Should I take antidepressants?
July 24, 2013 7:08 PM   Subscribe

As far as I can tell, I'm textbook dysthymic with occasional bouts of major depression. I also have generalized anxiety and binge eat. This has been going on since I was a teenager (I'm mid-20s now) and I'm sick of it and starting to wonder if life's too short to feel as generally terrible as I do. Complications are grad school, anxiety, and general terror about taking something that might interfere with my brain. Should I take antidepressants?

Yes, I'm in therapy and have been for 6 years. That's one of the reasons I feel so frustrated--it feels like my brain is on a treadmill and while I can identify and discourse intelligently about my various issues, they persist. I struggle like hell to make any changes and I feel like they never stick.

I struggle with limited willpower, moderate anxiety, and general low-mood. I self-medicate with TV, binge eating, and self-isolation. I come by this crap honestly: both sides of my family are rife with anxious, depressive alcoholics (though I don't have a problem with drinking). I do okay at work and am equally or more successful than a lot of folks my age, but I struggle to motivate myself and I basically come home and watch TV all night, every night. I have very few friends in the city I moved to a year and a half ago. I regularly feel like I am terrible person, excoriate myself for minor social infractions or misbehaviors, and generally am extremely hard on myself and moderately miserable. I cannot seem to break these habits despite weekly therapy.

"Just take the drugs already," you say! Here are the complications:

-I start graduate school in about 6 weeks. While I can't see how I can pull of grad school and part-time work as I am right now, I'm also really nervous about starting drugs with potential side effects kicking in just as I start everything up.
-I am really really nervous in general about taking psychoactive drugs. (This was me, for reference.) The Ativan worked out narrowly, but the idea of taking drugs that won't leave the system, with the very real potential of side-effects--that's like a paralyzing fear all by itself. I don't know how to get over this; it really feels like a self-protective fear that I want to hold onto, even though I know it's counterproductive. I just feel very afraid of losing control of my brain. Obviously I don't actually have control of my brain, or I'd choose not to have anxiety and depression, but at least I feel confident that I can survive the shit it currently throws at me. Medication introduces a big terrifying unknown I'm scared of.

My therapist is an LCSW, so no prescribing power, but I have insurance and a health track record of anxiety and depression that can get me in with a psychiatrist or other prescribing MD.

My questions:
1) You are not my doctor! But do you think I should consider taking antidepressants?
2) Which ones? I was once prescribed Cymbalta but looked it up on crazymeds, freaked out, and never took it.
3) Can you please describe for my anxious brain what it felt like for you when antidepressants started working? How did it positively and negatively affect your life?
4) Is there a possibility of getting prescribed a tiny, basically homeopathic dose and then building up slowly to a bigger dose over a lot of time? The only way I worked through the Ativan was taking a tiny granule, freaking out, taking a second tiny granule, freaking out, etc., until I worked up to an actual dose. Are there side effect considerations or other things I'm not thinking of that would make this problematic?

I'm mostly thinking about this because I can't think of a time as an adult that I haven't been dealing with pretty major sadness or anxiety. I've had happy experiences, but this has never not been an issue. I recently lost a few people and am thinking life's too short to keep hoping that things get better someday.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Yes I think you should. Find a psychiatrist, not your GP.
posted by SyraCarol at 7:13 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Even anti-depressents prescribed by a GP can elevate your mood and stabalize it, which makes therepy work better. I suggest it.

1) You are not my doctor! But do you think I should consider taking antidepressants?

2) Which ones? I was once prescribed Cymbalta but looked it up on crazymeds, freaked out, and never took it.
You need to keep experimenting to find out what works for you; I went through Effexor, Prozac, and some others before settling on Lexapro but it depends on your own brain chemistry.

3) Can you please describe for my anxious brain what it felt like for you when antidepressants started working? How did it positively and negatively affect your life?
It's hard to describe... I'm honestly looking for a Penny Arcade comic that described it well. It's like you realize its actually possible to be happy, or at least not to be sad all the time. Like there are usually huge peaks and troughs in your mood but the meds stabalize them.

4) Is there a possibility of getting prescribed a tiny, basically homeopathic dose and then building up slowly to a bigger dose over a lot of time? The only way I worked through the Ativan was taking a tiny granule, freaking out, taking a second tiny granule, freaking out, etc., until I worked up to an actual dose. Are there side effect considerations or other things I'm not thinking of that would make this problematic?

They'll usually start you on a small dose first.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:20 PM on July 24, 2013

Find a psychiatrist. You can at least try out some of the options.

Do find a psychiatrist you feel will listen to you and take you seriously if you find a medication isn't working for you.

My wife has been taking zoloft for the last 15 years to control her OCD (which has depression components in it) and she overall has had a very positive experience. (Except when they prescribe generics by accident - they don't work the same way at all). I will say it pretty much saved her life and our marriage.

You might also find some time/space in your schedule to make the shift to do this. Talk to your grad school adviser about taking a few months off the program to get some personal issues in order.
posted by smallerdemon at 7:21 PM on July 24, 2013

I felt a HUGE and POSITIVE difference within the first week. I just felt like ME. Myself. Nothing weird at all. Just back to my normal self.

What a relief!

I take cytalopram.

Stop looking things up like that. All of those potential side effects are rare. When they are published by the manufacturer, they are CYA.

This is how I see it: my brain chemistry was out of its natural balance. The right dose of medication restored it to normal. I also have an underactive thyroid (out of balance). The right dose of medication restored it to normal.
posted by michellenoel at 7:21 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like you really did not like the idea of meds. My family has a history of depression so I spent many years managing what I considered low grade depression with some success.

A couple of years ago it got really bad. Nothing worked. I too ate as a form of comfort and as I figured out later to medicate. Certain foods give you shots of chemicals that ease moods and lift them up.

I finally had enough and went for help. My doctor started me off on a low dose of effexor, saying that we would adjust the dose up as needed. Ended up the low dose was all I needed to kick my brain into gear.

What did it feel like? Hard to describe. It was like my brain started working right again. I didn't feel drugged at all. I just felt more normal. Everything just became easier. Thinking, doing, just getting on with everything. I lost weight because I no longer was using food to lift my moods.

Last physical my doctor asked if I wanted to try getting off the meds as in many cases meds can just get things working right and back in balance. My Dad has been like that for over 25 years. He now knows enough to feel when things are going off kilter and takes something for while and then goes off of it. I decided that since I'm not having any issues with the medication and am not on a super high dose that I'll just keep taking it.

I treat it like I do vitamins. It's my direct brain vitamin.
posted by Jalliah at 7:36 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You should talk to a shrink, particularly about which meds to take if you decide to take meds. No one here can answer your questions.
posted by OmieWise at 7:40 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not reading your post or the responses because it doesn't matter. I'm not a doctor, I've been to a doctor, I've been on and off meds.

Go to a doctor. See what they say. 95% chance that the 1st thing they put you on won't be what you need for either dosage or actual drug reasons. So go back, tell them what's wrong or that it's not working (but not that you need a double dose since you're not a doctor either), and try the next one.

If you have a family member that's taking/taken stuff then mention that and how it worked for them. It gives a better place to start from than shot in the dark/the doctor's go to starting medication.

And when it's time to get off the meds, don't be a dumbass like me.
posted by theichibun at 7:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't remember a time before I was clinically depressed. For all of my adult life, I was in and out of the (mostly ineffective, in my case) model of talk therapy with a psychologist, and conservative prescriptions from my GP or a psychiatric nurse practitioner, who also treated my insomnia as a separate issue. I started with a new GP after mine left the area, and she was keen on the idea of an MD psychiatrist. It was hard to find one in my area who was in my insurance network and taking new patients, but eventually I got in. He discontinued my previous antidepressants and medications for sleep and migraines, and prescribed six new ones that he said would rewrite my brain chemistry.

Well, he wasn't exaggerating. I had the best night's sleep of my life that night, woke up refreshed, and have had more mental energy and focus than I can ever remember. I used to have suicidal thoughts at least every hour, but haven't had any at all since then. I won't say that I feel like a brand new person, because I feel like ME. I feel like the me I should have been able to be when I was young enough to enjoy it! I've been able to cut my caffeine intake in half, I don't wake up three or four times every night. I can be happy without crying and make mistakes at work without feeling like the world is ending.

So, I guess my point is, If I had it to do again I'd go straight for the psychiatrist as soon as I could, and not muck about with all the middlemen.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:55 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

You sound really similar to me a few months ago. I just wanted to throw one other option out there. Have you tried exercising? I know it sounds cliche, and when I was in the depths of depression it was the last thing I wanted to do, but in my case, it actually worked (and for my whole life I've always been a very non-athletic type). For me, it was finding a way to exercise that I enjoyed, that wasn't a chore, and didn't involve going to a gym (because how is being the most un-fit person in the gym supposed to help your mood?). I also keep detailed notes about my progress, as I'm a bit of a data geek, but it really motivates me to see my improvement over the weeks.

The change in my mood, self-confidence (and appearance to boot) surprise me. I no longer get the daily bouts of anxiety and negative self-talk or the feelings of utter hopelessness that I used to. And I started doing a lot better at work - more motivation to work on things and more energy.
posted by pravit at 7:59 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Stay away from Benzos like Ativan. They're just bandaids for what should have a tourniquet. Get some real antidepressants like a good SSRI. Try a couple because everyone's brain chemistry is different.

Have realistic expectations. These aren't happy pills. Once they started to kick in my mind started to become a lot easier to focus on the here and now instead of the what if. You'll never get rid of anxiety. Ever. You might as well try to get rid of happy or sad. But what it does do is make it easier not to let it run away.

Seconding pravit. The problem is that anxiety and OCD are very conducive to procrastination which makes getting started the hardest part. The big thing I'm working on with my therapist is trying to work through the procrastination so I can become the person I want to be inside and out.

Lastly, are you getting the right sort of therapy? Are you looking at avoidant behaviors? Because nothing feeds anxiety like appeasing it. Once I realised that I try to do the opposite of what my anxiety tells me. I'm accomplishing more, I make less excuses to try and get out of things that I want to do but my anxiety won't let me do.

Good luck. Right now you're where I am six months ago. Since finding a wonderful therapist and being on the right meds for me I'm starting to piece my life back together. You can do it as well!
posted by Talez at 8:05 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had just completed my first year of law school when I first started on Prozac. It changed my life. I want to write this in all caps but I don't want to yell at you. Please try it. They are obviously not for everyone but for the folks for whom it does help, the change can be pretty remarkable. I could kick myself for waiting as long as I did.

I stayed on Prozac for about another two years after I graduated law school and now take a single dose of Pristiq daily. No weight gain. No other serious side effects. But also no crying fits/suicidal idealation or feelings of complete despair.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 8:06 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Questions 1, 2, and 4 are questions you should ask your psychiatrist. Each person's symptoms and history are different, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for another. Psychiatrists are specifically trained to assess your symptoms and figure which medication(s), if any, are most likely to help you.

For Question 3: When I started antidepressants, I suddenly felt like I had actual control of my brain. I didn't feel drugged or hazy or numb, I felt like myself again. Things that had seemed totally overwhelming before suddenly seemed like minor obstacles that I could easily overcome. When my psychiatrist upped my dose a bit because he and I suspected that I was still having more anxiety than we thought was ok, it was amazing -- the baseline anxiety that had been with me since at least 8th grade suddenly vanished. My motivation remained (it actually went up), but all the paralyzing side effects of my anxiety evaporated overnight.
posted by jaguar at 8:41 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Just take the drugs already," you say! Here are the complications:

The complication is: you suffer from anxiety.

it really feels like a self-protective fear

aka anxiety

Medication introduces a big terrifying unknown I'm scared of.


You know what might happen if you take drugs? They might work. You may have side effects, in which case you might have to change what you're taking or the time of day you take them or the dosage or you might have to stop eating grapefruit or drinking so much caffeine. But your head isn't going to turn purple for the rest of your life. You're not going to grow a third arm (unfortunately - it'd come in handy in grad school). You may be inconvenienced. You might - and this is one hell of a side effect - feel better. It might take away your excuses. You might have to give up the lack of perspective and the tense haze that anxiety provides in your life.

Change is terrifying. Tell your doctor you're terrified. Give them some credit for the eight-plus years and $300,000 they spent to know more about this than you. Don't believe in homeopathy. At least agree to be helped on a trial basis, knowing you can stop anytime you say.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:48 PM on July 24, 2013 [19 favorites]

Everyone's been giving you very good advice. I will join the chorus.

1) Yes.

2) I started on Lexapro (citalopram) which others above mention. Apparently it's a more reliable SSRI because it's less likely to result in side effects and you can start with a reasonably low dose. Reading about the worst-case scenarios is rarely helpful with medication, I don't advise it.

3) Taking anti-depressants is not like flicking a switch. You don't wake up one morning and think you're in a Disney cartoon with bluebirds, sunshine, singing, etc. Instead you gradually realise that although you feel sad sometimes, you can't work up a really huge case of misery anymore. When something goes wrong, you don't spend the next several hours kicking yourself for being an idiot, you ruin everything, etc etc. I still feel what I feel, but the negative stuff is less consuming and common and absorbing. I get less stuck in an unhappy/negative way of being.

I think of it as a tool. If you drop something behind the couch, you could sit on the couch and cry about how you dropped the thing and now you can't reach it and, oh, the lovely thing that you no longer have! You are such a bad person without your thing. You could get up and try to move the couch single-handedly and possibly put your back out. Or you could grab a broom/ruler/spatula/long stick and try to knock the thing out from behind the couch. The meds are the broom/ruler/spatula/long stick. And you may have to try a couple of tools before you find the right tool which is long enough/weighted enough/works, but there is a tool that will work.

It is not necessarily a life sentence, either. I have been on and then off and am on again, but I think before too long I will be able to consider going off again. It's because they're a tool, they don't magically change me into a working person - they just help me be the person I am with less angst and unhappiness.

4) It is common practice to start you on the smallest practicable dose and increase only if necessary. It usually takes a month or so to work out if it is having the desired effects, so it can take some time. Homeopathic doses are not practicable or effective doses, and although I do not know every type of medication ever, I don't think they make them in such tiny doses. There is a limit to how many times you can cut a pill in half. If I were you, I would start with that small dose (eg 5mg) and tell yourself that it is the smallest possible dose.

Part of you is clearly ready to start or else you wouldn't be thinking about it. Try to listen to that part of you, it's trying to help you and asking for some help in return. Meds are a tool to help you. It will be okay, you can monitor everything constantly and find the thing that works for you. I'm with Lyn Never above: the scariest thing is sometimes that you have developed coping mechanisms that work very well with how you are right now. You may wind up discarding them and actually be able to just be and function, without coping mechanisms at all. That can seem quite scary, but it won't happen instantly. By the time it does, you may not even notice. Starting the meds before you start grad school (major life change) is the perfect time. See a doctor, see a psychiatrist, see someone and get started.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:27 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, I think you should consider trying an antidepressant. Then again, I joke sometimes that we'd all be better off if They put an SSRI in the public drinking water, like fluoride.

I take Prozac. I'll tell you some of what I told a good friend who was seriously depressed but scared to take medication that messed with her brain. Said friend started Zoloft a few weeks ago and is loads better - I can even tell from her emails.

I can't promise you that there won't be any side effects, but I haven't had any, and I've been on one kind of medication or another on and off since 2007. Prozac is one of the older meds with a good side effect profile, but there are tons of others and your doctor can pick a good one for you. Reading sites like crazmeds is really tempting, but keep in mind that the people who have really good experiences with their medication are less likely to post on such websites because they're too busy feeling better and doing things. I mean, it's one thing to post asking if you're the only one having a particular side effect, but I feel like it's different to go there and ask, "HEY THESE MEDS ARE WORKING EXACTLY AS EXPECTED BASED ON EXPERIMENTAL MODELS AND CLINICAL TRIALS AM I NORMAL???" So, on the whole, experiences posted online skew a little negative.

Notice I said that I've been on meds on and off earlier. That's because it's really not too hard to quit antidepressants. Some of them have withdrawal symptoms but as long as you taper slowly, you should be okay. Starting antidepressants now doesn't mean you'll need to take them forever.

Antidepressants are useful. Your doctor probably won't mind prescribing some for you to try. There are LOTS of people you interact with every day who are on them, and you can't tell.

Just because it does things to your brain chemistry doesn't mean it messes with who you are. I didn't wake up one day with the sun shining and birds singing on my shoulders as I walked down the street, and my friend jokes that I'm still the most negative person he knows and I should appear in advertisements for how antidepressants don't change fundamental personality. I'm still the same person I was before, it just takes the edge off of that voice in my head that intones "everything sure fucking sucks, huh?" whenever something small goes wrong. I guess some people call this "numb" and don't like it, but seriously, I'll take numb over "crippled with anxiety and despair" every time.

When I started medication I wasn't sure that it was even working, and then one day when I was sitting by myself on campus at school, I realized that I felt "okay" for the first time in YEARS.

I wish you all the luck and courage in the world as you make your decision. I'm rooting for you!
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:19 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's worth keeping in mind that depression and anxiety also mess with your brain, literally. These disorders very literally rewire your brain, reinforcing those neural connections that contribute to depression and anxiety.

It's also worth keeping in mind that therapy, and any positive coping mechanisms, also mess with your brain, literally. When trying new coping mechanisms, you are creating new neural connections.

Medications do literally mess with your brain, but not really any more or less than mood disorders, anxiety disorders, therapy, or coping mechanisms. They tend to act more quickly than therapy or coping mechanisms, at least at first, but everything you ever do, think, or feel is changing the neural pathways in your brain. If you've got a disorder that's changing them for the worse, then it's not at all unreasonable to take medication to stop that degeneration.
posted by jaguar at 10:52 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I can only say that I had anxiety (since forever) and depression (for about three years), and taking citalopram was like the world going from black and white to colour.

One of the most frustrating things is that many mental health conditions compromise your thinking. I was convinced that seeking help was too much work, or pointless, or would make me worse. I even thought that feeling miserable and exhausted must be natural as I got older.

I started therapy, like you, but it didn't stick. The depression was messing with my efforts and I found it harder and harder to keep my head up.

How did they make me feel?

Within about a week of starting the tablets, I felt like my real personality was back. Not a crazy hyped up person, but ME. I felt normal for the first time in three years. I felt like the woman who jumped on sofas and sang songs about badgers again, and Went Out and Did Things without feeling like shit.

Instead of my crazy thoughts being intrusive and unstoppable, I could put things in perspective. It was like having the anxiety circuit gently turned down a bit. Instead of the panicy thoughts filling my brain and shoving out all the rational stuff, the panic was contained and smaller.

I could engage more with my counselling. Instead of recovery feeling like trying to climb a sheer cliff, it was now a challenging hike.
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 3:26 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

1) Yes, I think you should consider it. Which isn't quite the same as saying I think you should do it - but I think you should do exactly what you're doing, stop dismissing it out of hand and give it serious thought. What I always tell people is to remember that you don't have to stay on meds forever. You may want to, and you can, but trying something does not mean you have irreversibly changed yourself and now you can never stop taking it. You're trying something. You can also stop trying that thing.

2) One of the sucky things about science is we are not there yet in knowing which meds work for which people with which symptoms. It's trial and error, much as that sucks. Work this through with a psychiatrist. For what it's worth, Prozac is a miracle drug for me. I know there are newer options out there but I don't mess with what works.

3) I've been through two periods of taking Prozac, for about 9-12 months each. Each was a little different, maybe due to age, or the circumstances of my life at that time, or whatever. The first time, I started reading the book Prozac Diary about a month into my trial with the drug, and it was an astonishingly clear description of what I was experiencing, should you wish to check that book out. It was not exactly a light switch, but pretty close - for a week or two I didn't feel much change except some nighttime jitters (which went away when I switched to a morning dose), and then suddenly I wanted to live again and many of my harmful impulses just...stopped. I did have a blunting of affect; along with the low lows, I lost the high highs. There was something like a smudgy pane of glass between me and the strongest of my emotions. Which was okay; I'd had enough of my strong emotions for a while. I needed that space to heal. It was okay to just be...pleasant. Happy. Calm. Not elated. But not devastated either. I found myself better able to handle some of the problems in my life, and to make some progress in therapy, with that smudgy glass between me and the worst of the pain. After a year or so I (probably ill-advisedly, but without ill effect) tapered myself off and went about my life.

The second time I took Prozac it was not as much of a light-switch effect, perhaps because that doctor ramped me up more slowly. I started on a small dose that didn't do much for me, ramped up over time, and I started to feel a little better each week, a little more able to handle my life, a little less likely to lie around in bed crying all day. I didn't feel that same blunting effect. I just felt like a weight slowly lifted off my shoulders and I could look around, take stock, and start fixing my life. Taking antidepressants a second time, in my early 30s, was a much subtler, simpler, but equally life-saving experience. Again, after several months I began to feel like I had a handle on the things that had driven me to ask for help, and I tapered myself off the medication.

I would absolutely take antidepressants again if I ever felt my lifelong low-level depression tipping toward another crisis. I wish I'd done it sooner the first time and not gotten to the crisis point I got to.

Your experience will not be my experience, but I hope that helps.

4) I suppose it depends on the medication - you could certainly get the smallest possible dose they manufacture and build up from there, but depending on the type of drug and how it's delivered, it might not be safe to take part of a capsule or pill - you might not be able to go any lower than that standard lowest dose. Perhaps the ability to start at a very low dose is one of the criteria you can use with your psychiatrist to decide what to start with.
posted by Stacey at 5:27 AM on July 25, 2013

1. It's very likely anti-depressant (SSRI) meds will help. a lot. You need a good GP, internist, or psychiatrist to help you get on the right meds; it can take some persistence sometimes.

4. Doctors will want to start you on a therapeutic dose. Drugs vary, and some of them take time to reach a therapeutic level. Don't start out too small.

2. There are a variety of side effects. Don't get too worried too fast. I've tried several meds that caused side effects, and just stopped the drug, and went to the next one. The side effect of not using medication is that you may continue to be anxious, depressed, possibly suicidal. So, still worth trying meds.

3. The 1st anti-depressant I took was before SSRIs. It felt like not feeling terrible, also like not feeling very much at all. It made me tired, but helped me stop crying. It gave me the space to get through a bad episode.

Have you seen the same therapist for 6 years? Therapists vary greatly in competency and in best fit with a client's needs. You might benefit from a therapist who gives you a lot of support in methods to deal with anxiety, like CBT(Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy). I've had episodes of Major Depression over the years, and have seen lots of therapists. A couple were quite bad, most were okay, a few were highly skilled and effective.

You deserve to feel better. The risks in taking meds are manageable. It's totally worth the risk.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 AM on July 25, 2013

A few years ago, I would have probably told you that I would NEVER ever take SSRIs. Then I hit a low and was cripplingly anxious all the time. My doctor prescribed Celexa. Am I sorry I took it? Definitely not!

After a few weeks of taking it, I felt a lot better and had no weird side effects. It helped me get where I needed to be to start dealing with the things that were dragging me down. Once I had that foundation, I was able to focus on other things. Exercising. Managing my anxiety. Eating right (I'm a binge eater too, totally with you on that!) A couple of years later, I am in a totally different place. I have changed my lifestyle completely (eating clean and getting lots of exercise) and am back to being the cheery soul I used to be and so badly wanted to be again. I weaned off the Celexa completely with no negative side effects.

Important question: have you had bloodwork done recently? My former GP handed me the Celexa prescription after about 30 seconds of me telling him I wasn't quite myself lately. My new GP was shocked that I hadn't had bloodwork done since my teens. Turned out I had pretty bad hypothyroidism, which explains so much. Not saying that's your issue, but worth checking to see that all your parts are functioning correctly.

Good luck. Feel free to MeMail me with any questions.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:41 AM on July 25, 2013

Better living through chemistry! I was acutely anxious that the drugs would turn me into someone different or change me. Instead, now I feel somehow more like myself.

You don't realize how much energy it takes to be anxious all the time till you get a respite from it. I have so much more energy now, because I'm not spending it vibrating with anxiety. That will be a huge help for you in grad school.

I sometimes think I would have at least finished my Master's, if not my PhD, if I had gotten treatment then instead of dropping out of grad school.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:45 AM on July 25, 2013

Does the therapist you have been seeing for six years think you should try medication? If yes, then yes, you should try medication.

No one here can recommend any medication that you should try. You need to discuss that with a doctor. I have a feeling that recommending you a medication will only feed your anxiety, so you can research all the potential side effects.

Not all side effects are the end of the world, many go away after a short time.

What does it feel like? Relief. And then, you don't think about it so much. I just feel like myself, like I used to feel in between periods of life-ruining anxiety.
posted by inertia at 11:34 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

See a psychiatrist. Be excruciatingly honest. (If I had confessed my extreme paranoia to my doctor sooner I would have been diagnosed as Bipolar sooner and gotten the right treatment sooner.)

I wish, wish, wish I could go back in time to before I started graduate school and have someone say to me "you are depressed...these pills may help." You have an opportunity here.

Good luck!
posted by Biblio at 9:05 PM on July 25, 2013

Grad school can be really tough. I like this quote:

"To survive this period, you have to be willing to fail from the moment you wake to the moment your head hits the pillow. You must be willing to fail for days on end, for months on end and maybe even for years on end. The skill you accrete during this trauma is the ability to imagine plausible solutions, and to estimate the likelihood that an approach will work." (full text).

I have an anxious type personality and recurring failure in grad school was difficult to deal with. Not trying to scare you. Just want to point out that even though you may intellectually know that grad school is going to be a challenge, it's often difficult to predict exactly how it will test you, IME. So even if you feel anxious about taking meds, I urge you to at least "shop around" for a psychiatrist and find one that you like and think you can trust, right now, when you have some free time before all your time gets sucked up by grad school and work.

Think about your relationship with your therapist (who you presumably know well and like). If, at some point in the future, you stopped seeing them for a while for some reason, you'll have the security of knowing that you could always go back to them as needed. You want a psychiatrist in your mental health toolbox too. Find a psychiatrist now, and talk to them about your choices for meds. If you really don't want to take meds now, set up a plan with the psychiatrist and schedule a follow up appointment 3 months into grad school or something.
posted by nemutdero at 10:07 PM on July 25, 2013

There is a book that's been out for a couple of years and I think it's still available on Amazon. It is "Up Without Meds". In this book there is a long researched chapter on how and why most meds don't work well for depression. The book is really about a lifestyle change that is proven to dispel depression for good. The lifestyle changes are about eating right, exercising, socializing, getting support. None of this to a "crazy" degree.And of course there are no side effects as there are with anti-depressants. I personally know some people who followed the program and it worked wonders for them. The program isn't hard, but does require some commitment as does everything that involves dumping old habits and establishing new ones.
Today, everyone wants a pill. Some of the ways you are self-medicating are actually compunding your problem. Try getting rid of your depression a natural and healthy way and you'll probably be able to get rid of your therapist too since, after 6 years, she doesn't seem to be helping much. Good luck to you.
posted by judytaos at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2013

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