I Am Not Ashamed Of My Medications

Person holding psychiatric medications

You Are Not Alone: Taking Psychiatric Medications

There is a tendency by many people to be ashamed of their psychiatric medications due to stigma. God forbid if someone finds out that you take Celexa, Prozac or Haldol . . . your life will be filled with shame and agony. Except that it won’t. Nobody actually cares if you take psychiatric medications.

So many people are on psychiatric medications that it has almost become a norm; and that is a good thing! Not because medications need to be freely prescribed without an indication, but because it should help people realize that mental illness is real and that medications help!

There should be no shame in taking psychiatric medications to help treat your mental illness. If someone gives you a hard time, then reconsider your relationship with them; your health and mental well-being come first. What’s the difference between taking Insulin for diabetes or Lopressor for hypertension and taking Lexapro for depression?

Just as how the body requires medications for proper functioning, so does the brain. Not everyone’s body works the same. Some people develop physical complications while others develop mental complications. Whichever is the cause behind the illness, it sometimes requires medication for proper regulation.

You should not be feeling any pressure in telling others that you take psychiatric medications; that’s not anyone’s business but yours. But you also shouldn’t be living a tormenting life by swallowing your psychiatric medications in embarrassment. Be thankful that you have access to mental health care; other parts of the world do not!

Don’t give power to hate. Help spread what is good and loving by coming out of the shadows, and empowering others to talk about their mental illness and psychiatric treatments!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Medical Implications Of Antipsychotic Treatment

Shallow focus photography of prescription bottle with antipsychotic capsules

The Side Effects Of Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics can be divided into two groups: first-generation and second-generation. The first-generation antipsychotics were the first to be used in psychiatry, followed by the second-generation antipsychotics. Both classes have distinct medical side effects that are important to mention. Patients and their families always need to be properly educated on the the side effects of medications; medical problems can unexpectedly arise and cause confusion and discomfort if not previously warned about.

The first-generation antipsychotics:

  • Haloperidol
  • Loxapine
  • Thioridazine
  • Thiothixene
  • Molindone
  • Fluphenazine
  • Mesoridazine
  • Trifluoperazine
  • Perphenazine
  • Chlorpromazine (the first antipsychotic used)

The unique medical side effects from first-generation antipsychotics are called “extrapyramidal symptoms.” These include:

  • Dystonia (continuous spasms and muscle contractions)
  • Akathisia (motor restlessness)
  • Parkinsonism (rigidity)
  • Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
  • Tremor
  • Tardive dyskinesia (irregular jerky movements of the mouth and extremities)

As you can see, these motor symptoms can be very disturbing to patients and their families. The benefits and risks must always be weighed when starting or continuing a first-generation antipsychotic. Laryngeal dystonia, for instance, can lead to acute respiratory failure and death if not detected early enough!

The second-generation antipsychotics:

  • Aripiprazole
  • Ziprasidone
  • Risperidone
  • Quetiapine
  • Olanazpine
  • Clozapine (the gold-standard, used as a last resort for treatment-resistant schizophrenia)

The unique medical side effects from second-generation antipsychotics include:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Weight gain
  • Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Tonic-clonic seizures (with clozapine)
  • Agranulocytosis (with clozapine)
  • Myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy (with clozapine)

As you can see, a healthy psychiatric patient has the potential of becoming a lifelong diabetic after starting a second-generation antipsychotic. These are very serious side effects that must always be monitored for when a patient is started on a second-generation antipsychotic.

Overall, the side effects listed above do not present in all patients, but they must always be monitored for! Education, teamwork, coordination between different specialities and therapeutic physician-patient relationships are required for careful monitoring of potential side effects as well as successful treatments!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)