Does anxiety medication change your personality? (3 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does anxiety medication change your personality?” and explore the concepts of personality, personality change and the effects of anxiety medication, especially on personality to help understand the answer. 

Does anxiety medication change your personality?

Yes, anxiety medication can change your personality. Anxiety medication can change a person’s personality in the following 3 ways –

  • Increase extraversion.
  • Reduces neuroticism.
  • Reduces stress hormones. 

These 5 ways anxiety can change your personality will be discussed in further detail below after taking an in-depth look at personality and personality change. 

What is personality change?

Personality characteristics are broad categories of individual variations that relate to how we interact with our social environments. They support our ability to think, behave, and feel consistently in a variety of contexts and across time.

Early childhood temperament variations, which are partially genetically driven and influence exposure to social situations, are assumed to be the source of adult personality characteristics. There are five personality dimensions in all.

The five factors are: “extraversion or positive emotionality (incorporating traits such as sociability, energy, shyness and dominance/subordination); neuroticism or negative emotionality (including lower‐order traits such as proneness to anxiety, irritability, sadness, insecurity and guilt); conscientiousness (factors such as reliability, carefulness, persistence and self‐control); agreeableness (cooperativeness, consideration, generosity, kindness and politeness); and openness to experience (imaginativeness, insight and aesthetic sensitivity)”. 

Individuals differ in all of these characteristics, therefore each individual is regarded to have a unique set of traits. Personality factors influence the quality of social and familial connections, marital status and satisfaction, career choices, political opinions, and crime with moderate consistency.

Your personality might evolve during the course of your life. It’s natural to have mood swings from time to time. Unusual personality changes, on the other hand, might be an indication of a physical or mental problem.

A personality shift can manifest itself in a number of ways –

  • A personality shift is indicated by behaviour that differs from how you would normally behave in the same situation.
  • A person’s mood, aggression, or euphoria are abnormally moody, aggressive, or euphoric in comparison to their regular behaviour in comparable conditions, indicating a personality shift.

Examples of personality change –

  • Being unconcerned in conditions that would typically induce anxiety or worry.
  • Being glad when hearing bad news.

What can cause a sudden personality change?

While a gradual shift in personality isn’t uncommon, an accident or sickness might create an abrupt transformation.

A generally joyful individual might become depressed as a result of grief, unpleasant news, or disappointment. After hearing the sad news, a person’s mood might be affected for weeks or months.

Some people have had bizarre or aberrant behaviour for years, which might be caused by disease or injury. After being exposed to a stressful scenario or seeing an unpleasant incident, a person’s demeanour may shift.

These behavioural changes may be caused by a mental health condition, such as –

  • Anxiety – When a person feels apprehensive or unpleasant about a situation, they are said to be anxious. It’s natural to feel anxious from time to time, but when it happens without warning, it might be an indication of generalised anxiety disorder.
  • Panic attacks – Panic episodes are intense bouts of dread. Fear might appear to be illogical at times. A person suffering a panic attack while seeing an elevator or speaking in public is an example of such a circumstance.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – This mental health disease, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is characterised by acute terror, flashbacks, and, in some cases, hallucinations. Traumatic memories, such as a terrorist attack or a vehicle accident, might cause PTSD.
  • Bipolar disorder – Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings that are intense. Mood swings may range from exhilaration to severe sadness, and they might modify how a person reacts to specific encounters or events, depending on their mood.
  • Schizophrenia – Schizophrenia makes it difficult to think clearly, interpret circumstances efficiently, behave appropriately in social situations, and discern what is genuine from what isn’t.

Strange or odd behaviour might be caused by medical problems that cause hormone levels to fluctuate. These conditions include:

  • menopause
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • andropause (male menopause)
  • hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism (an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, respectively)

Medical emergencies that can cause strange or unusual behaviour include:

  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • dehydration
  • malnutrition

What are these 3 ways anxiety medication can change your personality?

Increase extraversion.

Antidepressants, such as Paxil, make people feel less stressed and more outgoing, vivacious, and confident. It’s not only because they’re less depressed, according to recent research.

Indeed, such medications may affect two major personality qualities connected to depression: neuroticism and extraversion, even if they have no effect on depressive symptoms.

When compared to equally depressed patients taking a placebo, people taking anxiety medication experienced a rise in extraversion or an inclination toward outgoingness. 

According to the study published this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the more radical the personality alteration, the less likely depressed individuals were to relapse.

People who used antidepressants for a long period were more extroverted and emotionally stable at the conclusion of the trial, according to some findings. 

In a study with 240 randomised participants with moderate to severe depression, the Paxil group reported a 3.5-fold increase in extraversion compared to the matching placebo group.

According to Kramer, psychiatrists have come to expect personality changes in patients using SSRIs. He claims that thirty years ago, a person who was “no longer in extreme pain, remained gloomy, socially timid, socially apprehensive, and feeling inadequate” was called depressed. “Clinical folks now want to see these personality changes,” he says.

Kramer voiced fear in his book Listening to Prozac that SSRIs may usher in a new era of “cosmetic psychopharmacology,” with non-depressed individuals using medications to make themselves more beautiful, lively, and confident. 

But, he claims, this hasn’t happened. “For minor reasons, I’ve never had somebody come into my office or had a lengthy phone chat with someone who was on these meds.”

Despite the fact that the current study provides some light on the association between SSRIs and personality, there is still a lot to learn about these medications. “The mechanism of action of these drugs is still a mystery,” Tang explains. 

Reduces neuroticism.

People who used anxiety medication demonstrated less neuroticism and higher extroversion, both of which are influenced by serotonin levels in the brain.

Because neuroticism is one of the primary characteristics that drive depression, respondents reported feeling more tranquil and described the changes in their personalities as good.

Tony Z. Tang, PhD, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, says, “Medication can undoubtedly affect people’s personalities, and modify them fairly considerably.” “Those adjustments are really important,” he argues, based on the data.

Paxil (paroxetine), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), was shown to reduce neuroticism, which is a propensity toward emotional instability and bad mood, in the research participants. 

Medication has the ability to affect people’s personalities, and it can do so dramatically. According to Tang, Paxil is no longer often used due to concerns about side effects and withdrawal, but other SSRIs (such as Prozac and Zoloft) are likely to have a similar effect on personality.

The idea that antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, might cause personality changes is not new. However, many experts believe that these changes are due to the patient’s increased mood and are unconvinced that SSRIs have independent impacts on personality.

According to psychiatrist Peter D. Kramer, M.D., author of the landmark 1993 book “Listening to Prozac,” which described how patients treated with antidepressants often became more at ease socially and less sensitive to rejection, the current research is a “confirmation of what I observed a number of years ago.”

“It appears that a lot of what relieves individuals is that they’re feeling the antithesis of neuroticism,” says Kramer, a clinical professor of psychology and human behaviour at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. 

“Getting better consistently appears to indicate a lengthier wait for the next episode. This refutes the concept that these drugs are only band-aids to get folks through the day.”

The researchers randomised 240 participants with moderate to severe depression to Paxil, placebo, or cognitive treatment at random in the trial (a form of talk therapy). 

The researchers matched patients in the Paxil and placebo groups according to how much their symptoms improved in order to isolate the influence of Paxil and depressive symptoms on personality.

After eight weeks, the Paxil group reported a drop in neuroticism about seven times larger than the placebo group, despite the fact that their depression symptoms had improved by a similar amount. 

Before we get into antidepressants and how they affect the brain and personality, it’s crucial to recognise that anxiety may change things on its own. Anxiety may impact your brain, even if you’re utilising natural approaches to support your mental health.

Reduces stress hormones. 

Stress and worry can cause stress hormones like cortisol to be released from various sections of our brain, such as the hypothalamus, adrenal cortex, and pituitary gland. 

These hormones have a significant impact on the body. Stress may cause the body to break down and even destroy brain cells if left untreated for lengthy periods of time.

Increased cortisol levels can cause the amygdala, the primary region of our brain that governs and processes emotions like fear, to grow in size over time. It also increases the flight or fight response, which is considerably easier to activate with a bigger amygdala.

Other regions of the brain, such as memory, can be affected by stress. We can clearly observe personality changes without our memories. 

Because memory and experience are such a crucial part of who we are, having some of them erased by cortisol will have a significant influence on how we feel about the world.

While the study’s findings indicated that certain personality changes occurred, this was not always a bad thing. It all comes down to how you identify yourself as a person. 

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Does anxiety medication change your personality?” and reviewed the concepts of personality, personality change and the effects of anxiety medication, especially on personality to help determine if anxiety medication can change your personality. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

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Harding, A. Antidepressants change personality, study suggests. (2009, December 8). Retrieved from  https://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/12/08/antidepressant.personality.changes/

I heard taking anxiety medication can be bad and change your personality. If taking medication happens to be necessary for me, what shall I do? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.quora.com/I-heard-taking-anxiety-medication-can-be-bad-and-change-your-personality-If-taking-medication-happens-to-be-necessary-for-me-what-shall-I-do

Healy, M. Antidepressants linked to major personality changes. (2014, September 16). Retrieved from  https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-sci-antidepressants8-2009dec08-story.html

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The medications that change who we are. BBC. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200108-the-medications-that-change-who-we-are

Jylhä P, Ketokivi M, Mantere O, Melartin T, Holma M, Rytsälä H, Isometsä E. Do antidepressants change personality?–a five-year observational study. J Affect Disord. 2012 Dec 15;142(1-3):200-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.04.026. Epub 2012 Jul 28. PMID: 22842025. Retrieved from  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22842025/

Berke, B. What I Learned From Taking Anxiety Medication After Years Of Being Against It. (2016, NOVEMBER 27). Retrieved from  https://www.elitedaily.com/wellness/anxiety-medication/1698651

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