Medication And Your Mental Illness

Medication is always a difficult subject to approach for me. I have had both good and bad experiences with this particular method of help. I believe this is good because I can give a perspective from both sides.

There are various different types of medication available for mental illnesses. The only person who should be telling you which you need and then prescribing them should be your GP, Psychiatrist or a Nurse Prescriber.

The different types of medication;

Antidepressants - Suitable for Depression, Some forms of Anxiety and some forms of eating disorders.

Antipsychotics - Psychosis, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Disorder, Hypomania and Mania, Bipolar Disorder and sometimes severe Anxiety.

Mood Stabilisers - Bipolar Disorder, Hypomania and Mania and also recurrent severe Depression.

Sleeping Pills and minor Tranquilisers - Severe Insomnia and Severe Anxiety.

This kind of medication isn't generally a cure for mental illnesses. It is used to reduce symptoms and help you cope. Along with other tools, a lot of people have success in overcoming their mental illness or at least become able to manage it a lot better.

The reason for medication;

The main reason for taking medication is to balance out certain chemicals in the brain. The reason behind mental illness isn't very clear and can be down to a number of reasons. One of which is biology and that there may be an abnormal balance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters*.

*"Neurotransmitters help nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other. If these chemicals are out of balance or are not working properly, messages may not make it through the brain correctly, leading to symptoms of mental illness."

The one major thing I've noticed reading more and more about medication and also from my own visits to the GP is that it isn't understood very well and not very clear how they actually work. Let's face it, a GP isn't going to know which exact chemicals are causing an imbalance. This is why often when you visit a GP it is a trial and error case with medication to see which works for you.

My experience and anxiety;

I've spoken before about my difficulties with anxiety over the last few years and I was prescribed three different antidepressants over the course.

The first one I took I can't remember the name. Mainly due to it didn't actually serve any purpose. I was exactly the same off it as I was on it.

  • Citalopram

The second tablet I took was Citalopram. This one is favoured among GP's and most people I have spoken to who suffer have been prescribed this. With any type of medication taken to help with mental illness, it takes awhile to get into your system and start working. It can take up to four weeks to notice any improvement. Even then if no improvement is made you should see a GP to possibly increase the dosage. The reason I didn't get on well with Citalopram was because in the first four weeks the symptoms often get worse before getting better along with possible side effects. I near enough didn't leave my bed for two whole weeks and couldn't possibly make it another two weeks.

This happened on two different occasions, even when I tried a smaller dosage the second time.

  • Sertraline

The third tablet I took was Sertraline. The first four weeks were difficult again but nowhere near as bad as on Citalopram.

I did have to take those four weeks off of work but after that, I did start to see some improvement. I became a lot more level and it felt as though my brain was slowing down so I wasn't being able to constantly worry.

Along with talking therapy and pushing myself into situations constantly, I learnt to manage my anxiety and I came off the medication just over a year ago. My anxiety controlled my life at one point. Sure it is still there and flares up now and again but I can live with that.

My experience with Depression (or whatever it is I am currently struggling with)

Now, this is where my opinion of medication changes. I felt under a lot of pressure from work and people around me to get better and to go back on medication. I took a quick trip to the GP, half explained what was going on and five minutes later had a prescription for Sertraline and a sick note for work.

The next three months I spent five weeks off of work before I had to leave. I became increasingly worse off in terms of my mental health. I even ended up at my lowest point possible and I had my dosage increased twice.

The last time they increased my dosage I couldn't even bring myself to buy my prescription. Side effects I had never suffered before started to arise and quickly worsen. It was at the point I lay in bed for three hours clutching my chest from the agonising heartburn that would not go away no matter what I tried, I decided at this point medication was no longer an option for me and I needed it out of my system. In fact, I actually rang the GP to see what they advised and they tried to prescribe me an antacid tablet to counteract the heartburn. I wasn't willing to take any more medication on top of what I already was.

I recommend no one does this but I stopped taking the tablets from that day. With any medication, you should lean yourself off of them slowly as you can have very bad withdrawal symptoms. I was in that bad of a place I didn't care.

A final opinion

For me, medication can be very good. This time around I don't think it worked because an antidepressant wasn't what I needed as everything is more pointing towards a mood disorder and from my own research a mood stabiliser or antipsychotic medication may be more beneficial. Unfortunately, it took me awhile to get to this point and maybe once I have seen a psychiatrist and got a proper diagnosis, medication may be something I revisit.

It also goes back to last week's post about seeing a GP and being completely honest. The more honest and open you are the higher chance of getting the right medication the first time around. If I had read everything I have and been as aware as I am now possibly I wouldn't have gone through the last four months. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I never regret anything.

Hopefully, this helps someone not go through what I have.

A great source of information I have come across and wish I had visited sooner is www.mind.org.uk. It is a very easy site to navigate and has tonnes of useful information about mental health.