Can antidepressants change your personality?

Samir Kadri
Author: Samir Kadri Medical Reviewer: Morgan Blair Last updated:

When starting a course of antidepressants, it’s important to consider potential consequences. How may the antidepressants make you feel? What side effects you may have to contend with? Whether it will change your personality?

Your goal in taking antidepressants it to treat the underlying mental health condition, manage your symptoms and have a better quality of life. However, the notion that the medication you are taking could mess with our personality and thus, interfere with your personal and professional lives, can feel unnerving.

Can antidepressants change your personality?

Can antidepressants affect your personality?

Antidepressants are primarily prescribed to alleviate symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions. While they can have significant effects on a person’s mood, emotions, and overall well-being, there is ongoing debate about whether they directly change a person’s personality.

Personality is a complex and multifaceted concept that encompasses numerous aspects of a person including behavioral patterns, interests, drives, values, abilities, and emotional patterns. [1]

As antidepressants primarily target neurotransmitters in the brain that influence mood and emotional regulation, they can have an impact on your behavior and emotional patterns.

Some individuals may report feeling more “like themselves” or experiencing a sense of relief from debilitating symptoms after starting antidepressant treatment. In this instance, antidepressants are not directly changing a person’s personality – rather they are enabling the person to exhibit their true personality by alleviating the symptoms of their mental health disorder.

It is integral you feel as comfortable as possible and weigh the risks and benefits of antidepressant treatment before starting. Regularly consult your healthcare provider throughout your course of antidepressants and always listen to their direction. Together, you can identify any unwanted side effects, such as personality changes, and manage them effectively.

Evidence supporting personality change in antidepressant users

While some experts attribute personality changes to a patient’s improved symptoms, other researchers believe antidepressants independently change a patient’s personality.

There is a body of research which has identified the big 5 personality traits: extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness. [2]

In 2009, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry tested the impact of antidepressants on participants depressions levels as well as two personality traits – extroversion and neuroticism. [3] Extroversion is marked by outgoingness, gregariousness, and a positive mood, while neuroticism involves anxiety, depression, and emotional instability. [2]

180 participants with major depressive disorder were either given a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant or a placebo for eight weeks. Both the SSRI contingent and the placebo group experienced a reduction in depression levels. [3]

However, while the placebo group showed little change in neuroticism or extroversion, the SSRI group demonstrated sizeable modifications in both. The SSRI group experienced reductions in neuroticism and increases in extroversion four to eight times larger than the placebo group. [3]

This led to the researchers to conclude that “patients with major depressive disorder reported substantial personality change during SSRI treatment. Such personality change was not dependent on depression improvement.”

Doubts about personality change brought on by antidepressant use

In 2012 a five-year observational study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders contested the findings of the 2009 study.

It concluded that no evidence emerged to suggest a correlation between antidepressant use and neuroticism and extroversion levels. [4] It found that it was the improvement in anxious and depressive symptoms that caused the positive changes in neuroticism and extroversion. [4]

Final thoughts

When taken as prescribed by your healthcare provider, antidepressants will not radically change your personality.

Antidepressants can have various effects on individuals, including changes in mood, emotions, and behavior. While some people might experience subtle shifts in their personality traits while taking antidepressants, it’s important to understand that these changes are generally related to improvements in mood and symptom relief, rather than a complete overhaul of one’s core personality.

Although the studies noted in this article explore the relationship, or lack thereof, between antidepressants and personality, there is much that remains unknown. More research is required on the subject before we can definitively assess the relationship between antidepressants and personality.

If you’re considering taking antidepressants or have already started them and have concerns about how they might affect you, it’s recommended to have an open and honest conversation with a mental health professional.

They can provide you with personalized information based on your specific situation and help you make informed decisions about your treatment.

  1. American Psychological Association. (2022, November). Personality. American Psychological Association.
  2. Power, R. A., & Pluess, M. (2015). Heritability estimates of the Big Five personality traits based on common genetic variants. Translational Psychiatry, 5(7), e604–e604.
  3. Arehart-Treichel, J. (2010). SSRIs Produce Positive Changes in Two Personality Traits. Psychiatric News, 45(2), 22–22.
  4. Jylhä, P., Ketokivi, M., Mantere, O., Melartin, T., Holma, M., Rytsälä, H., & Isometsä, E. (2012). Do antidepressants change personality?—A five-year observational study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 142(1-3), 200–207.
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Samir Kadri
Author Samir Kadri Writer

Samir Kadri is a medical writer with a non-profit sector background, committed to raising awareness about mental health.

Published: Oct 10th 2023, Last edited: Jan 31st 2024

Morgan Blair
Medical Reviewer Morgan Blair MA, LPCC

Morgan Blair is a licensed therapist, writer and medical reviewer, holding a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northwestern University.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Oct 10th 2023