Emotional retardation: causes, symptoms and treatment

When you first start taking antidepressants, you may suddenly find that you no longer look like yourself. Although your depression symptoms may improve, they are sometimes replaced by an overwhelming wave of gloom. This emotional inertia can neither cry nor share a real belly laugh.

If you feel this way, you are definitely not alone. In fact, there is a term used to describe this feeling-called emotional inactivity-which aptly describes the inactive emotional state many people experience when taking antidepressants.

Symptoms of emotional sluggishness

Emotional sluggishness means that your feelings and emotions are so sluggish that you will neither feel happy nor frustrated. You just feel “nonsense”. People experiencing emotional retardation usually report:

  • Can’t laugh or cry even when appropriate
  • Lack of empathy for others
  • Loss of motivation and motivation
  • Unable to respond with the usual level of pleasure

Emotional sluggishness usually occurs at the same time as other symptoms, such as delayed thinking, decreased libido, and difficulty concentrating.

The Emotional Slow Epidemic

Research from the University of Oxford shows that between 46% and 71% of antidepressant users experience emotional sluggishness during treatment. According to research, the antidepressants most commonly associated with moodiness fall into one of the following three categories:

Although the percentage of people experiencing emotional retardation is similar between the three drug categories, there are differences. On the one hand, only 33% of people experienced emotional retardation when taking Wellbutrin (bupropion), while on the other hand, 75% experienced the same effects when taking Cymbalta.

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This is an interesting fact because Wellbutrin is a different drug called dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Unlike other drugs, Wellbutrin does not target a chemical transmitter in the brain called serotonin like all other drugs.This indicates that the suppression of serotonin may be one of the main reasons for emotional retardation.

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Other findings

According to a study by the University of Oxford, men are slower than women (54% and 44%, respectively).In addition, the severity of depression before treatment directly corresponds to the severity of emotional retardation during treatment. In general, those who no longer needed antidepressants experienced a reversal of emotional retardation, confirming the drug’s role in side effects.

Surprisingly, not everyone sees emotional sluggishness in the same way. Of the 819 people included in the study, 38% thought it was a positive result of the treatment.And 37% of people hold a negative view on this. Generally speaking, those with more severe inactivation symptoms view it more negatively.

Supporting evidence

Similarly, an online survey of 1,431 antidepressant users from 38 countries aimed to identify the most common adverse side effects of treatment. “Emotional numbness” ranked first, with 70.6% of people experiencing this symptom. “Feeling alienated or alienated” followed closely, accounting for 70%, while “feeling not like” myself came in third, accounting for 66.2%.The study did not specify which types of antidepressants were used.

All three of the most commonly reported negative side effects of antidepressants can be considered forms of emotional retardation.

A small study in New Zealand involving 180 people receiving long-term antidepressant treatment found that 64.5% of people experienced emotional retardation. Related side effects include sexual difficulties (71.8%), feeling less like yourself (54.4%), and decreased positive emotions (45.6%).

Finally, a Canadian study involving 896 participants found that 49.9% of them suffered from major depression (MDD) and 50.1% suffered from bipolar disorder (BP). It was found that emotional sluggishness was one of the main reasons for stopping treatment.In fact, after weight gain and excessive sleepiness, mental retardation ranks third among the reasons for MDD patients to stop treatment.

Causes of emotional sluggishness

Given that not everyone who takes antidepressants is emotionally blunted, it is difficult for scientists to find the exact cause of this effect. Some experts even question whether passivation is a side effect of antidepressant treatment or a partial failure of the drug itself.

Although it seems fair to assume that serotonin plays a role in this effect (considering the low incidence in Wellbutrin users), most scientists believe that a single hormone cannot be blamed.

An imbalance of all three key hormones-serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine-is likely to trigger the effects of emotional retardation, and those with underlying hormone deficiencies will have worse conditions.

Others still think that emotional sluggishness is more of a manifested symptom.This means that once antidepressants can relieve depression, the underlying symptoms of emotional retardation will show up instead of causing it. Before drawing any conclusions, more research is needed.

Treatment of emotional retardation

The good news is that mental retardation can be treated. Among the options to consider:

  • You can exercise and outdoor activities, both of which can stimulate serotonin and boost your mood. Eating healthier and avoiding alcohol (a mood suppressant) can also help.
  • You can work with your therapist to find ways to improve your mood, because your condition and medication may have psychological factors.
  • Your doctor can lower your dose or switch to a different antidepressant (for example, from SSRI to SNRI).
  • Your doctor may also add other medications to counteract the dullness.

If you find that the side effects are unbearable, please consult your doctor before stopping treatment. Doing so may cause a rebound of depressive symptoms or cause the opposite effect, including anxiety, agitation, and insomnia.

Very good sentence

Being emotionally slow while taking antidepressants does not mean that you will not benefit from treatment. In some cases, a simple dose reduction may help eliminate some numbness. At other times, you can learn to cope by making some positive lifestyle changes, thereby enhancing your physical fitness and thereby improving your emotional health.

Continue to work with your doctor to find the right medicines, treatments and lifestyles to overcome and control your depression in the long term.