Can Antidepressants Change Your Personality?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

When Tana Amen was suffering from depression, she had no idea it was caused by her thyroid medication. She started taking antidepressant medication, and the effect it had on her was completely unexpected. In the second episode of a series on antidepressants, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana describe how some antidepressant medications can give your entire personality an overhaul, and how it may not always be a positive change.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to Welcome back, we are talking about depression and antidepressants this week. Before we get started, we would like to know one thing you've learned if you want to post it at the end of the podcast, tag us, go to You can leave us a question or review. We love to read your questions, but we want to know one thing you've learned or one question you have, so make sure you post that.
Dr Daniel Amen: So speaking of reviews, love hearing great information about how to keep our brains healthy, learning so much and we'll be checking the products I use to see how they rate. I'm now equipped to find out with the app Think Dirty. My concern is will I be able to find products that do what I really like or not. That review is from Jemm60 J-E-M-M 60.
Tana Amen: Awesome. And we will answer that question in our question and answer section. Jemm, thanks. So when I met you, one of the interesting things when I got my brain scanned to accept I met you, you were showing me my brain and you showed me where it was hurt and you asked me when I had a brain injury and I didn't recall having one, but you were basically showing me where it was hurt, which made my frontal lobes a little sleepy. Made one of my frontal lobes pretty sleepy where you could see where it was hit. I told you when I went through depression after my thyroid cancer, and you said, "Well I hope they didn't put you on Prozac."
And I literally, my jaw hit the table and I went, "Why?" And you said, "Because it would be a terrible drug for you with a sleepy brain. With sleepy frontal lobes, it would be the wrong drug for you." And I was like, that just explained an entire year of my life that I would rather erase. So, let's talk about when someone is put on the wrong anti-depressant or any anti-depressant really. How it changes personality maybe it changes it for the good if it's the right thing, but maybe not if it's the wrong drug. Why does it change [crosstalk 00:00:02:56].
Dr Daniel Amen: Millions of people are them 23% of women between the ages of 20 and 60 are taking antidepressant medication. Just think about that and think about this is tens of millions of people are taking antidepressants that are almost, always prescribed without any biological information. That sounds crazy to me.
Tana Amen: Yeah, it makes me angry. Okay as a person who was put through it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Our listeners should probably hear a little bit more about what was going on.
Tana Amen: Well, so I'm actually writing a book right now about that time in my life and it's hard to get through certain parts of it and this is one of those parts and it made me angry and it's one of the reasons I wanted to do this podcast because after I had thyroid cancer, we've actually said this so many times, but for those of you who haven't heard, I had thyroid cancer and I went through a really deep depression from being off my thyroid medication for a long time, which no one told me what's going to happen. So I was going through this depression, went to my doctor, he told me I should see a psychiatrist and I was in a dark enough place that I ... that was the second time that doctor told me to see a psychiatrist actually.
That was the first time the other time was the second time. So I went and saw a psychiatrist because I was really dark. I was having really dark thoughts about wanting to be dead and so it wasn't good. And so I went to the psychiatrist and he put me on Prozac. Actually, to be fair, I knew I wanted to be on Prozac. I had read something about it, I was super depressed. I saw this book and it gave me hope. So I walked in all I wanted was him to give me a prescription. I didn't want his opinion, I didn't want to talk about anything for three years. I just wanted a prescription.
Dr Daniel Amen: Why? Because you had no emotional trauma in your past?
Tana Amen: None. And I didn't like psychiatrists and I just wanted drugs. Okay? So I wanted Prozac and I thought that was going to be the answer. So in his defense I did do that. No, he let me do that and he shouldn't have. But I quickly went back to him and said, "Something is not right. Something is not right." And he said, "Are you depressed?" And I said, "No, I'm not depressed actually at all. I'm not anything, I don't feel sad. I don't feel happy. I don't feel depressed. I don't feel joy. I just feel sort of nothing. But what's worse is I'm very impulsive, like I'm making crazy decisions and I'm not anxious." I used to be very anxious and I would think things through and I would fight with myself before making decisions and now I just do it. I don't care.
Dr Daniel Amen: Man. We often say some anxiety is good.
Tana Amen: Yeah. That was not good for me to not have anxiety at that phase in my life. I ended up in Costa Rica on a dare. Okay. It was just a crazy, crazy time. So I told him, "I'm like, I'm not behaving like myself. I don't recognize this person." He said, "But you're not depressed and maybe the problem is that ... " Not maybe. He said, "The problem is you need to give it longer and I actually think you need a higher dose." I argued with him, but he convinced me that I needed a higher dose, sent me on my way, doubled my dose, my behavior got crazier, and I finally went back and I went, "This is insane. I can't ... like I'm not being myself. I'm going to get myself into trouble. This is crazy." And he told me I needed to give it more time. At which point I just took myself off of it, never called him again.
Now I do not recommend, especially if you're on a high dose of any medication going off of it and doing what I did and flushing it, you need to get off of it safely. Go to a different doctor, have them take you off of it safely. But as I'm writing this book, I'm realizing there's a lot that goes on when you take these drugs. They don't just change your brain maybe it's because they change your brain. They change your personality.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, what's the organ-
Tana Amen: Of personality?
Dr Daniel Amen: It's your brain,
Tana Amen: Right. And you've explained to me when you said, "I hope they didn't put you on Prozac." I literally was so angry at that moment because it really did change my life at the time. And the reason you said that was because Prozac, while it increases serotonin decreases frontal lobe function and my frontal lobe had been hurt in an accident.
Dr Daniel Amen: So if your frontal lobes work too hard and clinically, we can tell that you're worried, you are rigid, you hold grudges. If things don't go your way, you get upset, you're argumentative and oppositional, then Prozac or Lexapro or Zoloft or medications like that can be helpful. But they have so many side effects. Why wouldn't we do the natural things? Increase serotonin, which oh, by the way, you had been doing since you were a teenager, which is exercising that was just something so important to you.
Other people do it by being addicted to sugar because sugar does it. The problem is it makes you fat and unhappy and diabetic and all sorts of problems. Right? So we're fans of exercise. We're definitely not fans of sugar or at BrainMD we make serotonin mood support with 5-HTP and saffron. Because saffron has been found head-to-head in over a dozen studies to be shown to be equally effective to antidepressants but with virtually no side effects. In fact, it's pro sexual, it's pro memory, it helps with PMs. So, there are just other ways to do it. But it goes back to the question of, well why are you depressed? Is it in your case, thyroid and actually some unresolved emotional problems.
Tana Amen: Not me, I'm fine.
Dr Daniel Amen: Not me right? And then the GI problems that you had. People just don't think about that if your guts not right, your brain is not right.
Tana Amen: I remember getting so mad at you and I'm like, "This is why I'm not dating a psychiatrist." Because you start going down this list of reasons. I'm like, "Oh my God, he's trying to fix me."
Dr Daniel Amen: I fixed you for me.
Tana Amen: Oh that's so funny.
Dr Daniel Amen: So if you're on medicine and it's really helping you, then I would just go to church and light candles and be grateful for that. You're right the brain is an organ, like the heart is an organ. The brain, can have problems if you need medicine for diabetes or heart disease or hypertension, take it. But when it comes to the brain, I just want to make sure people are doing everything they can to support their health. And I would say this, if you had heart disease too, want to do everything you can to support your health and then perhaps if you need medication, do it in the context of the Brain Warrior's Way mindset.
Tana Amen: Right. And if you aren't sure, I really think you need to go to someone who really understands what kind of changes can occur when you take certain antidepressants because like I said, it can change your personality. And the problem I have with that is if it changes your personality and you do something that you never normally would have done, whose fault is it at that point? Yeah, you have responsibility in it, but it's a little weird right? Now we open this can of worms.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh, oh. We talk about freewill. [crosstalk 00:10:27] and it's way more complicated than people [crosstalk 00:10:27]
Tana Amen: And I like talking about it because I tend to really be into freewill. But when I start to really understand our work, I know my freewill was altered. I know it was.
Dr Daniel Amen: And freewill really his frontal lobe function and if your frontal lobes were hurt in the rollover motor vehicle accident, and then someone puts you on a medicine to lower frontal lobe function further and then you do something that's not with your moral code. It's easy to say you're bad when the fact is, it's more complicated.
Tana Amen: And one of the reasons we want to educate you, we want you educated is because we don't want you just trusting someone like I did because they have credentials or a lot of education. Yes, you want to go to someone who's well-trained, but you also want to be your own advocate because that's what got me into trouble. And when I tried to say no, I was struggling with, "Well he's the one who's the doctor why shouldn't I'd be listening?" No, I will never do that again.
Dr Daniel Amen: And MD stands for minor deity.
Tana Amen: Yeah, he's not my daddy not going to do that again.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right, so what's the one thing you learned from this podcast? Please post it on any of your social media sites and #BrainWarriorsWayPodcast. Leave us a question, a comment, a review. We alter the podcast from some of the reviews that you left us and if you leave a comment, a question or review, we'll enter you into a raffle to win one of Tana's signed Brain Warrior's Way Cookbooks, which are amazing. Stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast, please don't forget to subscribe, so you'll always know when there's a new episode and while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
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