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HPPD/palinopsia caused by SSRIs ?

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  • Hello everyone.

My name is Sébastien, i'm 37 years old and I live in France. I've always been very anxious but i'm a in a terrible state since 1 month.


I'm suffering from depression/anxiety since 4 months. (i've been on ativan since 2 months)


So I've been on Paxil for 1 week at 10mg, but it gave me severe urinary retention. I took it for 6 days and one day at 5mg.

I was having an appointment with a psychiatrist the day after i stopped Paxil (so the next day), and he advice me to take Zoloft (Sertralin) beacause it was much more tolerable and less side effects on libido. (sorry for my terrible english)


I took half dose of Zoloft (25mg) on Thursday 9. This night, I went to bed and as soon as I closed my eyes, an intense light activity appeared, with lot of flashes and lights, dots, lots of "pictures" at a very high speed etc. I've also had kind of "hallucinations". I've had my psychiatrist on the phone and he said that these kind of side effects were unknown with Zoloft etc., my pharmacist said that was normal, beginning of an antidepressant treatment. I took Zoloft for 4 days and now i'm no longer taken it.



Now since 1 month i have


Light sensitivity

Negative After images



More floaters than before


I know that my symptoms are not as severe as many of you...


I've seen 2 ophtalmologist, 1 neurologist; had a brain scanner and MRI, everything is "normal".


These symptoms seems to improve a little bit but i drank so much on New years Eve... and now they are worse, especially the negative after images. No More alcohol for me.


All of this doesn't help my anxiety, I hate my psychiatrist and I hate my self, was just so dumb to take this poison, now i'm very upset and scared.


I take vitamins, magnesium (300mg) and Omega 3 fish oil (1050 EPA/day) since 1 week


What do you think about that ? Is there any people who had experienced similar symptoms with SSRIs ? 


Thanks a lot for your consideration.

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Welcome to the forum Sébastien.  Its fairly quiet here but if you dig, you can find useful info.


Did you have HPPD symptoms before the Zoloft?  Or was your anxiety worsened by weed/other?


Yes, SSRIs can cause visual symptoms.  Zoloft used to say in the prescriber's guide that it can cause 'Parkinsonism'.  It's true with all SSRIs and almost always temporary - when you discontinue, symptoms fade away.  Now 'Parkinsonism' is not HPPD, and generally refers to tremor and other movement problem.  But the relationship of dopamine to HPPD (as well as Parkinsonism) is there.


First don't fear that you've messed yourself up permanently.  The fact that there are some more symptoms/problems simply brings to light (pun intended) an underlying neurological weakness.  No need to hate the doctor (unless he acts like a jerk) ... almost no medical professionals have training or experience with HPPD type stuff.  That is a very frustrating fact.  Also, there is no established treatment protocol for HPPD.


Nevertheless, there are things that may help.  Many manage with Klonopin at fairly strong doses: ~2.75mg/day.  You may or may not respond.  But there is a problem with benzos ... and that is simply that if you try to discontinue them, it can be very hard.  Particularly with anxiety and insomnia.  You can read such accounts here.


Addressing anxiety is important.  Anxiety can be a response (situational) but it can also be a symptom of its own.  First, knowing that this isn't a fatal disease may help.  Also, that your life is not irreparably destroyed.  Most people with HPPD recover.  Just be aware that it is very common for some to put up with symptoms for months and even years before they resolve.  So with these points in mind you can chill out a bit.


Healthy living is important - food, drink, exercise, sleep, emotions, etc.  Sometimes that isn't fun, but fun is relative and many extremely healthy people have fun within such limitations, lol.



But now a few questions.  Do you know of any reason you've been suffering anxiety/depression?  Events?  Stress?  Work?  Relationships?  Drugs?  Do you live near where there have been terrorist attacks.

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Thanks so so much for your reply Moderator, it gives me some relief. Thanks  a bunch for this.


I didn't have HPPD symptoms before Zoloft.

4 months ago I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, but it was fine, in a way, we were so different. It was ok. But 3 weeks later, I saw her at a party, she was with her best friend and some guys, having fun, drinking, and so beautiful. We had a little chat, then she was gone. She was really gone for me this time, and something collapsed in me. During 2 months i wanted to disappear, my self-confidence was completely gone, I had these toughts in loop in my head "She's young and hot, she can find a guy whenever she wants, it's so easy for her, me I'm ugly, I will never find another girl etc." These toughts had litteraly destroyed me, lots of anxiety which triggered a depression. After that, I began to see a psychologist, and he talked about depersonnalisation/derealisation during a conversation because i told him that i had smoking hash for a long time. Ok, so I went to the internet to learn about this and suddenly I developed an OCD in my head. I was trying to be not "depersonalised", so stupid and anxious.

I thought i was going crazy, on Sunday i went to psychiatry center to be reassured and to have a prescription.


The doctor prescribed me some lorazepam, 3mg/day. On the 3rd week, after having tappered these to 1.5 mg, I began to get really anxious about the fact that I was already on benzos for 3 weeks and had to stop it for good (fear of addiction or too fast withdrawal i don't know), but I couldn't, during the next week i developed insomnia and really, really awful anxiety attacks. I never suffered like this, from a psychic view, so much despair and pain, although I had a cancer 10 years ago, cured now with the help of God and my surgeon.


I don't live near where terrorist ttacks happened but this is really tense in the whole country, lots of events had ben cancelled, etc. Not a very  peacefull atmosphere here. 


Yes I try to have a healthy living, exercice, sophrology, good diet. I have some sleep issues but a doctor give me some melatonin, maybe i will try it, although i'm afraid of drugs now, more than ever...


Thanks a lot again for all your advice.

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Bonjour Sebastien, and welcome to the forum. 


I see this two ways: 


First, it sounds like your symptoms aren't too bad. I know that sounds crazy considering you went from normal vision to HPPD, but you have to keep in mind that many people here have MUCH worse HPPD than you. They're living in an entirely different world every single day and have almost no connection to reality whatsoever. I know because I was one of those people for a while. If your symptoms are light-based, I truly believe you should consider yourself lucky because those types of symptoms are manageable. I'm not trying to discount your suffering in any way (or those of anybody with HPPD), just more trying to point out that you have to look at the positive side of this, that the type of HPPD you have is certainly something you can deal with. 


Like Visual said, you're going to recover from this, probably sooner than most people considering you got your HPPD from prescription drugs and not designer drugs that some wannabe Heisenberg made in his mom's basement. It's tough to say how long it will take but I have zero doubt that you'll recover as long as you don't do any more drugs, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle. But it's probably gonna be tough, as all HPPD is. 


I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and many OCD-like symptoms so I know exactly what you're going through. I had a recent month of terrible anxiety and benzo withdrawals which I'm just getting over and I can tell you right now that those are not a good combination, especially with HPPD. What you need most right now is not medication but perspective. I'd really encourage you to explore meditation, as it's helped me tremendously. Also, eat healthy (lots of nuts, fruits, veggies, etc.), stay busy and exercise as much as  you can. I'd say going to therapy is probably good as well. But whatever you do don't convince yourself that medication is the way out of this. TRUST me -- it's not. You need to get into the habit of realizing your anxieties are irrational, that they don't make sense, that they aren't truly real, that all they do is hurt you, and to instead become EXTREMELY aware of your thoughts, body, etc., and at all times realize your patterns of thinking and where they're leading to. I know this sounds very simple but in order to handle HPPD and anxiety you MUST have some control over your mind and thinking patterns. If you can find peace during this process you will make it out just fine, and probably be a better person. But you have to buy into the realization that your anxieties aren't real and that the reason you believe them is because your thinking patterns allow you to. 


This is my best advice. It's not for everyone but it's worked well for me. I firmly believe in mediation and awareness. You have to understand your ways of thinking and catch yourself in order to begin to overcome your anxiety. And you can do it. It just takes lots of practice (mediation) and belief that anxiety isn't based on real, true life, but rather things you make up in your head and PERCEIVE as the truth. 


Hope this helps! Good luck. You'll be alright. I know it. 

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Hello K.B Fante,


Your message done me a lot of good, for real. You people are so kind, thanks for helping me with your words. It helps me a lot. it's very touchy and motivates me to try to think in a positive way. Thank for your advice too. I wish you good luck too !

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Hey and welcome! Yes SSRIs can sometimes cause HPPD. However, since your seems to be "light" I believe it will go away in the next few months. A word of warning though- do not drink or use drugs. During this time period, and even for a while after you recover, you should abstain from substances. Going forward, just be aware that you are predisposed to this disorder and any hallucinogen use will trigger negative psychological events. The first time I got HPPD (before I knew what it was), it lasted for around 2 months before getting better. I foolishly didn't connect my hallucinogen use to the mental state I was in (other shit was going on) and ended up giving myself a permanent case a few months later.

Be careful with the omega 3's. Some of the panicked that comes from HPPD is acetylcholine related. Too high acetylcholine can cause feelings of sadness, doom, and panick.

I wish you the best of luck! It's good you made your way to this forum.

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Thank you for the reply OnemoreStep.  I don't take the Omega 3 anymore, but i'm full of guilt and regret since New Years Eve...I've drank too much, it's been more than a week and my symptoms got worse. I should have come here a little before. Thanks again for your advice, I wish you good luck too !

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Hello, lysandre, I also got Hppd from Zoloft and both have kinda similar stories , I was wondering how you are doing and if you have seen any improvements , I hope all is well .

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Hi neverwarned,


Yes I saw some improvements, blurry vision is way better, halos have been subsided a little since my new years eve binge, negative after images seems to be less annoying, they last for a shorter time, I guess. I have been doing exercice for a time, but after I caught a cold I stopped doing sport, and surprisingly, my symptoms seems to have subside at this moment, but I'm not sure about this.


But since 1 week, after an evening on pc playing video games and watching e-sport (with f.lux programm) my vision is really bad in the dark ,very grainy, and CEV have reappered, grainy lights and circles, although they were gone since 2 months. Dark/plane surfaces seems to "flicker" during the day, but I try to not pay too much attention to this (very difficult). So now i have trouble sleeping, and anxiety is strong again, despite relaxation/sophrology. I'm not sure about this, but I think the f.lux programm can be bad, I intend to not going so much on computers anymore for the moment even at work. Fuck this. I hope you get better with time. 

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