Welcome to the first Mental Health Monday’s post. I wanted to kick start the series off by chatting about taking medication. If you’ve ever been to your GP regarding your mental health, you may well have been asked whether you’d like to take a medical approach or go down the route of therapy. Both of which are very viable options, but I know most people will always opt for the therapy option first.
The thought of taking medication for your mental health can be quite daunting, lets be honest. I know one of the first questions I had was, ‘how can a tablet help improve how your brain feels?’ Because if you have a physical illness for example, its easier to understand how medication can target the problem area and help to get it better. For some reason, it just doesn’t seem as simple for a mental illness, does it?
So, lets just take a minute to understand the type of medication you can take for your mental health. There are around 5 different categories of ‘antidepressant’, which are: SSRIs, SNRIs, NASSAs, TCAs and MAOIs. You can find out more information about each one on the NHS website, if you’re interested to know a bit more. SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed form of antidepressant, apparently because they cause fewer side effects. I mean, I can just about believe that but I also think it may be due to them being cheaper to mass produce (not the necessarily truth, just my opinion haha). Fluoxetine is probably the best known SSRI and actually a medication I’ve taken myself.
So yes, those are the different types of antidepressants but there are so many other types of medication available for treating mental illness. It kinda sucks because when visiting your GP, their go-to is probably going to be an SSRI of some sort, which of course might not be right for you. ‘Mind’ have a list of all the different types of medication available for different types of mental illnesses, which you can find here. If you’re considering medication as an option, then I’d recommend doing your research before talking to your GP. You might be able to suggest a few that you think may be beneficial to you. I honestly don’t think doctors are trained up enough on mental health to understand all the different types of illnesses and medications that can work for them, so its worth going in prepared.
I also want to talk a little bit about my own experiences with medication. I remember when I first went to my GP about my anxiety and was offered medication pretty much straight away and I turned it down. The reason I was so against trying it, was because of the side effects. As an emetophobic, I was so worried that it might make me sick, as thats quite a common side effect of antidepressants. However, fast forward about a year and a half, I was encouraged by my therapist to try some form of medication as she thought it’d be beneficial to me. Although she was suggesting Fluoxetine, I didn’t want to due to the side effects, so we opted for Quetiapine. Looking back, I’m not sure why she let me have this as its actually an antipsychotic drug and I didn’t/don’t have psychosis.
When I first started taking the Quetiapine, it made me feel very drowsy but that didn’t bother me too much as I took it before I went to sleep. Apart from that, I didn’t have any other side effects. However, I also didn’t see a difference in my mental health when taking it. So back to square one and I decided to risk it and start taking Fluoxetine. To try and eliminate any side effects, I was weaned onto it by taking it in liquid form for a few weeks, then onto tablets. I did still feel some side effects when starting it though, I remember feeling very tired for a few days and also quite nauseous too. This obviously wasn’t ideal but once you get past that, its okay. I ended up taking Fluoxetine for about a year and a half and to be honest, I don’t think it was right for me, hence why I stopped taking it.
What antidepressants tend to do, is numb your emotions. So I never felt an intense amount of happiness or sadness, it was all just level, if that makes sense. Which some people would see as a good thing, but I didn’t really like it and I wanted to see how I coped without them. I came off them all at once, no weaning off which was a big risk as you can have just as many side effects coming off as going on, but luckily nothing happened. I definitely noticed a difference, my brain was less foggy and I could really feel the two emotions of happy and sad. However, I did notice a bit of an increase in my anxiety around this time too which wasn’t good. So although my brain felt ‘better’, I wasn’t necessarily better in myself.
Due to having way too many panic attacks in this three month period, I decided it was time to do my research and find something new to go on. I came across the drug, ‘Mirtazapine’ through a friend who explained its benefits and I was intregued. Its part of the NASSA category of antidepressants and although its used primarily for depression, it can be used for anxiety too, due to its anti sickness and appetite stimulating properties. After reading this, I was more than willing to give it a try as most of my anxiety stems from feeling sick/the fear of sick. So far, I haven’t noticed too much of a difference but its been about two weeks so I’ll report back soon to see if there are any changes.
Right, I really should wrap this post up as I’m aware its pretty damn long (oops). I truly hope this helped you in some way, I tried to squish in as much info as possible and I’m happy to answer any questions about my experience on meds if thats something you want to know more about.