Do Antidepressants Affect Creativity?

antidepressants and creativity, depressed woman

There’s a fascinating article on the affect of antidepressants on creativity in the latest issue of Mslexia, a magazine for women who write.

In the article ‘Waving or Drowning?’ writer Faridah Newman trawls through what little research there is on the topic and also refers to anecdotal evidence and the results of a Mslexia survey on women writers with depression who had taken antidepressants.

Depression and Writers

Depression is an affliction that is synonymous with writers, particularly female writers. Think Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, JK Rowling, Marian Keyes, Anne Sexton. All extremely successful women writers who experienced debilitating bouts of depression. In the case of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Anne Sexton that depression led to suicide.

Sometimes depression can be so severe that all creativity is out of the question. In an article in the Daily Mail, Marian Keyes describes how she ‘was suffering a depression so severe I couldn’t  sleep, read, write or talk’.

Some women writers who responded to the Mslexia survey described how depression fuelled their creativity, helping them to achieve deeper insights in their writing.

Do Antidepressants Affect Creativity?

Taking antidepressants made no difference to Marian Keyes, but for some writers anti-depressants meant they were able to get out of bed in the morning and function.

Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of anti-depressants is ‘mood flattening’ where one feels on an even keel but unable to experience emotional highs and lows. This can also make it difficult, if not impossible, for some writers to get in touch with their creative drive and feel motivated enough to write.

Respondents in the survey described how their desire to write disappeared when their depression lifted and blamed this on the effect of antidepressant medication.

Anti-depressants can also have a major effect on energy levels, with tiredness and low energy affecting the ability to be creative.

In my own experience, anti-depressants enabled me to function and return to a more motivated state of being. Whether or not they made me more creative is debatable, but in my darker days I would not have been able to write without them.

If you’ve noticed an effect on your creativity when taking antidepressants I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment in the box below.

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8 Responses to Do Antidepressants Affect Creativity?

  1. Jennifer Strong May 13, 2015 at 2:59 am #

    Dear Angie or is it Dear Abbey? I’m trying to write my story and have 20 ooo words but I feel that the Sertraline antidepressants have hampered my writing. It seems like a brave but necessary step to go off the medication to get the job done.

    • Angie Macdonald May 14, 2015 at 9:39 am #

      Hi Jennifer. Sorry to hear that your antidepressants are making it difficult to write. Please be aware that if you are going to stop taking antidepressants it’s best to taper off the dosage gradually. That way you will hopefully avoid nasty side-effects.

  2. Jack Mulcahy August 21, 2014 at 10:26 pm #


    I’m a 62-year-old writer with severe depression (taking meds for it). I am beginning to think there may be something to the idea that antidepressants affect creativity. I have been writing a novel and a series related of short stories, and in the past 10 years, I’ve been going in circles when it comes to getting myself to write and staying with the writing long enough to produce something worthwhile. Don’t know if it’s the depression or the medications, but I’d sure be interested in finding out more about it. Thanks.

    • Angie Macdonald August 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      Hi Jack. Thanks for your comment. You describe a common conundrum for writers. Is the going round in circles with your writing due to depression, antidepressants or could other factors also be playing a role? I’m thinking about things like procrastination (a big problem of mine), or that little voice in your head that tells you your writing isn’t good enough. It’s hard to stay focused and motivated at the best of times and even more so when you’re depressed. I’ve found talking to other writers helps, and joining a writer’s group or a class for the focus and discipline. Sometimes a change of medication does the trick, but it does take time, trial and error to find the right one. Good luck.

  3. CG January 21, 2014 at 4:48 am #

    Hi Angie,

    Here’s my experiences. I am a stand up comedian that has suffered depression on and off since childhood. My job involves creativity in writing, and in off-the-cuff interactions on stage. Three times my depression has been severe enough that I have been on antidepressants. Each time I wrote nothing and stopped performing for the length of time I was on the medication, because my creativity was completely muted. As such, whenever I have been in this state, I no longer accept medication. I am currently in a darker place than I have been in and my psychiatrist is (gently) pushing me to take medication, so I have been researching if there are any medications that don’t have the same effect on creativity. To no avail. Thanks for this article.

    • Angie Macdonald January 21, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

      Hi CG
      Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like you’re between a rock and hard place at the moment. I wish I knew how to help. I have also decided never to take anti-depressants again if I can help it, purely because of the very alarming withdrawal effects I experienced. So now, I find that doing all those things that we know are good for us really helps: exercising every day, eating lots of Omega 3 oils, getting enough sleep, talking things through with friends and laughing. Of course, I don’t always manage it, but I try.

      I realise that if you’re in a really dark place you’re unlikely to be able to do anything like that anyway. Some people find that it’s a case of experimenting with different anti-depressants until they find the one that works well for them. Whatever you choose, I hope you come out the other side soon and are able to be creative again. Good luck!

  4. Susan pickles December 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

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    • Angie Macdonald December 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Hi Sue. Thanks for your comment. I will be posting information from time to time about testosterone and am also doing some research for a book on the subject. The best way to stay up to date with any new posts on the website is to subscribe to the newsletter. This is sent once a week only if there are new articles on the website. You can subscribe by clicking on the orange envelope icon on the right hand side of the top navigation bar – next to ‘Contact’. I hope that helps.

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