Anti-depressions usage by professional violinists

August 13, 2016 at 06:10 PM · Hello all! I wanted to seek some advice here regarding usage of anti depressants and their effects on stage performance/ major auditions. I may want to be taking some big orchestra auditions the next quarter or so, but depression's been bogging me down for the past year, like, severe PTSD? often wishing i wouldn't wake up the next day.. well it's a struggle that is hard to define in words. being musicians, i'm sure you all understand.

My doctor prescribed me Bupropion some time ago, but I'm hesitant to start because of the potential damaging effects to my mental agility required for orchestral auditions. ( and i'm not sure if those effects exist in the first place)

What do you guys think? I was hoping some wonderful violinists here have experience with this! Please help! Thank you. Happiness to all. :)


August 13, 2016 at 06:44 PM · Professional violinists, as a group, are no different from any other group of human beings, and probably about the same percentage are taking anti-depressants as in the general population. Depression is a medical illness and those who suffer from it should seek appropriate medical treatment.

With respect specifically to bupropion, it has no negative effects on mental agility. Untreated depression, however, does. Please follow your doctor's recommendations.

I hope you start feeling better very soon.

August 13, 2016 at 06:58 PM · Thanks very much Mary Ellen for your kind and prompt reply. :)

August 13, 2016 at 07:37 PM · Bupropion can have bad side effects, but usually in the direction of too much mental agility from what I have heard. Of course, there are also many who have no ill effects at all.

Depression is not always a small deal. If you trust your doctor, begin treatment and monitor results. Doses can always be changed, and other drugs can be tried in addition to or instead of.

August 13, 2016 at 09:57 PM · Veronique, please feel free to message me on fb (I am the only one with my name) or email me at my full name (all smashed together, no dots or underscores) at gmail dot com.

All drugs can have side effects but it isn't correct to say that a particular drug can have "bad" side effects without mentioning the percentage of users who suffer from adverse effects, which is typically extremely low. Please take your doctor's medical advice over that proffered by well-meaning strangers online (even me). But please do message me if you care to.

August 13, 2016 at 09:57 PM · While I agree with Mary Ellen that there is nothing wrong with taking prescribed anti-depressants, depression is often a complex challenge and requires multi-disciplinary approach. In theory and practice, we talk about bio-psycho-social model of prevention and healing. Like a tripod, if any of "legs" are not even with others, the healing may not be optimal. Relying on medications only is not a solution.

Moreover, because all of us are unique, each of us will need to work more on different aspects of our depression.

August 14, 2016 at 12:34 AM · In my experience, there are more people in the artistic/music community who suffer from depression, than in the general public. Could depression and creativity be linked?

Cheers Carlo

August 14, 2016 at 12:42 AM · Quite a lot has been written on that, Carlo.

August 14, 2016 at 12:48 AM · @Mary Ellen "Professional violinists, as a group, are no different from any other group of human beings, and probably about the same percentage are taking anti-depressants as in the general population."

I think that would be something interesting to study. One could say that writers are not different of any other group of human beings, but writers for some reason are more prone to mental illness than other people.

I read somewhere that most musical prodigies ended up, after a brilliant childhood, with different mental illnesses, and only a few made it into adulthood to become virtuosos.

August 14, 2016 at 01:07 AM · I would like to know where you read that.

August 14, 2016 at 01:07 AM · "Most" is a very strong word and I question its accuracy. Certainly there have been famously tragic cases such as Michael Rabin. While it's true that only a small number of child prodigies can successfully pursue an adult virtuoso career, that is likely more to do with a limited number of "spots" available than some mass descent into debilitating mental illness. Other prodigies end up as concertmasters or titled players in major orchestras. And some end up following a different muse entirely. There's at least one former prodigy who is a doctor who still plays violin at a very high level.

I really don't think my professional acquaintances are very different from the general population when it comes to who is taking anti-depressants (or thyroid medication, or one of any number of other pharmaceuticals). It's just that the extraordinary tragedies (such as Michael Rabin) capture people's attention in a way that the many excellent violinists living relatively ordinary lives do not.

August 14, 2016 at 01:14 AM · And to comment on Rocky's post, I agree that there is often more to treating depression than simply writing a prescription. A good doctor will recognize when his/her patient needs to be seeing other specialists, such as a psychiatrist and/or psychologist, perhaps even an endocrinologist, and so on. I was just trying to address the OP's concern that taking a prescribed medication (and frankly a very common one) might somehow interfere with successful performance on the violin.

August 14, 2016 at 01:19 AM · More than anything, Veronique, you must surround yourself with positive people and positive things that help you get through the day. Taking into account the fact that you are a proffesional violinist, music must obviously mean a great deal to you. I too am dealing with depression, but for different reasons regarding college applications as a music major among other problems. Use music to your advantage and allow it to engulf yourself in happiness and sorrow. Depression is often times mistaken to be a state of mind when you are sad, but in actuallity those who are depressed are numb to sadness and happiness and cannot feel the joy and pain that the world offers. It's a state of feeling, where you lack motivation and have the feeling of 'where am I going with my life'. Try to dissolve those people who tell you to 'suck it up' and 'stop feeling sorry for yourself', because ultimately your state of mind defines how happy you will be, and their isn't possibly worse advise you could recieve than a statement like 'suck it up', which will bring you down only further. Wether you choose to use anti-deppressants or not, remember that happiness is a choice. It's something that you can achieve without the usage of a pill. I've been told this statement (Hapiness is a choice) several times, but you and I both know that their is a difference from hearing something and realizing something. I do believe that depression is a health disease and that you should definitely heed the advice of your doctor, as he/she has your back.

I will keep you in my prayers and I hope you feel better,


August 14, 2016 at 02:53 AM · No. Happiness is not a choice. I know you're trying to be helpful and you may yourself be dealing with life circumstances that are making you depressed, but for many people, depression is something that happens to them whether or not they surround themselves with things that should make them happy.

To quote "How Not To Be a Dick to Someone With Depression: "When you tell someone with depression that they should maybe try harder to be happy, it's essentially like telling a diabetic that they could totally make an adequate amount of insulin if they just concentrated a little harder. [...] People who haven't experienced clinical depression have trouble understanding that it isn't just feeling sad. It's a complicated and debilitating illness that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The neurons responsible for firing those happy signals are severely underpowered."

August 14, 2016 at 03:30 AM · Thank you all for the kind and helpful responses.

i am grateful that you are all trying to help with the life experiences you have had, thank you very much, for sharing. I guess I will try for a week or so and if i feel well enough, record myself to see if it's affecting anything.

stay afloat and happy everyone. :)

August 14, 2016 at 03:32 AM ·


I wasn't suggesting that those who are surrounded with happiness are happy (sometimes it could lead to them thinking of themselves inadequate), rather, I was suggesting, that filling yourself around joyous people can only help you in getting the help you need to getting better.

And I know we might not see eye to eye on this, but I do believe that happiness is a choice. It isn't an easy change and it surely cannot be achieved over night, but it is a choice. I know this first hand because I have taken the initiative to try and look at the positive side of things, but it is hard when you feel pinned down to the ground and when you feel like everyone is smarter than you.

To support my point of view, I remember reading this article a couple of months ago. The link is:

In a nutshell, it describes measures that we can take to further ourselves from dark thoughts and use our past experiences (good and bad) to strengthen our minds and fixate on the gift of life and the greatness we encounter everyday.

Again, this is a highly debated topic, so no one can confirm the 'right answer' so the best I can do is support the facts in a way that will testify my claim, which is that Happiness is very much a choice. Again, I am not saying that it is in anyway easy to change your lifestyle and be happy, and I would never want to force someone to make drastic changes, as it would be terribly inconsiderate and it would damage the person even more. But it is possible. As least that is my outlook.

I know we don't meet eye to eye on this subject matter, but I implore you to seek reason into what I suggest, rather than fully rejecting it.


August 14, 2016 at 04:46 AM · Oops!

August 14, 2016 at 04:52 AM · Happiness is only a "choice" for the healthy. A broken soul is like a broken leg: healing comes before reconstruction.

I looked up the link; the sad moods and moments described have nothing to do with clinical depression. Talk about hitting a chap when he's down! So easy.

August 14, 2016 at 11:27 AM · Just as an FYI, antidepressants in general take several weeks to start working so please don't draw any conclusions based on one week.

As for telling a person suffering from actual, diagnosed depression to "choose to be happy," that's like telling a diabetic to "choose to produce insulin" or a person with asthma to "choose not to wheeze." Most of the bad advice I see on will only result in someone playing the violin less well, but that particular bad advice is dangerous.

August 14, 2016 at 11:34 AM · I've had depression and taken antidepressants (Citalopram) - so many hugs, as it's not easy to deal with at all.

I'm not playing at the same level as you but the antidepressants had no impact on my playing. It takes about 2 weeks to become adjusted to most antidepressants and some people find there are temporary effects during that period. Personally I was a occasionally a bit dizzy during that period (and similarly when I came off them a year later I had the same kind of symptoms).

I also know many people from all walks of life who have spent longer on much higher doses of antidepressants than me, including for instance doctors who need just as much concentration and mental clarity as musicians (arguably more).

Without a doubt if your doctor is prescribing antidepressants they know what they are doing. Depression can also seriously affect your motivation, concentration, sleeping patterns and ability to assess your own performance - all of which are vital to you as a performer.

Also, the standard treatment for depression in most countries is a mixture of antidepressants and a "talking therapy" like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling - you should speak to your doctor about those options if you haven't already done so - the idea is that the antidepressants lift you back up in the short term while the therapy helps you fix the longer-term psychological issues. If this isn't available to you for some reason then there are also good online CBT resources, and even books you can buy from Amazon - let me know if you want recommendations for what worked for me!

August 14, 2016 at 11:41 AM · My friend wouldn't take her prescribed anti depressants and now she's dead, so there is a risk to not taking your doctor's advice.

August 14, 2016 at 12:38 PM · Back to the bupropion side effects theme, from a pro's point of view:

Relatively common side effects use to be inappetence / nausea, constipation and sleeping disorder / restlessness / anxiety.

If something like that occures, it usually improves within the first 2 weeks. So, stopping the medikation after one week because of "not too severe" side effects might be too early. The positive effects gradually show after several weeks to months.

If you suffer from inappetence, try to have more small meals. If sleeping disorder is an issue, then the meds should be taken in the morning. Dose escalation (if considered) might be postponed then for a few more days.

More unfrequently might occur a raise of blood pressure (which might even trigger a switch to another SSRI) or urticaria. Other side effects are rather rare.

So you see, there are side effects which might affect your playing. But as they usually are temporary, an untreated major depression will hamper your ambitions a lot more, on the long term. And there still is a good chance that you will not suffer any of these either, which you can only learn if you give it a try.

August 14, 2016 at 01:59 PM · One reason we link mental illness with creativity is because when those people commit suicide, we read about it in the newspaper. The "phenomenon" (if there is one) is not limited to the arts. The chemist Wallace Carothers (inventor of nylon) was a tragic example.

August 14, 2016 at 07:21 PM · It's actually not very helpful talking about a suicide in a thread where someone is asking for help about their own depression.... just saying ;)

August 14, 2016 at 07:39 PM · Chris,

perhaps public forum is not the best place, but talking about suicide does not lead to suicidal ideas:

In fact, it is good to explore those thoughts, feelings and ideas if one is taking antidepressants. That is why it is very important to have a support system, online or offline.

There is still a lot of stigma regarding mental illness and every step toward talking about it is a big step forward.


August 14, 2016 at 10:03 PM · Taking anti depressants for a week or so is just what we told you not to do, you need to take them for at least a month as it takes a good 2 weeks for them to take effect, and most side effects will go away by 1 month.

August 14, 2016 at 10:17 PM · I believe you need to speak to your psychiatrist about your concerns. If you have been dismissed this should be a red flag.

August 15, 2016 at 05:46 AM · Hi Veronique -

I can't speak to Bupropion as I've never taken it, but it is worth mentioning that the side-effects of anti-depressants are incredibly unpredictable. Prozac disrupted my sleep severely, for example, whilst a friend slept more deeply whilst taking it.

There is an enormous choice of medication out there, so if you do find that taking it disrupts you in any way, the best advice would be to keep in contact with your doctor, and to explore what else might suit you better (taking into account the multiple week period that other have mentioned above for everything to settle down). I iterated through two anti-ds before discovering that St. John's Wort was the ideal for me. Hopefully, though, it will just work for you.

As others have mentioned, talking therapies of various forms are worth exploring (as are arts-based therapists). I had more than 40 sessions of counselling - recovery would not have been possible without these, and the anti-depressants just sustained me whilst engaging in these. Complete recovery is entirely possible though. I have, others have. There sometimes seems to be a general belief in the population that depression will always stay with someone, but this really does not have to be true.

I would personally take the "chemical imbalance" theory mentioned earlier with a pinch of salt. I'm sure it is true for some people, but it is now highly contested in the clinical and psychotherapeutic worlds as a general explanation for the problem (I'm a professional researcher engaged in work around the treatment of mental health problems so I keep track of these debates quite closely).

August 16, 2016 at 03:20 PM · I can well believe that the "chemical imbalance" can be triggered by emotional factors continuing too long, rather like a shoulder tendon breaking from repeated misuse. But when difficulties lead the "chemistry" to the breaking point, psychotherapy may not be enough. Chicken & egg stuff?

August 16, 2016 at 03:42 PM · What this thread shows very clearly is that brain science (chemistry, physiology, etc.) is an incredibly vast, challenging, and important research frontier. Brain science is also very expensive. Our government leaders need to understand this, and they need to support educational programs that will develop the next generation of neuroscience researchers while putting funding into ongoing and emerging experimental and theoretical programs aimed at understanding not only clinical phenomena like depression and bipolar disorder, but also the underlying fundamental principles governing brain function.

August 16, 2016 at 03:51 PM · For once I agree with Paul, the understanding of Brain science via depression and other mental illnesses is still in its infancy, we know way more about how the heart works, for instance, compared to the brain, largely because the Brain is the most complex organ in the body IMHO.

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