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Kish

Unusual Side Effect - A Form Of Hallucination?

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First off, don't worry - I have already stopped taking Celexa; my psychologist told me to stop when I called her to tell her about this side effect. I guess I would just like to see if anything can be learned from my experience with this medicine.

After I decided Wellbutrin wasn't helping me, my psychologist reduced my Wellbutrin dose to 150 mg/day and had me try adding Celexa at 20 mg/day. After 3 days on Celexa, I started noticing something very unusual. When I laid down in bed in the dark and looked up at my ceiling, walls, etc., whatever I focused on would start moving. Usually it was a relatively slow wobbling back and forth, or the object would stretch, compress, or bend to the side. When I looked at my hand, my fingers would fade away and disappear, and when I moved my hand, I had a "visual lag" and saw "copies" of my hand waving around, like an action cartoon. When I looked at bright lights in my room (light through the crack of my door; my digital clock), it would appear to vibrate quite violently. When it was at its worst (right before I called my doc and stopped the meds - it had been getting gradually worse over the 4 total days I took them), the "hallucinations" would also occur (a lot less severely) when I laid in bed with the lights on, and to a very small extent, when I was not lying down at all (ex. when I was sitting and having breakfast, I looked at the chair across from me, and it began to move a bit.) Overall, though, it was only really significant while lying down in the dark. I have no idea why it was only bad in the dark. I'm not sure whether to call these hallucinations or simply distortions of my vision, or something.

My psychologist said she found this side effect "alarming" because she had never heard of it before, and told me to stop the medicine. I really don't know what was going on! I was wondering if anyone has heard of anything like this before. Does it mean I should avoid all SSRI's? Since neither Celexa nor Wellbutrin will help with my symptoms of depression, I don't know what to try next. I should be talking to my psychologist tomorrow to discuss trying a different medicine. Hopefully whatever she decides to give me next will not make me "trip out" as well. :P

IF ANYONE ELSE HAS HALLUCINATIONS WHILE USING CELEXA, CALL YOUR DOCTOR!!! It is listed as a serious (though I believe quite rare) side effect, which merits stopping the medicine.

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First off, don't worry - I have already stopped taking Celexa; my psychologist told me to stop when I called her to tell her about this side effect. I guess I would just like to see if anything can be learned from my experience with this medicine.

After I decided Wellbutrin wasn't helping me, my psychologist reduced my Wellbutrin dose to 150 mg/day and had me try adding Celexa at 20 mg/day. After 3 days on Celexa, I started noticing something very unusual. When I laid down in bed in the dark and looked up at my ceiling, walls, etc., whatever I focused on would start moving. Usually it was a relatively slow wobbling back and forth, or the object would stretch, compress, or bend to the side. When I looked at my hand, my fingers would fade away and disappear, and when I moved my hand, I had a "visual lag" and saw "copies" of my hand waving around, like an action cartoon. When I looked at bright lights in my room (light through the crack of my door; my digital clock), it would appear to vibrate quite violently. When it was at its worst (right before I called my doc and stopped the meds - it had been getting gradually worse over the 4 total days I took them), the "hallucinations" would also occur (a lot less severely) when I laid in bed with the lights on, and to a very small extent, when I was not lying down at all (ex. when I was sitting and having breakfast, I looked at the chair across from me, and it began to move a bit.) Overall, though, it was only really significant while lying down in the dark. I have no idea why it was only bad in the dark. I'm not sure whether to call these hallucinations or simply distortions of my vision, or something.

My psychologist said she found this side effect "alarming" because she had never heard of it before, and told me to stop the medicine. I really don't know what was going on! I was wondering if anyone has heard of anything like this before. Does it mean I should avoid all SSRI's? Since neither Celexa nor Wellbutrin will help with my symptoms of depression, I don't know what to try next. I should be talking to my psychologist tomorrow to discuss trying a different medicine. Hopefully whatever she decides to give me next will not make me "trip out" as well. :P

IF ANYONE ELSE HAS HALLUCINATIONS WHILE USING CELEXA, CALL YOUR DOCTOR!!! It is listed as a serious (though I believe quite rare) side effect, which merits stopping the medicine.

Hi Kish,

Wow that sounds really scary!! I am really glad you have been taken off them! I had a similar experience with Prozac a few years ago. Very scary and disturbing.

As no one on DF is an expert and we have to refrain from giving medical advice I really cannot say if another SSRI will have the same effect. I went from Prozac to Effexor and from that to Citalopram, so I stayed within the the SSRI family (except Effexor) I would speak to you doctor about where you need to go from here.

Best of luck with your recovery and I hope the next med you try is less problematic and much more effective!

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Hi Kish

My current interest in depression related issues is in the other neuro transmitters involved in the mix. In particular Acetyl Choline (ACh). As such visual disturbances due to the SSRI use (or dis-continuation) is not out of expectation. An imbalance of ACh is almost certainly the cause of the visual disturbance. Fairly common with the drugs that deal with the ACh system, usually in the dream state rather than awake and usually colorful. I was talking with my Dad last night who is currently under medication with ACh related drugs and he is having hugely fantastic (very detailed ) dreams. I have had very, very mild visual disturbance when coming off the ssri's.

In science speak:

"The review supports the view that an imbalance between serotonin and acetylcholine systems is at the root of AD-induced CVH (complex visual hallucinations), with a profile defined by a cholinergic hypoactivity and a serotonergic hyperactivity. Caution is needed when administering a combination of serotonergic and anticholinergic AD in the treatment ...because there is a risk of precipitating CVH. " **

In normal speak:

The combination of drugs and how they were used (reduction and addition) plus your body's individual response to this combination 'tripped' you out.

I suspect the primary dangers for people with these hallucination is one of three - firstly that there is a chemical neurotransmitter imbalance with fairly undefined effects if continued, secondly freaking out and thirdly being so distracted by them that normal function (such as driving) becomes dangerous. In terms of whether other ssri will do the same - probably a bit of trial and error as there was not just changes of drugs happening, also dosage. What is clear is that there will need to be care by your Pdoc as your response is sensitive.

**Review Article

Factors associated with complex visual hallucinations during antidepressant treatment

Iacopo Cancelli 1, Gabriella Marcon 1, Matteo Balestrieri 2 *

Edited by Herald

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Very interesting post, Kish! I can totally relate to your experience. I was on Paxil for years and though at start-up I experienced some pretty weird sensations the med eventually worked well. I eventually took myself off the med when I realized I had literally been living in a hypomanic state for several years. Though I loved the feeling of euphoria, I realized that I was making my life a total wreck with reckless spending, little sleep, and really erratic behviours. I left Paxil behind and for about 1 1/2 years took no ADs. Then during that fading days of summer in '08, after 3 flat refusals, my pdoc convinced me to try Celexa......biggest mistake of my medical history! I can't even compare all the hallucinogens I took during the 70s to what I experienced on Celexa.

My Celexa hallucinations happened only at night, but during the day I would sit immobilized with fear of what last night had brought, and what I might be stepping into with the night that was to come. For three days I did not sleep at all. At night I experienced the most horrible hallucinations imaginable. I won't even go into the details.

This all occurred after I had been on Celexa for 3 months, but even from day one, the entire world was stangely colored, and my anger went into overdrive, resulting in my walking off my job. I was totally in a psychotic state.

After night 3, I called my pdoc and explained all this to her. She told me to stop taking the med IMMEDIATELY. I was like....ah, you mean no titration down. She said absolutely not, just stop it! I went in to see her that same afternoon. Of course, like you by this time I had also read of this very rare and potentially dangerous SE.

I was immediately put on an SNRI, and this has been the best med I have ever taken.

So, YES! Someone else has experienced the same things you went through. It's really sad, because this medication has done so much positive for so many. It just was totally not right for my brain chemistry. Having said this, I would not in anyway try to steer anyone away from taking any med that will be of benefit. Just be aware of potential SEs no matter how rare the incident, and keep in communication with your pdoc when things start breaking down.

Regards,

Deepster

Edited by Deepster

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Thank you all for your replies. I appreciate the concern/sympathy/etc. :)

Princessrolo: The experience was a bit disturbing, but to be honest, I didn't think it was that bad. In some ways, it was amusing to watch such strange visual distortions... but concerning as well. Of course, it would not have been fun at all to hallucinate vivid nightmarish things, so I think I got lucky with a "tame" experience.

Herald: Some interesting information you have there... if it helps your research at all, there are a few more pieces of information that may be relevant. One is something I phrased incorrectly in my first post: my dosage of Wellbutrin was reduced well before starting Celexa (2 or 3 weeks, I believe). Also, this might be totally unrelated, but I read that serotonin is located mainly in the gastrointestinal tract, and I suffer from gastroparesis (meaning that my stomach does not empty as quickly as it should). I wonder if my condition is part of the reason I reacted badly to an SSRI. I wonder if my gastroparesis may already be upsetting the balance of serotonin somehow, since apparently serotonin is part of what controls intestinal movements, which is exactly what the condition creates a problem with.

Deepster: I'm so sorry you had to go through that! My experience with antidepressants not working has been rather limited, but I understand it must be very frustrating for them to do more harm than good. I think I see a trend here... maybe the Celexa was only giving me hallucinations when I was in bed in the dark because I was starting to get tired and fall asleep. It appears that the hallucinogenic effects are much more potent when asleep or nearly so. Well, as I mentioned above, I'm glad that all I experienced was visual distortions, not actually imagining objects that weren't there, or having vivid nightmares, etc. Anyway, I'm very happy to hear that even after that experience, you were able to find an AD that works for you. Hope I can find one too. :)

-- update --

I'm beginning to think that anything messing with serotonin is not going to work for me. :P My doc had me start another medicine yesterday: Cymbalta, a SNRI. I'm not really sure how an SNRI is different from a SSRI, but it affected me in exactly the same way. When I went to take a nap earlier today, I noticed everything in my room was wobbling around... again. I think it was actually more severe this time. The objects were bouncing, teleporting, swinging around and bending rather quickly and dramatically. Right now, when I look at things, my vision gets a bit blurred and it seems to move slightly. I also think my pupils are more dilated than they should be. I tried looking into a light to make them smaller, and they shrank a bit then reverted back to their previous size quite quickly. My head feels a bit strange, too... kind of like a headache. I have been very tired as well, but I think that's more from lack of sleep and/or poor nutrition than anything else.

I've already decided to stop taking it, and will call my doc tomorrow to tell her what happened. I'm kind of disappointed that yet another AD has just been "eliminated" from my options due to this crazy side effect. I don't really know how to react. Maybe I should just stop trying antidepressants, since the ones my doc will have me try next will probably have worse side effects. I have been considering discontinuing seeing my therapist, as well... mostly because I've been seeing her since this Spring, and don't think it has helped. She told me last time I saw her that she thought I wasn't "showing up" (I was there physically but not mentally), I wasn't reacting enough to what she said, and I wasn't willing to put in the necessary effort to "get better". I don't think she understands that I'm just a very shy person, and my body language says "I'm not listening" even if I am paying very close attention... I do find it difficult to face my issues, though. :(

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Kish-

Glad you were actually willing to take an SNRI. I was given many choices after the Celex experience(other SSRIs, other SNRIs, including cymbalta). However, I was also advised of a new med on the market, Pristiq. After reading a lot on cymbalta and effexor, my research and instincts somehow told tme that those two SNRIs were going to affect my serotonin RU than I really wanted. After discussing all this the the pdoc, Pristiq was decided upon. I was told upfront that Pristiq was the successor of effexor, but it was said that Wyeth had removed many of the SE causing chemical add-ons. I was bait.

It actually works! Even after cybalta, you may just want to give pristiq a shot. Trazodone was added at the same time as a sleep aid. It's a very old AD, and it does affect serotonin, but not to a shocking degree(at least for me). My pdoc advised me that Traz is a very effective med for sleep disorders, and that it would/could at a boost to the seretonin effects of pristiq. I find this combo works fine for my depressioin, as well is a godsend when it comes to sleep issues.

HTH!

Best wishes,

Deepster

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First off, don't worry - I have already stopped taking Celexa; my psychologist told me to stop when I called her to tell her about this side effect. I guess I would just like to see if anything can be learned from my experience with this medicine.

After I decided Wellbutrin wasn't helping me, my psychologist reduced my Wellbutrin dose to 150 mg/day and had me try adding Celexa at 20 mg/day. After 3 days on Celexa, I started noticing something very unusual. When I laid down in bed in the dark and looked up at my ceiling, walls, etc., whatever I focused on would start moving. Usually it was a relatively slow wobbling back and forth, or the object would stretch, compress, or bend to the side. When I looked at my hand, my fingers would fade away and disappear, and when I moved my hand, I had a "visual lag" and saw "copies" of my hand waving around, like an action cartoon. When I looked at bright lights in my room (light through the hole of my door; my digital clock), it would appear to vibrate quite violently. When it was at its worst (right before I called my doc and stopped the meds - it had been getting gradually worse over the 4 total days I took them), the "hallucinations" would also occur (a lot less severely) when I laid in bed with the lights on, and to a very small extent, when I was not lying down at all (ex. when I was sitting and having breakfast, I looked at the chair across from me, and it began to move a bit.) Overall, though, it was only really significant while lying down in the dark. I have no idea why it was only bad in the dark. I'm not sure whether to call these hallucinations or simply distortions of my vision, or something.

My psychologist said she found this side effect "alarming" because she had never heard of it before, and told me to stop the medicine. I really don't know what was going on! I was wondering if anyone has heard of anything like this before. Does it mean I should avoid all SSRI's? Since neither Celexa nor Wellbutrin will help with my symptoms of depression, I don't know what to try next. I should be talking to my psychologist tomorrow to discuss trying a different medicine. Hopefully whatever she decides to give me next will not make me "trip out" as well. :P

IF ANYONE ELSE HAS HALLUCINATIONS WHILE USING CELEXA, CALL YOUR DOCTOR!!! It is listed as a serious (though I believe quite rare) side effect, which merits stopping the medicine.

YES! Actually I have deliberatly been searching for exactly what you said. I know your post is older 2009 and it is now 2014 but since I started Celexa months ago I have noticed this side effect and even more so now. I am between doctors because I just moved but when I see my new doctor this is the first thing I plan to discuss. At first I didn't call them halucinations because I just thought it was a visual thing. Anyway this is what happened to me. When it first started I'd wake up in the middle of the night in the dark and very specific objects would appear to be floating right next to me. For example the edge of a desk, dresser, or if I was sleeping on the couch the very edge of the TV stand appeared detached from the rest of the stand and appeared right in front of me as if floating in the air. For a while I simply thought that my eyes were playing tricks on me or that my brain was having trouble processing the image. However it's got a lot worse where a part of the wall or window nearby or other objects appear bend or curved and detached from where they belong. In my new room I have a pile of clothes on the floor and noticed that when I woke up in the night that some of the random shapes created by the pile of clothes also appear to be floating randomly in front of me. And like you explained some of the images seem to be waving slightly or moving about. What you have described sounds like what I am experiencing. I am beginning to suspect that other people may have this side effect but brush it off by morning and/or don't think it's associated with Celexa. I mayself had to think about it a lot over the last few months, specially now it's gotten worse. I think it might be worse because my dosage was increased about a month ago. Anyway, I've been planning to ask about a new Anti Depresant / Anti Anxiety medication anyway because I don't feel that Celexa is working that well. I used to be on Paxil years ago and that stuff made me feel great but there were major side effects with Paxil as well... but with Paxil it was mostly memory loss and a facial twitch and I did not hillucinate like on Celexa. I did try Effexor but that didn't work out because it made me feel aggitated and even more anxious. At this point I more willing to go on a low dosage of Paxil because the side effects only occured when I was on an extremely high dosage (but that was only to get me through a crisis I was in), the side effects of Paxil seemed better than the creepy weird hillucnations I get from Celexa specially when Celexa doesn't really work all that well for me.

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Reading these experiences I have concluded while taking Celexa, I can’t take it at night as that’s when I start have crazy weird dreams and seeing stuff in the dark.

Thank you all for sharing your experiences and I will check with my Psychiatrist doc on what to do next.  Be well....... 

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