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Taking wellbutrin and feeling dizzy, in depression. Had anxiety and low thyroid. Advise?

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Addiction Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 2002
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My psychiatrist put me on wellbutrin SR generic 50 mg. first day i got very dizzy, reported it to him. second day I suddenly fell into a deep depression which lasted the 3 weeks I was on it. I got more depressed every day, had a lot of anxiety, no appetite, lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks, felt helpless and hopeless. All the while reporting these symptoms to him in person and by phone. In the 2nd week, I developed phobias, eventually had panic attacks. he told me to go to the ER and called the ER doctor there to ask me to voluntarily commit to a mental hospital. He thought I was mildly depressed before taking wellbutrin, I probably was. But before taking it I was fixing meals, up and around, exercising, etc. I followed his advice, self committed because the panic attacks scared me, stayed in 3 days. Psych. there took me off wellbutrin, and 24 hours later I had no more symptoms as described. I am very sensitive to psychotropic drugs, get side effects from all of them which this Dr. knew as he was going to send me to a specialist to see if that Dr. could determine what the interaction there was with my body chemistry and the chemistry of anti depressants and try to find one that worked. He took me off Lexapro after 3 weeks as I developed side effects and I went through withdrawal. the above described side effects to Wellbutrin are well documented on the FDA drug reporting website of toxic effects of drugs, and Wellbutrin had boxed warnings in 2003-2004. This Dr. told me he prescribed drugs that seemed to work for his patients and he was not that knowledgeable about the side effects of many psychotropic drugs. I was emotionally and mentally drained due to sleep deprivation for 2 years, which I told this Dr. about, and the cause of it, but he never said a thing about the sleep deprivation and how much stress it causes or did anything to recognize that sleep deprivation is a problem and did nothing to help me find a solution. The sleep deprivation was caused by a sick dog at home (Yes, I know), that had extreme reflux and retched and gagged and threw up bile 24/7 - but it came on gradually and I kept thinking she would get better when my vet and I tried many treatments, none of which worked. So it was hard to recognize the sleep deprivation and stress in my life. I went to this Dr. 16 months before this wellbutrin fiasco, because I had a couple of mild anxiety-related asthma attacks and I wanted to find out why. I had gone to this Dr. before and he was okay, so I trusted him. Little did I know how incompetent he is. He also never gave me HIPAA forms, or ethical disclosure statements to read and sign during the time I saw him. I never would have followed his advice or the ER doc's request to ask me to voluntarily commit, if I hadn't been emotionally drained and suffering from severe side effects to wellbutrin. This Dr. also at the time developed kidney stones, did not see me the third week I was on wellbutrin, talked to me by phone for 20 minutes twice. He closed his practice during that time, and told me he was in a lot of pain and on medication. So he was not physically and not mentally, in my opinion, fit to practice. He was fully aware that I was much worse after going on wellbutrin than before and unfortunately I live alone and did not have anyone to recognize the harm he was causing me or see the side effects of that drug. As I said, before taking it, I was mildly depressed. But nothing like what I describe above after being on it for 2-3 weeks.
My question is --- what recourse do I have? I have talked with him and left phone messages and he admitted that he should have paid more attention to the sleep deprivation and that he "never meant to hurt me."
I am so upset at all that happened that never should have if I had been under the care of a competent Dr., I really did not need to go see him, I would have been better off discussing my life situation with the dog and sleep deprivation with friends and gotten much better advice, and this trauma never would have happened to me. What recourse do I have? This Dr. is vindictive and threatened to testify against me if I sued my employer for having a XXXXXXX workplace - I got my foot caught in a tangle of cords under someone else's desk, fell, hit my head and had mild head trauma and broke my left elbow. Stayed home for 5 weeks, the last 3 weeks are the ones I describe above.
What will happen if I take this to the state board or his professional association? He is 74 years old, 73 last year, and has said for 5 years previously, that he planned to retire "soon."
Posted Fri, 25 Oct 2013 in Mental Health
Answered by Dr. Preeti Parakh 2 hours later
Brief Answer:
Described in detail below.

Detailed Answer:

Welcome to Healthcare Magic!

I understand you have been through a very bad time and I agree that your doctor had not done all that he should have done. He probably was involved in his own problems and failed to pay adequate attention to you when you contacted him to report your worsening after starting medication.

You want to know what recourse you have. It depends on what exactly are you looking for.

If you wish to XXXXXXX him for medical malpractice and ask for damages, then you need to consult with an attorney in your state who specializes in medical malpractice or, if you can find one, an attorney who specializes in psychiatric malpractice. Since statutes of limitation—deadlines by which a lawsuit must be filed or be permanently barred—differ from state to state, as do the procedural requirements that must be met before a medical-malpractice lawsuit is filed, it’s always best to seek guidance from an attorney licensed in the state where the alleged malpractice occurred. However I would like you to know that prosecution of medical malpractice cases, in addition to having a high likelihood of failure, can be extremely expensive, stressful and time-consuming. It’s estimated that medical errors kill roughly 200,000 patients in the U.S. each year. Yet only 15% of the personal-injury lawsuits filed annually involve medical-malpractice claims, and more than 80% of those lawsuits end with no payment whatsoever to the injured patient or their survivors. This is the reason why most experienced medical malpractice attorneys will not pursue a case unless the injuries and damages documented in the records, after they have been reviewed by an expert in the pertinent specialty, are substantial and justify it. In your case, though you were highly inconvenienced and distressed, there was no catastrophic or substantial damage and this may reduce your chances of finding a good attorney.

If you do not wish to bring a malpractice lawsuit, your have other options as well. These are:

1) filing a human rights complaint with your local human rights officer
2) filing a complaint with the psychiatrist's employer-e.g., the hospital that employs him, the agency or State for which he works etc.
3) filing an ethics charge against the psychiatrist. You can contact the Ethics Committee at the American Psychiatric Association for details.

Regarding what will happen once you complain, he may have his licence taken away. All licensed psychiatrists work under a code of ethics and can have their license to practice taken away if they are found by a review board of their peers to have acted unethically. The other thing that may happen is that he may be asked to apologize to you. I feel this is the most likely thing that will happen if he has already closed his practice and is not going to reopen because of his health problems.

I hope this helps you. Please feel free to ask if you need any clarifications.

Best wishes.

Dr Preeti Parakh
MD Psychiatry
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Taking wellbutrin and feeling dizzy, in depression. Had anxiety and low thyroid. Advise? 5 hours later
He reopened his practice several weeks later. He is self-employed, has no one else in his practice. I would say that his not seeing the obvious of what was happening to me, with sleep deprivation & living with all that gagging and retching (I had grown up with a father who retched and gagged every day - and this psychiatrist and I discussed it many times when I was in treatment with him from 1996 - 2006) that was a throwback to a childhood trauma. I went back to him for help with the anxiety in 2011. So he is very familiar with me.

To clarify one point, I went to the ER after falling in July 2012, and they did a CT scan of my brain, which was totally clear, also X-rayed my elbow and found it was broken. Another Dr. did another CT scan of my brain 2 weeks later and it was clear. This Dr. diagnosed me with post concussive syndrome after hitting my head, which is why I stayed home from work. Then my psychiatrist prescribed Wellbutrin after 2 weeks because of mild depression, and the rest of this mess ensued. I stayed home 5 weeks, went to the mental hospital, then back at work the end of August 2012.

I understand about malpractice and do not want a civil suit. I may take this to the APA or the state medical board. I am just afraid of recourse by the doctor. I will state my case clearly and factually, with events and a timeline, and let them decide. I have been debating this for months, ever since really discussing this thoroughly with the psychotherapist (see below) looking up Wellbutrin's side effects online and being horrified when those symptoms matched mine, and understanding what really happened to me. That drug totally knocked me down and living alone, there was no way I could see what was going on. And somehow, I never reached out to friends - I was embarrassed over feeling so depressed and felt if my psychiatrist didn't say anything, it must be all in my head. He certainly never said otherwise, and did say things (I forget what now, though) that made me feel I was having a mental breakdown. He never looked for a solution to it, just threw up his hands and told me to go to the ER.

The reason he told the ER doctor I needed to self commit was that I would not be able to go back to work, that I blamed work for my fall, unjustly. I think he thought I had some kind of psychological problem regarding returning to work. Those cords should have been tied up out of the way so no one would get their feet caught. He also kept telling me when I was on the wellbutrin for 3 weeks and so depressed, that he could do nothing else, "it was headed for the hospital" and that it was up to me to change it and I needed to just get up out of bed and get going. How could I do that with the side effects so devastating? (I was in bed that 3 weeks except for appointments with him every few days, then no appointments the last week)

I went back to work full time the first day back from the hospital and have been back ever since, so that obviously never was a problem. He kept telling me that my depression was due to living alone, that I needed to get a roommate or hire people to come stay with me. I have lived alone for the past 16 years since getting divorced and been fine - so never understood that. When I initially went to him for help due to the anxiety I said in the question, which my new psychotherapist said was obviously due to sleep deprivation and the dog retching and gagging, I also told him I was thinking of retiring early in a few years, and he said my problem was retirement and that it is a major life change, etc. As I said, he never addressed the obvious.

I had an appointment with him a month after I got out of the hospital and confronted him on this, why he did it, did not see what was happening, etc. and he weaseled his way out of it. The first thing he told me was that "Most people never recover from being in a mental hospital, - buy you will probably be okay."

In that meeting, he seemed defensive and nervous at the outset. He kept saying retirement was on the front burner, and there was a lot more going on, etc. He still never admitted missing the side effects from the drug, nor the sleep deprivation and my dog retching and gagging. He also told me I wanted to see him again so I could get his opinion about how I was doing after being in the hospital

I went to a psychotherapist the last 2 weeks I was seeing the shrink, and the psychotherapist, in the first 15 minutes of my appointment, recognized the extreme stress I was under and told me it was too much stress for anyone to live with and the stress in my life had to be eliminated immediately. I began trying to find the dog a home and would have put her to sleep if I couldn’t find a home for her.

I could never get the dog to stay in another room without chewing up the door frames, and chewing up her crate. But by the end of the two years, I was so deeply in the middle of taking care of the dog, so sleep deprived and stressed, I did not see what was happening. My vet only suggested once that I was doing too much, but it was only a suggestion, and I was too worn out to even think clearly, so kept her a few more months till she got cancer and put her to sleep then.

Sorry for the long answer. Your reply has helped a lot and I will pursue this out of court. I agree, the courts will be long and expensive and too hard on me. Every time I go over this, it makes me relive the trauma of that time and feel terrible. My new psychotherapist is encouraging me to look ahead and not back, which is right, but I hate this other Dr. to get away with something. I know his ego, and am sure he feels he is totally in the right.

This has been a nightmare to live with, knowing it could have been avoided if I was under competent care.
Thanks again.
Answered by Dr. Preeti Parakh 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Good luck!

Detailed Answer:

Thank you for the detailed reply. It helped me understand better what you had gone through. It must been traumatizing to end up in mental hospital for simply an adverse drug reaction to treatment of mild depression. It appears to me that rather than listening to you and trying to find answers, he was entangled in his own preconceived notions as to what was wrong with you. I also understand why you wish to take some action against him. The thought that comes is "why should he be allowed to get away with doing this to me?". At times I have also felt the same and so can understand the need to act.

Your decision to approach the APA or the state medical board seems to me to be the right one. I also agree with your psychotherapist that you need to look ahead. So I suggest that you do what needs to be done as soon as possible, so that you can get this behind you and get on with your life.

I hope that this gets sorted out to your satisfaction.

Best wishes.

Dr Preeti Parakh
MD Psychiatry
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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