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Tinnitus and antidepressants - and just generally in a mess!

(11 Posts)
anxiousant Tue 18-Sep-12 20:58:28

Hi, I'm just after some 'independent advice' if anyone has some time to read my (long) story.

When I was a few weeks pregnant, one of my sisters died last year in an accident. It was very stressful, involving life support machine being switched off etc. I was obviously devastated about it at the time and muddled on through my pregnancy. I now have a beautiful baby along with a 3 year old and a caring DH who I love very much, but does have a tendency to bury his head in the sand when something bad is going on.
A few months ago, I started getting terribly anxious about things and was very down, I was finding it hard to sleep which makes things difficult with two small children to look after. It was also affecting my ability to breastfeed (adrenaline stops milk letdown). I eventually went off to the doctors and was diagnosed with postnatal depression/anxiety. I was quite anti taking any medication but was scared I was worsening (this could have been genuine or could have just been the anxiety telling me I was getting worse). I was prescribed one of the SSRIs – I took one and had horrendous side effects. I got no sleep whatsoever, got all sorts of vivid, strange images in my head whenever I started falling asleep I’d then suddenly wake up, I felt sick, had a headache, felt really twitchy and basically like I was in a black hole. If it had been 10% as bad, I would have never taken another of them.

I carried on without any medication for another month or so then became convinced I was worsening again. I had all sorts of worries about ending up in a psychiatric hospital and taken away from my children. Worse case scenario thinking at its worst really. My health visitor suggested that I should go along and see a doctor again and recommended a more sympathetic one who was lovely. She listened to me properly, agreed that I probably shouldn’t try another SSRI and found ‘Trazodone’ instead, which was compatible with breastfeeding. She suggested I was feeling like I was because of a ‘delayed stress reaction’ to my sister’s death. Being pregnant, I wouldn’ t have dealt with it as I normally would, in order to instinctively protect the baby from stress hormones, and the stress is all showing later. She said she’d given it to another mum who was feeling similar to me who was now feeling much better. I agreed to take it because I thought I had to do something to get better for my family and myself. I was on the waiting list for counselling but I was aware that it could take a while to work and I felt I needed more of a quick fix – although I was planning to try counselling.

I took them for a couple of weeks and started to feel clouds lifting, but not back to normal yet. My dose was increased a bit (but still was below the minimum dose for depression). I took the higher dose for a week or so and started to feel my normal self on some days. I was so relieved. Then one night I woke up with ringing in my head (tinnitus) so I stopped the medication after speaking to the on call doctor. There was no mention of tinnitus being a side effect in the information leaflet, but it is listed in the physician’s desk reference. It is still ringing 2 months on. I can feel the area of my brain it’s coming from. It’s mainly one side but occasionally spreads to ears. I get occasional ‘zap’ sensations from the area when I move my head. I can’t think about anything else and it’s stressing me out beyond belief. I’m getting about 3 hours sleep a night but what can I do about it? I daren’t take any more medication. I’m so anxious and tired some days that my hands are shaking. On top of that, I recently had another bereavement – someone who I feel I should have seen more of but didn’t and I don’t know why. I feel terribly anxious and tied up with guilt about that too. I feel bereaved that I've lost my ability to experience peace and quiet, and to sleep. Has anyone had tinnitus from antidepressants and did it go away?

I've had a few counselling sessions now but don't think they are helping. I just moan and nothing seems to change.

I have seen an ENT doctor who just said if it was the medication, the tinnitus should have stopped when I stopped taking it. He couldn’t say whether or not it would go away. I can’t bear the thought of having this for the rest of my life. It’s feeding in to my anxiety and depression and I’m getting trapped in a cycle. As soon as you mention tinnitus to doctors they look at you like you’re a lost cause. The only advice seems to be to relax and get used to it. Both seem impossible at the moment. I’m now frightened that if I keep going back to doctors about depression and things, I’m going to end up on a black list and maybe social services will start monitoring me.

I don’t feel that I can talk to my family about any of this as they are all still devastated by my sister’s death and I don’t want to burden them with more bad news. I feel I’m letting down my family who I love to bits. All I've ever tried to do is do my best for them but everything seems to be going wrong. DH is supportive but is at the end of his tether I think. It would appear that I have a perfect life – nice house, caring DH and two beautiful children who don’t realise anything is going on, but on the inside I’m a complete mess. I feel I've let everyone down - my family, my baby who I've now had to stop breastfeeding.

Sorry - this is massive, thank you for reading. I'd be really grateful for any advice about what to do.

OatyBeatie Tue 18-Sep-12 21:13:30

You poor thing. You have such a lot to have to deal with. Please don't feel you are letting anyone down. You absolutely aren't. And don't feel that you will get on any kind of black list at the doctors, or have unwanted social services attention. You have two very distressing conditions, the depression and the tinnitus, and you are absolutely entitled to feel worn out by them and to call on the support of professionals and of your family.

I don't have any information that I can bring to bear on your difficulties, I'm afraid. But the level of stress you are under from the bereavements, and from trying to keep up with all the demands of family life when you are ill is so evident in your post. It must be particularly hard to cope with the tinnitus when you are so worn out. Please don't feel reticent about seeking all the help that you deserve.

OatyBeatie Wed 19-Sep-12 09:20:53

Bump -- in case there's anyone out there who knows about tinnitus and can offer advice/support to op.

Blondenurse Wed 19-Sep-12 11:06:01

As a mental health nurse, I've come across several patients who have experienced tinnitus at the same time as depression/anxiety. That is by no means a suggestion that it is 'all in the mind', but it may be something that is exacerbated by stress. Have you tried visiting this web page? It has loads of links to explaining tinnitus and ways in which you can try and manage it.

You certainly won't be 'blacklisted' for going back to your GP with depression. 1 in 4 people suffer from it and healthcare professionals are well aware of the devastating impact it can have on a persons life. Keep the channels of communication open with your HV and go back to the sympathetic GP. There is more help available. Ask your GP for a referral for psychological therapy. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is proven to work well for depression and anxiety, and some of the strategies can be used for tinnitus too. (There is an article about this on the tinnitus webpage, under the 'treatments' link.)

Depending on where you live, access to CBT may be limited and you may find yourself on a waiting list. If you have the means, you could try going private but expect to pay around £50 or so per session.
Find a local therapist here:
Alternatively, a book we recommend for those on waiting lists for CBT is this one:

I know you've had a negative experience with antidepressants, but there are loads of different ones available and they really can help. Often people have a couple of weeks of feeling restless or anxious whilst they get used to them, but they are generally well tolerated if you can find the right one for you.

Do you have friends you can talk to and spend time with? Try and maintain social contact, even if you find it difficult. Do you work? If not, aim to get out of the house at least once a day, even if its just a trip to the shops.

Try not to beat yourself up about breastfeeding. Babies thrive on formula just as well as those on breastmilk. I couldn't bf my prem babies and wasted a lot of emotional effort feeling guilty about this, owing to the tremendous pressure to bf. I now have two perfectly healthy, bright children.

I hope these practical steps are of some use to you.

anxiousant Wed 19-Sep-12 20:59:56

Thank you so much for the replies. One of the worst things about this is having to hide it from people so it's nice to talk about it for once. I can talk to my counsellor but she's not supposed to give advice which is one of the reasons I'm finding it a bit pointless.

The tinnitus is definitely made worse by stress. On really bad days the tinnitus is bad too, but I think stress and tinnitus both feed into each other. Did the tinnitus go when the depression got better for your patients blondenurse? I'm positive mine is brain related, not ear related. I'm just devastated that I'm likely to have caused it by taking the medication when I thought I was doing the best thing for me and my family.

I'm on the waiting list for CBT, think there's another month to go so hopefully that will help. I do try to get out every day even if it's just a drop off and collect from playgroup and I'm trying to do exercise each day as well. I'm back to work part time soon so maybe that will help take my mind off things a bit. And I do try to meet up with friends as well although I'm conscious that I'm being miserable and probably not very good company.

I'm starting to think I might consider antidepressants again but it would have to be one that doesn't list tinnitus as a potential side effect. I need to go back to the Dr but the nice one seemed a bit off last time I saw her, maybe felt bad about prescribing the drug that might have caused it. She tried to give me temazepam for sleep last time I saw her but I really don't want to get addicted to something and they can cause tinnitus as well! I did get the feeling she'd given up on me to be honest.

Blondenurse Wed 26-Sep-12 14:31:28

I'm so sorry, I thought I'd replied last week. Clearly the ipad didn't get 'post message'....

In your message you state you're devastated that you caused the tinnitus. You didn't cause it - you were, as you say, doing the best thing by seeking help. It may not even be the medication that triggered it - may be just a coincidence. Please try not to blame yourself - not the easiest thing when you're feeling so low though.

In answer to your question, my background is in nursing people in acute crisis, so I often didn't see them get fully better. But you've already recognised yourself that stress makes the tinnitus worse - hopefully, once your mood starts to improve you will find some relief from it.

I am sure your doctor hasn't given up on you - it so often feels that way when you're so down. There are loads of different antidepressants around, sometimes people have to try several before they find the right one. It sounds like you are doing everything you can, staying social, waiting for CBT, exercising (evidence shows that exercise can help in depression). Keep in touch with your GP and friends.

I've just re-read your original message - no mention of whether you experienced anything similar in the past? I just wondered if you'd had any problems with your mood before and if anything helped then?

One final thought - you say you're having counselling - is that bereavment counselling? Would it be worth contacting someone like:
for specific bereavment counselling? Counselling can feel like having a bit of a moan, but if that makes you feel better, then thats ok.

I hope things are going ok smile

anxiousant Fri 28-Sep-12 20:21:56

Thanks blondenurse for your reply.

No, I've never had anything like this before. I have a tendency to worry about things but this has been 100 times worse than any state I've been in previously.

I've had a few okay days recently but set back after last night spent throwing up after catching a bug.... I'm shattered after about 2 hours sleep and the tinnitus is really annoying. I'm starting to think the tinnitus might be related to my neck and jaw. I've had a clicky jaw for years on the side the tinnitus is mainly on, and now my neck has gone really clicky as well. Maybe I'm just trying to persuade myself that it wasn't related to the medication, I don't know.

I'm really wary of antidepressants at the moment, I don't want any bad side effects and anything that keeps me awake is a big no. I think my CBT should start in the next couple of weeks and I'm on the waiting list with Cruse.

I've also been doing 'mindful meditation' for 20 minutes a day. I'm finding that quite calming and will continue with it.

Mylittlepuds Fri 28-Sep-12 21:00:31

Hi anxious. Just a short note to say that I've been where you are anxiety wise. My belief is that it's 100% hormone-related. Do yo find it gets worse around your periods? Mine used to get worse if I dropped a feed, before periods - and all started after birth of DS.

Like you I'm a natural 'worrier' but people with anxiety know that true anxiety is a different ball game.

I'm also so wary of ADs as I know people whereby things have gotten worse before they got better. When my anxiety was a its worse if it had gotten worse still due to ADs it would have pushed me over the edge.

This sounds daft but have you tried a good multivitamin and omega 3 supplement? There's evidence that a lack of omega 3 can exasperate anxiety.

anxiousant Sat 29-Sep-12 08:38:42

I think you might have something there. I've just started tracking my periods and how they fit with good/bad days. DH noticed that I'm really, really bad for a week or two each month. Other days aren't too bad. My periods only started again in June, but the anxiety got bad in May when I dropped some feeds, so I do think it might be connected.

I've never really got on with hormones. I took the pill for years because it helped my PMT. Now I've been pregnant, it seems to have flicked a switch and I can't take anything hormonal without throwing up.

I take vitamins but will try Omega 3, thanks for the tip.

I know what you mean about people getting worse on ADs. It scares me as well, not sure how I would manage if I got worse. How do you think you got rid of your anxiety? Mine is more linked to the tinnitus at the moment, but I was obviously desperate enough to take medication without before it arrived so there are no guarantees it would go even if the tinnitus did.

Mylittlepuds Sat 29-Sep-12 09:03:12

Oh God I'm far from rid of it! It's just been a very, very slow progression of more good days than bad.

I sometimes centre on one thing too, like your tinnitus. I had some lumps in my arm that I thought was cancer, a pain in my breast has become cancer too.

Then there's the emotional stuff - the amount of times I posted on here for help with that. I was in he'll and needed reassurance. For about six months I was convinced I didn't love my son as much as I 'should'. It still occasionally bothers me, but not that all day circling in the head stuff.

Do you drink? I ended up drinking a few glasses of wine a night to take the edge off the pain. I knew alcohol could affect anxiety but I eventually found out just one glass would really impact on me the next day (before DS I'd happily drink a bottle and just feel hungover). Also caffeine - I can't drink that anymore either.

How is your diet? Have you read any books on the topic? Have you had your bloods tested?

anxiousant Sun 30-Sep-12 10:31:59

I so know what you mean mylittlepuds. Things go round my head in a loop, it's just like you can't switch your mind off. Mine always seems to centre around "what if" questions, what if it doesn't get better, what if I only get 3 hours sleep, etc etc. I'm hoping the CBT might help me with this.

Don't really drink, no. I tried a bit of wine a few weeks ago. I seemed to get to sleep better but then woke up early and couldn't go back at all. Don't do caffeine either. My diet could be better, mainly because I'm too tired to make anything complicated and I think tiredness also affects you wanting to eat junk. It's not horrendous though.

No, I've not had my bloods tested, I'm interested to know what they could test for though? (here we go again, maybe it's something serious smile )

I've got some books on mindfulness and depression which I need to read, getting time with two children is quite hard! I thought I'd give this a go because it's all about living in the moment, not dragging up the past or worrying about the future which I seem to have a problem with. What others do you recommend?

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