 #15
    There are, of course, different classes of antidepressant medication. However, as long as you stick to the meds you've been using earlier (I presume without any problems), you will most likely be fine. Should you experience side-effects anyway, you should of course see a doctor.

    A free tip, though: it can take up to three (or sometimes even more) weeks for SSRIs to become effective. If you're the kind of person who regularly has relatively small periods of depression, it would most likely be more effective to keep using your meds even when not depressed.
  17. Mar 27, 2012 #16
    I noticed this thread - and I wanted to mention that using anti-depressants will likely reduce your ability to be critical. There are different ones, of course, and you may wish to try to find one that does that less than others.

    It seems that that is part of how they "work". As in critical thinking can be turned on one's self and everything in general. If a programmer, mathematician, artist could just keep one's critical focus on the problem at hand - it might be one thing - but that is often not the case.

    In my case I have been able to go ahead and be more productive with anti-depressants - because some of the critical thinking was keeping me from pursuing a career in higher education. While I can and do paint more than ever - I think a definite side effect is being less critical. One thing artists do, for instance, is to "Critique" other art works. While I can do that - I feel that I am less sharp - but I am sharp enough.

    There can be trade-offs. I think the gains outweigh the problems.
  18. Mar 27, 2012 #17


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    paintperson describes very well my experience too. One of the reasons I went on SSRIs was because of obsessive thoughts (not nasty stuff, just stressors I was unable to let go). The positive side of obsessive thoughts is problem-solving. So yeah, as paintperson says, it's a trade-off of what constitutes a liveable life.
  19. Mar 27, 2012 #18
    I reject the use of 'likely' in your premise. It's quite possible that it does this for some people, of course - you and Dave being two of them. I, on the other hand, found that I actually became *better* at critical thinking (although I was, thankfully, less emotionally involved) under the influence of an antidepressant (more specifically, an SSRI - although for me it's recently in combination with lithium, since I'm bipolar). Unless someone can cite a source that points one way or the other, it's hard to say which (if any) is *likely* to happen: all we're doing is throwing around hypothetical proof.
  20. Mar 27, 2012 #19
    I was on SSRIs for a few months, I noticed no difference at all.
    I still feel as bipolar as I did before, after and during the treatment.
    The knowledge that even the medication doesn't do anything sure doesn't help with the feelings of hopelessness -.-

    To the OP, I'd say that if it's just anxiety you'd be better of with a benzodiazepine. As far as I know those deal with anxiety better than SSRIs (assuming it's not constant anxiety).
    That being said, if you feel like me when I'm having a depressive episode you won't be able to study at all. So I guess you should consider it then.

    What I'm trying to say is that I don't really know since they did nothing for me
  21. Mar 27, 2012 #20
    To be specific - the two antidepressants I have used are Prozac (which is an SSRI) and Effexor / Venlafaxine (which is an SNRI)

    I stopped using Prozac mostly because it did not allow enough critical thinking. I was working at a design job at the time and I needed to be sharper.

    I think that Effexor is better than Prozac for thinking critically - but if there are ways to reduce your anxiety without medication - that is all the better. Yoga, meditation, exercise, vitamin B12, etc. But sometimes people NEED medication and so that is that.

    It is important to understand the tradeoffs - especially for people where high levels of critical thinking is an important part of their jobs. On the other hand - with antidepressants - there may be other job opportunities you would not have considered. Teaching and/or working more closely with other people, for instance.
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