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My battles with medication and chemical imbalance


This page posted 16 August 2013



By Jack (ADAVIC Volunteer)

 
When I was diagnosed with OCD and depression in 2007, I was immediately prescribed with an anti-depressant medication that was designed to suppress my anxiety and assist in the therapy process.

While I was initially prescribed 20mg, the dosage soon multiplied by four, with the overwhelming anxiety proving a barrier to any improvements.

As I slowly began to improve, the medication proved particularly effective. While I had previously struggled to adapt to the rigours of therapy, the medication enabled me to control my obsessions and implement behaviours that would absolve the compulsions.

All too often however, I would feel strong enough to lose the medication and ‘fly solo’ in my battles. Without consultation with a medical professional, or my psychologist or case manager, I would cease the dose and continue with my daily activities.

Unfortunately though, and as time went by, I would fall back into a deep spiral of depression, while my OCD symptoms would reappear with full intensity.

Though I would often convince myself that I was simply having a ‘lapse’ in symptoms, I was instead severely struggling to cope with my issues without the assistance of medication, and as the spiral continued, I fell deeper and deeper into despair. When I eventually resumed medication, I returned to square one, though as therapy continued, I would feel strong enough to challenge myself without medication, with the most recent case occurring only weeks ago.

While my OCD symptoms are more or less under control nowadays, and remained so without the medication in the recent instance, the impact on my mood issues weren’t pretty. I became particularly depressed and my self-esteem was as low as ever. I was finished.

At about this time, I began to confront my biggest fear and the concept of medication dependency. According to the American Psychiatric Association, medication dependence ‘is a condition resulting from the prolonged and usually intense consumption of a drug which has resulted in psychological and/or physiological dependence on drug consumption.’

Rather than settling on this conclusion however, which I considered incorrect in my circumstance, I also researched the matter of chemical imbalance as a means for why I struggled with mental illness. According to extensive research by Livestrong, ‘obsessive-compulsive disorders and mood related conditions share a common psychopathology that is rooted in excessive dopamine activity within neural circuits of the prefrontal cortex.’ Indeed, and as one of my father’s friends told me in a recent conversation, my issues without medication are most likely caused by such imbalance rather than personal weakness or personality flaws.

When I finally accepted that I wasn’t too weak and was instead affected by this chemical imbalance, I began to accept my plight as an anxiety sufferer. Indeed, there is no shame in taking medication, nor is it weak to do so.  Rather, medication, in the case of many mood and anxiety disorder sufferers, makes many people stronger than otherwise possible.

While the most trying aspect of medication, in my opinion, is the daily routine and frustration of taking a capsule or two every morning, it isn’t particularly time consuming nor tedious.

As a result, I have finally accepted that I may indeed need medication for the remainder of my life. While I have been fearful of this occurrence in the past, I am now accepting and comfortable with the fact. Certainly, medication keeps me ‘sane’, keeps me happy and keeps me free from the pain and stressors of anxiety and depression.

In conjunction with extensive cognitive behavioural and exposure therapies, which were administered with the assistance of qualified psychologists and health professionals, medication has enabled me to live an unrestricted, fulfilling and rewarding life.

So while I am not ‘promoting’ medication use per se, I hope I have given a balanced viewpoint of the positives of medication and the potential necessity of prescribed use in sufferers of mental illness.

All the best!


References


American Psychiatric Association, 1994, Drug Dependence: Definition and Common Characteristics of Drug Dependence, viewed June 22 2013, from http://www.psychologymatters.asia/common_mental_illness/8/drug-dependence.html

Dahl, D., Livestrong, 2011, Nutrition, The Brain, and OCD, viewed June 29 2013, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/436527-nutrition-the-brain-and-ocd

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