Fear of Taking Psychiatric Medication

March 1, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

When you are first diagnosed with a mental illness, you are presented with the following information: you will probably have to take psychiatric medication for the rest of your life. For the rest of your life! That's tough to hear and to understand.

As frightening as it is to hear the diagnosis, taking medication is scary.

Mental Illness and Psychiatric Medication

It goes hand in hand: if you have a mental illness you probably have at least a few bottles of pills: bottles filled with pills, some of them work and some of do not. When first diagnosed you might go through as many different medications as you do clothing, searching for something that fits. That works. That allows you to recover--because that is the goal--and the pills, the bottles with our name on them, they are a tool we need to embrace in order to become and stay well.

The Reality of Side-Effects

Side-effects, side-effects, side-effects, side-effects! That, alone, is frightening. Courtesy of Google, we can research any and every medication prescribed to us. Our psychiatrist can tell us side-effects will be minimal but the Internet is full of warnings, precaution's, tales of woe. It's difficult, but try not to spend hours looking up medication, listen to your mental health team and, more importantly, listen to yourself. Your body and your mind.

I am terrible at taking new medication. When the topic is mentioned I recoil in my chair. I switched antidepressant's last year and was certain I would gain 50lbs despite my psychiatrist telling me that was rare, near impossible, and to calm down. I got myself in such a frenzy that it made the depression worse.

I never gained a single pound.

But side-effects are a reality: often they make you tired, or they make your hands shake (I live with that one), they make you more hungry or less hungry. The list goes on, but as time goes on, side-effects usually lesson, they might disappear completely.

The Fear We Will Lose a Part of Ourselves

Another reason taking psychiatric medication is scary: we fear we will lose a part of ourselves, our personality, our carefully defined sense of self. And it's a reasonable fear: medication can, initially, make our mood a little flat, but just as the physical side-effects lesson this does as well. Or, if it does not, you try something else. It's like searching for a needle in a haystack, but you find it, sooner rather than later.

I was certain that taking a mood stabilizer would make it impossible for to write and to create art and play guitar. The very things that define me as a person. Instead, I became more creative as I become stable.

Fear Of The Effects Psychiatric Medication Might Have On Our Body

Last but not least, we fear what the medication might be doing to our body, inside where we cant see if everything is okay. This is a very real fear. It's wonderful to see our mind become stable, our life improving, but every time I take my medication I feel a little twinge of fear. I wonder: what it is doing to my organs? What if something goes wrong? What if it stops working?

That's tough. But it's part of the illness; it is part of our recovery. I have talked to my psychiatrist about this and she has told me that people with mental illness lead long lives so long as we take care of ourselves: don't drink, eat well, exercise etc...

When you take medication your mental health team probably insists you get a blood test every few months, and you should, when your blood work comes back normal, and it usually does, you can stop and breathe. You can focus on your recovery and understand that having a mental illness is a compromise: you take medication in order to recover.

And it's worth it, in my humble opinion, to be able to live life as I want to--- bottles of pills and all.

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APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, March 1). Fear of Taking Psychiatric Medication, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

March, 4 2012 at 8:53 am

To take medication or not is a personal choice, regardless of what someone may be diagnosed with, and either choice -- to medicate or not to medicate -- is a valid one as long as it is informed. That said, I despise the propaganda that one must be on medication for the rest of their life solely because they are diagnosed with X and/or that these medications do not carry serious side effects. While many may have to take them for the rest of their life and many will have no serious side effects, this is not true for all.
I have Schizoaffective Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Complex-PTSD. I've been hospitalized more than once in my life, have gone through various outpatient programs and have been in treatment for over five years. I have also been off medication for over a year and, despite still having episodes (including those of psychosis without loss of insight and severe, suicidal depression), I am coping and functioning. Is this right for everyone? No, of course not. And, even for those who could, I would never begrudge someone for not wanting to have to deal with unmedicated symptoms. But it is possible and many have done it.
I also suffer from muscular spasms, muscular fasciculations, nystagmus, prolonged QT-Interval, on/off nerve pain, memory difficulties (mild), absence seizures (mild -- moderate), and some weakness. I did not have any of this pre-medication. I have all of it now and likely will for the rest of my life. They did not go away; they only got worse.
Was it worth it? I don't know. The medication DID save my life; however, it also came with quite a few unintended side effects.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 5 2012 at 8:40 am

Hi, Akie:
Yes, I agree, it is ultimately a person choice. Sometimes, when the person is really ill, they need to rely on others as little bit. It's great you provide a different view-point: your life being off medication. This isn't possible for many people, but most, statistically. do try going off them, the outcome of this determines whether or not we go back on them. Thank you for sharing your story.

Katie Larson
March, 4 2012 at 11:03 am

Thank you for writing about the experience of being diagnosed with a mental illness and having to take medication, since this can be such a scary experience for someone. I agree with you that it can be a difficult decision to begin taking medication to help towards a recovery, especially because of all the side-effects that go along with the medication. I found it interesting that believing you may experience a certain side-effect such as weight gain actually made your depression worse. I believe this just shows how connected our minds and bodies are to one another. I believe the unknown, long-term health effects are a major reason why some people decide not to take medications. I also believe that you shared some very valid reasons for not wanting to take psychiatric medications, like what is going on for your organs by taking them. However, as the medications help you become more stable, you can begin to feel like yourself again. I really enjoyed the example you gave of becoming more creative once you began your medications even through you feared you would not be able to create or play the guitar. You put a more positive outlook on what can be a scary process for someone that needs medication to help with their mental illness. Medications help you focus on your recovery and getting better. Thank you again for the positive outlook.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
March, 5 2012 at 8:37 am

Hi, Katie!
The long term effects are frightening---but the benefit outweighs the risk in my opinion. With a sick mond you cannt have a healthy life! Thank you for the positive comment, I sincerely appreciate it.

March, 5 2012 at 9:31 am

Natalie: More do it than one would think. The issue is, when tapering off medication, one of the symptoms of discontinuation syndrome *is* the symptoms of mental illness. My issue is that, often, people are pressured by their physicians to go back off them within weeks of the process beginning. As long as one is safe, one would not get an accurate picture for at least a month. And, once one has the picture, they need to see how badly the symptoms that come back interfere and if there are any alternatives and/or coping mechanisms that could tackle them. The answer tto those things differs by the person. It's personal, as I said; but, for me, severe, suicidal depression was not as bad as the side effects I was facing, which were life threatening.
To clarify, once again, I am not anti-medication at all. I credit them with saving my life and, if I needed to again, I would consider going back on them (with caution, due to the fact I developed such severe side effects).
And thank you for sharing your own story.

Dr Musli Ferati
March, 7 2012 at 1:54 am

Psychiatric medication, even its many unexpected and undesirable side effects indicates a crucial and the main step in recovering from any mental disorder. However, it should to persuade every patient and their close relatives that medication is profoundly necessary in the apropriate treatment of psychiatric ilnesses. Otherwise, the process of treatment would be incomplete and counterproductive undertaking psychiatric treatment.

June, 24 2017 at 4:36 am

I stand amazed that people and even psychiatrists and medical doctors are blind to the extreme dangers of psych medications and firmly believe that they actually help people. They do not. Yes, maybe fir the short term. But they will eventually rear their ugly head. This is what has happened to me. A graduate school attendee, fully employees individual and an inventor pursuing his dream of producing an invention that was 5 years in the making. I was living my life. Until some idiot doctor prescribed Xanax to curb some anxiety. 10 years after taking Xanax and numerous antidepressants to help with MEW side effects from the Xanax, nearly dying from tapering off meds, 3 weeks is a hospital, dropping out of grad school, invention down the drain, bankrupt and now fighting for my very life. I have been almost completely disabled by these toxic poison drugs that are so freely handed out like candy for every ailment known to mankind. And even ailments invented by the Big Pharma industry. I've spent the last 9 years researching everything about psychiatry. It's history and practices. I've studied about the DSM manual and Big Pharma. Most importantly the biggest lie of all. Psych meds help correct brain chemistry. They do not. There is no test to measure brain chemistry. No test to "see" a metal disorder in the brain. Humans were not born with a Xanax, Prozac, seroquel, Wellbutrin or and other psych med deficiency. It's all made up and created to sell drugs and jerk people drugged out if their minds. I'm angry. Very angry at what these medications and doctors did to me. And there are millions of people in my predicament ALL caused by these drugs. They are NOT safe at all. If these drugs are so safe they would not list such severe side effects. And have Black Box warnings. Wake up people and do your homework. Research, research, research. Theses pills kill people and can severely disable people. Go on yiutube and type on ANY medication and the word "withdrawal" next to the medication name and see for yourself. "Benzodiazepine withdrawal" " Prozac Withdrawl" etc etc.
You are being lied to by doctors that are either ignorant or to afraid to research and find out what the drugs they are prescribing to people are doing to them.

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