A Talk About Medication
I Was Told I Should Consider Mental Health Medication - Aren't Those Dangerous?
There's a common belief that medications are dangerous and evil. That it should be a "last resort" for only the most overwhelming of cases. As far as I've seen, this actually comes down to a matter of preference. Some people don't want to live life having to take a pill everyday, which is a totally rational and reasonable want. However, as with most things, some people will demonize things they don't agree with rather than try to come to an understanding.
Sure, having to take a pill daily can be a bit frightening to some people, but if that pill helps someone, why be so frightened?
I'm not here to tell anyone they should be on medication, but I'll try and tell you what to expect of the whole process.
I'm Really Nervous About Taking A Pill - How Do I Know It'll Fix Me?
Medication is not there to "fix" you. That's something people don't seem to know unless they have experience. A medication for a mental illness isn't usually a one time solution, as it's something that you'll be on for an indeterminable amount of time. It wont solve all your problems - but it will help you manage your emotions, making problems much easier to tackle.
So Many Anxiety Medications Warn About Causing Anxiety - Isn't that Counterproductive?
Well, there are a lot of different chemicals in your brain, and a lot mental illness' occur due to a chemical imbalance. Unfortunately, we don't have the technology to fully detect the various imbalances in someones brain, which means trying to find the best medication for you can be a fairly lengthy process.
Essentially, you try a medication in small doses with consistent check-ins with a doctor. Sometimes a certain medication can cause the imbalance to worsen, causing even greater anxiety. In this case you would tell your doctor, and they would have a plan in place to change to a different medication. If you report feeling no changes, they'll likely up the dosage. If you report feeling significantly better, they might keep you at whatever dosage you're on.
How Can I Possibly Choose What Medication Is Right For Me?
Usually you don't need to make any decisions in this department, as the doctor will likely prescribe something that works with a wide amount of people. If it doesn't work well, they'll try a different one. This will go on until you find the right medication for you, which can take quite a long time depending on the medicine.
The most common types of medication are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), which are better known as a type of antidepressant.
What About All The Awful Side Effects?
You're most likely to interact with an SSRI, which includes:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Vilazodone (Viibryd)
All the names listed above have the same general possible side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Nervousness, agitation or restlessness
- Sexual problems, such as reduced sexual desire or difficulty reaching orgasm or inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
- Blurred vision
You may have noticed that the word possible was bold - that's to draw emphasis to fact that these side effects are not guaranteed to happen. In fact, some people experience absolutely no side effects whatsoever. About half of users report experiencing a side effect.
There is still a chance you'll experience side effects, but it's not usually harsh. If it is, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Should I Go For It?
That's not up to me. That's a discussion you should have with your doctor, along with friends and family if you feel comfortable enough to talk to them.
I am willing to admit my biases - as someone who is on medication to help treat a mental illness, I can take a step back and see that my opinion is swayed. But there is information out there that may be less biased, and I encourage looking into it.
I wont hold a grudge against someone who doesn't want to take medication, I simply ask that people try and educate themselves.
What If I Want To Quit Later On?
Despite what it may seem, not everyone needs to be on medication for the rest of their life. Sometimes the medication can simply help people get into better routines, or help them come to terms with a major, life changing event. Some people just have bad experiences and want to try without. Whatever the reason, getting off medication can be as challenging getting on.
The first thing to know is that you should never quit without talking to your doctor about it first. Quitting without warning can put your body into a pretty massive shock, as it's suddenly without a vital chemical it's used to having. This is known as withdrawal. And, no, withdrawal isn't just for people with a drug addiction, just because you experience withdrawal doesn't mean you're a pill junkie.
In most cases, this can be avoided by taking smaller and smaller dosages until you can stop taking them with little to no impact.
Second, make sure you think it through. It can be easy to forget how awful you once felt after being on medication for a while. A good thing to try and do is keep a journal, log, diary, or whatever you wanna call it so you can see the change.
Finally, tell your doctor. Yes, this might be clichéd, but I cannot stress how important talking to your doctor about any changes you're thinking of taking is. They are trained, and they wont judge you if you want to change something. That's what they're there for.
Why Does This Seem So Complicated?
That's because it is. Like most things in life, it isn't black and white. It's actually a pretty big grey area. If someone tells you medication is one-hundred percent good or one-hundred percent evil, they probably don't know what they're talking about to any degree. There are risks, there are rewards. Some people need them, some people want them, some people don't want or need them. Just try to keep an open mind, and remember that ultimately it is your choice.
Why Should I Listen To You?
It's always good to question what you see online, so that's a respectable question. I tried to be as unbiased throughout the article as possible, but it would be a good Idea to walk you through an abridged version of my personal experience for some more context.
I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and have been on medication to help treat it for around 4 years now. I had never really questioned medications because I was lucky enough to not need any for most of my life. So when the topic of medication came up, I said I was interested. It was only after talking to my doctor about how the medication worked that I learned about the different types and effects.
I was first given Zoloft (or Sertraline), a medication that is used for a myriad of different anxiety disorders. The doctor was very transparent, noting that the side effects could've make me worse. They also made it clear that I should never abruptly stop taking it unless it caused thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
I started out on a very small dosage, and the doctor explained that it was to get my body used to it. I was supposed to gradually increase my intake and have an appointment with them about once a month. Unfortunately, even at a very small dosage, my condition worsened. Without going into too many details, my thoughts turned darker and darker, causing constant stomach aches and generally making me miserable.
It was clear Zoloft was a bad fit, and I brought this up with the doctor, and they suggested switching medication. This meant a month of slowly taking less Zoloft week by week to avoid withdrawal. The next medication was Luvox (Or fluvoxamine), which is a medicine used mainly for OCD. I was a bit paranoid, thinking that no medication could ever truly help, but worrying about things was one of my main symptoms, so I tried anyway.
The steps were the same, start out with a small dose and gradually build it up to a larger dose. Unlike the Zoloft, I didn't feel any different from before I was taking it. I thought that was a bad thing, but it turns out that's exactly what it needed to do. What I didn't realize until then was that the point of the medication wasn't to make me feel good everyday, but to make me feel regular over a long period of time. People around me started noting my increased energy levels and overall more positive attitude.
After a year and a half of seeing this doctor, I had made enough improvement to be discharged from their care. This didn't mean I was to stop making the medication, just that I was on the right amount amount of medication. I've been on it since, with no problems so far. Of course, the medication isn't the only helpful component - I was also seeing a therapist. This articles a bit long as it is though, so I'll talk about the intricacies of therapy some other time.
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.