For the past several years, I have experimented with several antidepressant medications. Something I have noticed is that each medication affected my dreams differently. For example:

When I was taking Celexa, I would have very vivid dreams of people I loved rejecting me or trying to murder me. This caused me to wake up devastated, a mood state that continued throughout the day as it took a toll on my self-esteem and desire to interact with others. Right now I am currently taking Prozac, which has now been combined with the mood stabilizer Lithium. Prozac makes my dreams very vivid in terms of colors and detail. These dreams are always random and a little odd, but usually neutral in feeling. Combined with the Lithium, my dreams are not only vivid, but the content is now everyday normal events such as talking to a friend or walking up the stairs at school. Because of this, I have difficulty differentiating between reality and what was just a dream.

Out of curiosity about how dreams are affected by psychotropic medications, I made a post on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit asking people to share what they have observed with their own medication experimentation. I found that people had similar experiences as me:

“When I was on Celexa, it gave me really fucked up dreams. Like dreams that should feel like nightmares but don’t. They were in black and white and very violent, like watching someone get tortured or me beating the shit out of someone. Everything had this sort of ‘dead’ feeling to it. Those dreams messed with me throughout the entire day. Couldn’t think straight. Thankfully I’m not on those kinds of drugs anymore. Now that I’ve been on Lithium my dreams are like OP’s: boring and realistic to the point where I can confuse reality with something that I saw in my dreams.”

“I just started Lithium and noticed that my dreams are getting more vivid and lengthy. Yesterday I even considered keeping a dream journal again bc I feel as though I’m dreaming more.”

“Same with Prozac. I’ve been on it for almost two years and dreams were always vivid, I could remember all the details of at least two different dreams (usually 3, sometimes 4) every morning. They were mostly about the people I knew, but were not close to me or anything. And just weird situations going on.”

Prozac gave me some weird, vivid dreams.”

Prozac doesnt make me have nightmares, but I do get really weird dreams that usually focus on my past.”

Now, some people had slightly different experiences with this medication, making dreams less vivid:

“I have always have very vivid anxiety nightmares and Prozac makes them stop for the most part. They start right back up if I stop taking it.”

Here are some other medications that were commonly brought up:

Zoloft

“Zoloft made me have super vivid and realistic dreams… Sometimes the things that happened in my dreams were so plausible that I couldn’t always differentiate between dream memories and memories from reality.”

“Zoloft gave me realistic death dreams for over a week.”

“Zoloft gives me pretty bad night terrors, but sometimes really good dreams. It’s confusing.”

Effexor 

“Effexor also gave me weird, vivid dreams.”

“I have extremely violent dreams that wake me up every night from my Effexor.”

“I take Effexor and every night is like the most vivid and surreal movies play in my head.”

Seroquel

“This medication gives me horrid, bizarre nightmares.”

“I just started seroquel and I have such vivid dreams, I often can’t remember what happened in real life and what happened in dreams. I’ll quote things people have said to me only to find out that I dreamed it and they have no idea what I’m talking about. The dreams themselves are pretty ordinary but upon waking it’s hard to discern real memories from dreamed ones.”

No matter the medication, there are some common themes we see in how psychotropic medications affect dreams: (1) they cause nightmares, (2) they increase the vividness of the dreams, and (3) they make dreams more realistic. Do you think the way a medication affects your dreams is determinant of how successful that medication will be for treating your condition?