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Can Taking Dexamethasone Lead to Depression?

Susan is a breast cancer survivor who is now in remission after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

4 mg tablets of dexamethasone

4 mg tablets of dexamethasone

What Is Dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone is a steroid used to treat many ailments, including allergies, arthritis, as well as certain cancers. It can also be found in eye drops for red, itchy eyes.

Can Dexamethasone Cause Depression?

I am living proof that dexamethasone can in fact cause depression. I am currently battling stage IV inoperable lung cancer, and part of my treatment includes dexamethasone. Searching on Google and various health sites, I was unable to find very much information on dexamethasone and depression. This is the main reason why I'm writing this article. I hope that those who may be searching for this information can find this useful and that it helps them.

When I first started my chemotherapy, I had to take a number of drugs the day before, the day of, and the day after the chemo was administered. This included two 4 mg tablets of dexamethasone twice daily. This led me to experience the side effect of depression. I've gone through clinical depression before, so I knew exactly what I was going through when I noticed changes in my mood and energy levels. Usually, my husband sees all the symptoms before I do. This time, I kept insisting that I was becoming depressed, while he kept blaming it on the chemo itself.

Symptoms of Depression Related to Chemo Treatment

MeOthersSide Notes

Oversleeping

Not Being Able to sleep

I never wanted to get out of bed.

Lack of Appetite

Increased Appetite

I found food hard to swallow.

No Sex Drive

Increased Sex Drive

Anxiety

Tranquility

I was afraid to be alone.

Suicidal Thoughts

No Suicidal Thoughts

I went to the ER as soon as I had such thoughts

Tired All the Time

Energetic All the Time

No Concentration

Increased Concentration

Not Able to Cry

Cry at the Drop of a Hat

Even when I was very sad, I could not cry.

Seeking Help

Once I was positive that I needed help with my depression, I went to our local hospital for help and advice. Instead, a crisis center worker told me that she felt it wasn't depression at all but just a reaction to the chemo drugs. She suggested I talk to my oncologist and see if there was anything that he could do for me.

A week passed, and I had not been able to see my oncologist. I awoke one morning thinking about all the pills I had in my possession and thought it would be quite easy to put an end to everything. This really scared me, so I had my husband drive me back to the emergency room where I saw the same crisis center worker.

This time, she paid more attention to me and had the emergency room doctor prescribe an antidepressant. I recall her exact words: "These pills should kick in, and in about two weeks, you'll start feeling better." Right away, I knew she knew little about antidepressants since the majority of them take 4-6 weeks before you feel any results. But I thanked her and the doctor and went on my merry way to have the script filled.

Once I was able to see my oncologist, he immediately had me talk to the on-call psychiatrist. When I explained to her that I was always very anxious, she was positive that it had to do with the dexamethasone. She prescribed clonazepam for my anxiety and Cipralex and Abilify for my depression. The next morning, I remember thinking that the psychiatrist was a miracle worker as all of my anxiety was gone. Six weeks later, I was back to normal.

I will continue to stay on the antidepressants until I am no longer taking the steroid.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression please get them help immediately. The sooner it is treated, the sooner the symptoms will go away.

Side Effects of Prescription Drugs

Sites You May Find Useful for Depression

  • Canada Health Infoway
    "Canada Health Infoway collaborates with the provinces and territories to facilitate and invest in a network of electronic health record systems across Canada."
  • Mayo Clinic - Mayo Clinic
    The Mayo Clinic is one of the first sites I search out whenever I need to know anything medical.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2014 Susan Zutautas

Comments

Paula on October 14, 2019:

Susan......Hi girlfriend!! I came to your site because I wanted to continue the brief interaction we had on my Status Update. Long time no see. I don't receive more than half of the notifications I should...don't know why. I've missed you, although I admit, I am not even half as active as I used to be..(too much going on in my real life!)

What a sweetheart daughter-in-law you are, to be caring for your MIL! I can imagine how grateful she is for you and the care you give.

This article is positively wonderful. I can relate to your experiences in several ways. First of all, your "awareness" of your own physical and mental health and knowledge of maladies as well as prescription medications.Certainly not enough people are so attuned as this. What a difference it can make in our being able to deal with and cope well during a health crisis. Because of this awareness, you acted quickly and appropriately to find a solution. I am relieved for you and understand the course you took. It is interesting to know how sensitive your husband is to your various situations. I am sure I needn't tell you that the loving relationship and closeness you and your husband share, has an enormous effect on the state of your continued health treatments. What a blessing.

Please know I wish you happiness and wellness always. Peace, Paula

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 03, 2019:

Peg, Thanks so much. I'm feeling pretty good these days and stopped taking the dexamethasone a little over a year ago now and I've been able to get 55 pounds off of the weight I gained from taking this steroid.

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on September 02, 2019:

Dear Susan, I'm so glad you shared this informative and important insight into the side effects of treatment and medications. I know someone (close to me) who has been on pain medication for years. The side effects of missing a dose or taking the medication are varied and not pleasant at all. In fact, they can be pretty scary at times.

I do hope you are feeling much better by now and that you have seen improvement in your health as well. Thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers. Hugs.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 12, 2017:

ChitrangadaSharan, Thank you so much! The depression is long gone and I'm still on antidepressants and the dexamethasone. I hope that you have a wonderful day.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 11, 2017:

This is a very informative hub and many suffering from depression or the side effects of prescription drugs will get enlightened by your personal experience!

I understand that this was published sometime back. I hope you must have recovered now and feeling better .

Yes many clinical drugs do have side effects. The symptoms you mention are indicative enough to ascertain that and those taking them must be careful.

Thanks for spreading the awareness.

I wish you the best of health and happiness.

Have a blessed day!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 13, 2015:

Rachel, So sorry your daughter had to go through depression. Thanks so much!

Rachel L Alba from Every Day Cooking and Baking on August 08, 2015:

I am so sorry, Susan, to have read what you are going through. I will be saying a prayer for you. I have a daughter who went through depression in her teens. It was an awful time. She tried to commit suicide but several times, but failed. It just wasn't her time. The last time she was placed in a temporary hospital for people like her and they did help a lot. She did not have to take any drugs, thank God. Just therapy and a lot of prayers. She is fine now with two daughters, 20 and 18.

I know the heartache of depression. I am so sorry for your cancer. Hang in there and look up always to the One who can help you.

Many blessings to you.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 04, 2015:

Hi Sunshine. So true, drugs effect everyone in many different ways. The Dexamethasone has also caused me to gain weight and it is so hard to get it off but I keep trying :) Have a great day and sorry for such a late reply.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 03, 2015:

Audrey, Thanks so much sorry for the late reply.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2015:

Dressage, There are many drugs that both humans and animals can be treated with. Some people have to take Dexamethasone every day.

Being on chemo, which is working quite well, I'm not allowed to eat a diet high in anti oxidants. I'm happy to say that I'm now in remission :) I've always eaten a very healthy diet and I partly attribute it to all the fights I've had with cancer.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your cousin. Thank you so much for your comments and letting me know about Eat to Live. I will have a look at the book and diet as there's always room to improve on what I do eat.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on February 25, 2015:

Dexamethasone and Prednisone, both steroids have a long list of possible side effects which are a nuisance. Dave and many other prostate cancer warriors in my cancer group have been on long term steroid use and I have yet to hear a positive comment about either drug. Yet, depression wasn't one of their side effects. On the other hand the warriors did or do suffer from depression but that was most likely caused from the diagnosis. In their case this was so. Yet, as we all know there are no cancer patients alike and the side effects are different in each person. Good call on publishing this article, you never know who it might help. Wishing you continued success with your journey.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 25, 2015:

Hi Audrey, Yes I'm in remission and I'm still undergoing chemo treatments every 3 weeks. Thanks so much for checking on me.

Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on February 24, 2015:

So sorry Susan for your problems. Medicines can either kill or cure you at times. We must be so careful, especially if taking several medications. I hate to read side effects but understand the importance. I hope your weather gets warmer up there and everywhere. Take care. Blessings, Audrey

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on February 24, 2015:

I'm back again to see how you're doing Susan. Are you in remission? What about the chemo treatments? You are in my prayers. Hugs, Audrey

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 08, 2015:

Thank you peachpurple, I'm now in remission and am quite happy :)

peachy from Home Sweet Home on February 08, 2015:

thanks for letting us know the side effect of this pills, i am really saddened of your illness, really no other doctor could operate you? praying for miracle

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 05, 2015:

Audrey, The strange thing was that my oncologist was unaware of the side effect depression.

Audrey Howitt from California on February 03, 2015:

Thank you for posting this Susan! We trust so readily and sometimes, just pray! Hope you are feeling well --hugs to you!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 03, 2015:

flycatcherrr, I wish they'd come up with some other drug that wouldn't cause the side effects that dexamethasone causes. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your comments. I really appreciate you.

flycatcherrr on December 31, 2014:

Susan, first off, I am so sorry to learn that you're dealing with Stage IV cancer - cause enough for depression in anyone, one would think, even without the added effects of those nasty little "stop sign" pills. For me, the worst effects of the dexamethasone are cognitive messed-up-ness and over-emotional reactions to just everything. This is unpleasant enough, but not anywhere in the same league as depression. It is truly scary, how the steroids can mess with a person's brain. Sending you best wishes for hanging in to the end of chemo, and for a good outcome.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 16, 2014:

Thanks Martie! xxx

Martie Coetser from South Africa on November 15, 2014:

Very interesting information about Dexamethasone and that it may cause depression. You are always in my thoughts, Susan :)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2014:

Thanks Susan!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2014:

Yes, me included. Thanks for stopping by ubrish.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2014:

So glad to hear your husband is off all meds, that's fantastic! Thanks so much Peg for your support through this.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 13, 2014:

Frank, Thanks so much. I'm glad that they were able to determine that the depression was from dexamethasone in my case and I was even happier when the depression lifted.

Susan Holland from Southwest Missouri on November 12, 2014:

I am so glad you did this research! So many of us take medications that affect us in awful ways, but we trust our doctors. When we are in a state, we sometimes forget that our chemical make-up can react so differently to some medicines than it does to others. Thank you for sharing this information!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2014:

Mary, It's just another bump in the road or was I should say :) My oncologist was quite surprised that it was the dexamethasone causing the depression. Funny seeing that he prescribes this to so many patients that he's never come across this before.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2014:

I was surprised by what both the ER doctor and the crisis centre councillor said to me. Suzette I like my pain management doctor for most of my problems lately. He seems to be the most knowledgeable these days :)

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2014:

Thanks so Barbara Kay!

ubrish ali from Pakistan(Asia) on November 12, 2014:

Many people use medicine as drug

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on November 12, 2014:

Susan, I'm so sorry to hear about the side effects you're experiencing from all the medication. Having to go through what you're faced with is such a scary thing in itself without the added complications. Taking the medications can definitely cause harm while they cure, as my husband can readily testify. He had some pretty low times on massive doses of narcotics prescribed for his chronic back pain, along with steroids, antidepressants, anti inflammatory, blood pressure and diabetes medications. The combination was overwhelming. Thankfully he is off all the pain meds now.

I wish you all the best in this very difficult struggle. Hugs to you.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on November 12, 2014:

this is a useful hub and as Pamela stated all medications have side effects, and this one has several... depression can be draining, Ive never experienced it but i knew many who has... talking about it does help I think.. and I can only wish those and you who suffered from depression and the side effects bounce back quickly and live life for what it really offers bless you

Mary Craig from New York on November 12, 2014:

First let me say I am so sorry you had to have this added burden in the middle of what you are going through. Next let me thank you for sharing this. I'm sure there are people unaware of the reason they are suffering some side effects. We get those sheets from the drug store listing all the side effects but how many of us actually read them? Unfortunately if we did we probably wouldn't take the medications we really need.

So much is still unknown about so many of the drugs we take. Again, thank you Susan.

Voted up, useful, interesting, and shared.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on November 12, 2014:

Very interesting and informative article. I agree with you 100%. I have had to take a lot of prednisone, a steroid, over my life time for inflammation due to angioedema and it has caused depression in me. Really, any type of steroid can cause depression. I realize it does not happen in every patient, but it happened to me. I have always taken medication to counter the depression and right now in my life, I am feeling the best I ever have. These drugs have to be taken with a grain of salt and I have found the ER doctors and nurses are great in physical emergencies but for depressive types of situations they are not very good. My own internist is the best help for my particular situation. This is an important article and I enjoyed reading it.

Barbara Badder from USA on November 12, 2014:

Susan, I'm sending prayers for you and hope you get better and soon.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2014:

Barbara Kay, It's amazing what a pill can do to a person. I'm still taking the dexamethasone and will continue to do so until my chemo treatments stop.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 12, 2014:

Pam, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I hope that you're recovering well from your surgery. That sounds so painful and an operation I have a feeling my husband needs. He's stubborn though and won't go to see about it. I too am having a problem with weight gain from the dexamethasone and can't sleep very well at all lately.

Audrey, I hope that you never have to take this drug. Nice to see you.

Barbara Badder from USA on November 11, 2014:

I was on a drug is the same class as this. It made me so hyper I couldn't even sit through church, even though I was so sick that I shouldn't have been doing anything. Also I cried over the least little anything which isn't like me at all. The warning that came with mine is that it could cause emotional changes. My husband told me I had to talk to the doctor about it and get put on something else. After 2 full years of using it, it was a real relief when I returned to my normal self.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on November 11, 2014:

Hi Susan. Thanks for this interesting and informative article on Dexamethasone and Depression. I had not heard of this drug so I'm glad I ran across your hub.

Voted up and will pin and share. Hugs, Audrey

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on September 29, 2014:

shraddhachawia, Thanks so much for reading and for leaving your comments. I appreciate the time you took.

shraddhachawla on September 29, 2014:

Genuine hub. Steroid intake is associated with subtle changes in cognitive function and depression. Your symptoms of increased sleep, lack of appetite and fatigue are that of anhedonia, lack of finding pleasure in anything. Your depression could be partly due to the steroids and partly due to the mental trauma from the word cancer. Good to read that your psychiatrist has been a great help. Psychic healing, biofeedback, spirituality and meditation do more than what medicines can do at times. Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 28, 2014:

This is a useful artical as all medications have side effects, and this one has several. I have lupus and arthritis and have used this med almost constantly over the past 25 years as nothing else worked. I have not experienced depression except very short term when on very high doses, and when I am on higher doses I am very emotional, can't sleep and have to battle weight gain.

I have many problems now due to long term usage of this drug. I just went through rotator cuff surgery and they removed the end of my clavicle to remove some of the arthritis. This has been miserable and it takes 5-6 months to fully recover.

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