By Cat Robson
What are some of the reasons people stop taking medications?
What are the alternatives?
- My inner life, and sometimes my outer life, is painful/chaotic/confusing. The DSM symptoms list for certain mental illnesses seem to fit me so I must be ill.
The mental suffering of sensitive, creative and divergent children and adults is real. Existential depression, loneliness, and emotional overwhelm are very real, as are the complications arising from our use of behaviors and substances to alleviate our suffering.
These experiences don’t require a diagnosis of mental illness in order to be taken seriously. And treating our suffering doesn’t need to include tampering with our highly sensitive brains.
- It is a relief to be given a psychiatric diagnosis.
When I was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder I felt relieved. I thought I finally had an explanation for all the difficult relationships, mistakes and trauma in my life. And there were pills that would fix it all!
I trusted the medical professionals who interpreted my creative energy as mania and my mental energy as ‘racing thoughts,’ because they must know best.
Unaware of high sensitivity and the complex dynamics of giftedness and creativity, I was very self-critical and ashamed of myself.
I’d spent years in therapy and graduate school studying psychology, committed to understanding my mind and taking responsibility for what I thought were my failures and inability to ‘fit in.’ The bipolar diagnosis felt like a huge ‘pass.’ I had a ‘disease’ and it wasn’t my responsibility.
It’s challenging and often lonely to live in this world with a creative, sensitive brain. But it’s not a disease. I take responsibility for learning as much as possible about living a healthy, meaningful life as a gifted HSP in an often unsupportive world.
Thankfully, there is much more information available to us now than in the past, and a growing community of people with similar challenges and gifts.
With the growing understanding of these issues, and the support of others with similar personality, I now have a self-concept based on my own interpretation of myself over my entire life, rather than on the opinion of psychiatric professionals who have had only brief encounters with me.
- I need relief now! There’s nothing else I can do but take medication.
When we go to a therapist or psychiatrist we are often in acute distress. Real healing of the mind and body take time, but when we’re suffering we’re especially vulnerable to doctors who may tell us that we have a disease, we need drugs and the drugs will help now.
What they are unlikely to tell us is that no disease has been proven in the case of mental illness, the drugs don’t really ‘cure’ but sedate and alter the brain, and effective alternatives exist.
Even the need for short-term drug intervention for suicidal and delusional patients might be overestimated. Studies have shown various supplemental, nutritional and alternative therapies to be as or more effective in relieving symptoms.
- My doctor must know what she’s talking about and she seems to really care about me.
The reality is that psychiatrists have no idea why and how the drugs they prescribe work, nor are they aware of their long-term effects and the data on their inefficacy.
We all need people who care about us, especially when we’re in emotional crisis, and mental health professionals are usually in that profession because of a sincere desire to alleviate suffering.
But perhaps someone trained by, and very often given perks by, drug corporations and the institutions they support, isn’t the most informed and objective resource.
- Not taking drugs to treat mental illness is as dangerous as not treating cancer or diabetes.
While not treating suicidality or other extreme states can be dangerous, the fact remains that mental illness is not like physical illness.
The question is, do psychiatric medications really treat life-threatening and severely debilitating states, or do they sedate and disable the brain, giving an illusion of improvement?
Might these drugs be even more dangerous than the ‘diseases’ they claim to treat?
- I think I have a mental illness as well as a creative/sensitive personality, so I need medications.
Sounds logical, but even if you decide you really have bipolar disorder or another mental illness, it’s a good idea to think twice before you choose how to treat it.
These drugs have many physical and psychological side effects (often discounted by psychiatrists as symptoms of the purported illness), and more or different drugs may be prescribed to deal with them.
- I just need to take drugs for a little while, then when I’m better I’ll stop.
Getting on psychiatric drugs may be easy, but getting off them can be hell.
It’s becoming clear, through the investigations of people like Robert Whitaker in Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, that the prognosis for those on psychiatric medications is grim: a 10-25 year shorter life span, and the likelihood of permanent disability.
It takes some people years to taper off psychiatric medications, and some are never able to do so successfully. I was lucky – it took me a year of slow tapering to get off multiple psychiatric medications which had caused depression, intense anxiety, sleeplessness, diabetes, tinitus, digestive problems, cognitive dysfunction and more.
Now that I’m drug-free, I sleep, dream and experience my emotions again authentically, but I continue to experience some physical side effects from the medications and may for some time. It’s a long road to recovery.
- What are the alternatives?
There are orthomolecular psychiatrists who actually do tests to determine what underlying physical conditions may be responsible for mental distress.
There are also many books and organizations, some listed below, which provide information on behavioral, nutritional and supplemental alternatives to drugs.
Although supplements can have side effects and need to be carefully chosen, many have been used for thousands of years to effectively treat emotional and mental conditions.
There is life after psychiatric drugs. For me, it’s been a better life.
Safe Harbor — Includes links to find medical doctors (by zip code) who can assist with helping people safely get off of psychiatric drugs and medical personnel who will treat people without the use of psychiatric drugs
Alternative to Meds Center — Residential psychiatric medication withdrawal with medical and naturopathic oversight in Sedona, Arizona
Green Mental Health — Holistically-centered mental health care system which reflects traditional environmental, humanitarian, and health conscious values
The Road Back — How to get off psychiatric drugs safely
Soteria House — Alternative and non-drug solutions for people diagnosed schizophrenic
Mind Freedom International — is a nonprofit organization that works to win human rights and provide alternatives for people labeled with psychiatric disabilities