Has anyone cured lifelong Depression, Anxiety and OCD?
February 8, 2015 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I am a 36 year old male. I have had OCD, Depression and Anxiety as far back as I can remember. I have done everything that I can to treat it - multiple medications, multiple therapists and a slew of naturopathic treatments Is there any hope for me?

I remember being very young and telling people that I was depressed and they would tell me that I didn’t know what that word meant….but I did. As I got older and more sophisticated, I realized that I had OCD. As an aside, both of my parents had issues. My Mom has OCD to an extent and is very anxious. My Dad has mental health issues too. IDK what….definitely depression. My fraternal twin had bad OCD but it isn’t as bad as mine. He has never treated it.

About ten years ago I decided to do something about it. I started to see a therapist who obviously suggested medication.

Years later I relented. It was becoming so difficult to manage. I started on Zoloft. I don’t know if it was a placebo effect, but I felt better almost immediately. The next 4 or 5 years I went up and down on doses and meds to try to get something to work. I had tons of side effects and didn’t feel much better. I had awful fatigue. I tried more meds and doctors and therapists.

Over the years I was on Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Luvox, amphetamine salts, Prozac, Lamictal, Risperidone, Xanax, Adderall and Ativan.

I was diagnosed (by diff docs) as OCD, ADHD, BIPOLAR2, DYSTHMIA AND GAD

My Father, Uncle and a friend died within 6 months of each other. I didn’t cry. I just felt numb (meds?)

I started to see a NP who helped a friend of mine. She was very nice. She put me on Prozac. When I didn’t feel better, she had me talk to her mentor, a Psychiatrist. He told me that drugs I did as a teenager (pot, etc) screwed up my brain and that I needed to take large doses of Prozac. That was my only hope. I am sure the drugs didn’t help, but I had had this stuff prior to drug use. After that the NP had me on Prozac, Risperidal, Lamictal, Ritalin, Xanax at the same time. I was exhausted. She suggested Provigil. I knew that something wasn’t right. I was so tired that I was falling asleep at stop lights. It was a never ending parade of meds. “Tired? Take this! Can’t sleep? Take this!” At this point, my EXTREME FATIGUE was ruining my life. When I was on 5 things at once with no relief in sight, I told her that I wanted off. I had this feeling that nobody in the mental health field knew what they were doing.

Under her supervision I tapered down over a couple/few weeks.

I did “ok” that year. The fatigue was gone. About 9 months later I crashed. I had major life stuff going on, but I had panic attacks and crying fits for the first time in my anxious life. This was very confusing as I hadn’t cried in 20 years – even when my Dad died. I now think that this might have been protracted withdrawal. I had no clue at the time.

After being on meds and being so fatigued, I started to see a ton of docs and developed health anxiety. On the good side, I radically overhauled my diet. I had tons of very expensive and elaborate bloodwork done. Thousands of dollars worth that takes up a whole binder.

I was having such a hard time that my therapist (not a fan of meds) suggested seeing a local psychiatrist. What was appealing about this guy was that he did genetic testing, serum testing, toxicology testing, transcranial magnetic stimulation and biofeedback. He wanted me to take Deplin and Pristiq. I opted not to take the Pristiq, but to take the Deplin.

My decisions were based on discovering that people had a hard time coming off Pristiq. I also had high norepinephrine and wasn’t sure that was the best med. I opted to just take the Deplin. I then discovered that I was MTHFR a1298C and stopped taking the Deplin because it was a huge dose and I wasn’t taking B12. Methyaltion is SO complicated.

I then tried magnesium, cod liver oil, rhodiola, holy basil, gaba, passion flower and a ton of other natural treatments. I haven’t had success.

I am so lost. I have spent so much time and money on all of this. I feel that no one has any answers. Mediation doesn’t work (too anxious to do it). Therapy doesn’t work. Is this withdrawal? Should I be on meds? Is naturopathy bs?

posted by kbbbo to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
"Lifelong cure" is not an idea I would ever use when it comes to being free of depression, but I have been in remission from my lifelone, usually severe depression for almost four years now. After many years (decades) of ineffective treatment with meds (and therapy) I finally tried ECT (electroconvulsive treatment) for my depression and experienced actual, real relief for the first time in almost 40 years. Later, after a year and a half, I felt the depression was creeping back and I chose not to repeat the ECT (a common and recommended step, "maintenance" treatment) but went through a fairly intensive 3-week "partial hospitalization" (outpatient treatment) which--to my great surprise--was greatly effective and I have been in remission from depression since. That was almost 3 years ago. I no longer take meds and right now I'm not seeing my therapist, but I now she's always available if I want to.

I don't have experience with OCD, but I do with depression and anxiety--mostly depression. I experienced depression beginning when I was a preteen, but I didn't seek treatment until I was in college. This was well before SSRIs. I first tried meds when I was around 30. I've tried many different types and combinations, but nothing helped. Until the ECT. This is traditionally considered the last resort by both patients and physicians because so many people--including health professionals--don't understand and fear it. But I believe it should not be a last resort. It has a very good rate of effectiveness, especially for intractable cases of depression and anxiety. I don't know anything about whether it's considered a good treatment for OCD. Memail me if you have questions.
posted by primate moon at 3:01 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Hi! I have OCD, depression, and GAD. I have been in and out of therapists' and doctors' and psychologists' and psychiatrists' offices since I was 15 years old and I'm 31 now. I have really struggled with obsessive thoughts, depression, and mostly intense anxiety.
I went off medication for good in 2006. Since then, I have actually done better. I also found a great therapist a few years ago who favors CBT and is a very good sounding board for me; praises when I do things well, but doesn't sugarcoat some of my lackluster decisions. My medical doctor is also super supportive. Determining some of the medical issues I had helped with the mental health issues as well.
This sounds terrible, but I mostly just "deal with it." When things seem too much, I reach out to my therapist and my group of close friends and a very patient SO, and they are helpful. I try to recognize my triggers, and attempt to work through my problems with the tactics I've learned from my therapist. I am also very open about things; I could no longer care less about stigma; I am who I am, and sometimes I KNOW that my brain is irrational. I attempt as much realism as I can, without getting too bogged down in how life actually is, because it seems like such as disappointment sometimes - like, "this is it?"
I exercise A LOT. I keep myself almost too occupied. I sleep as much as I can, and I enlist the help of as many friends as I can surround myself with. I noticed you didn't mention friends or family in your post; is there a way to develop a support system for yourself? That cannot be overrated.
Another thing that keeps me going is that I have made some crappy decisions in my life; I know now I will never have to put myself in those positions again and I take solace that things can only stay the same or get better. In addition, I work in emergency services, so many days I see people on the worst, or last, day of their life, and that really puts things in perspective. I try to stay as positive and content as possible. I don't have a lot of material things, but I have a good family relationship (now, finally), wonderful friends, a good job, and a SO that I would not trade for all of the world.
Days are still tough, and sometimes I hate the way my brain works. But. From great trials come great strength, and I have taken the fact that I approach life a little atypically and used that as a springboard to dive deeper into self-awareness and introspection.
Maybe look at things as an opportunity?
Good luck; I empathize with you and I hope the best for you. Memail me if you just need someone to talk to.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 3:34 PM on February 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

I have a late teen child with depression and anxiety who has tried everything without success. Currently, she is undergoing ECT. It is too early to tell if this is the answer, but she has shown improvement so far and we are at the point of stretching out her treatments. The people we have met have said it has been a lifesaver for them. I read Will I Ever Be the Same Again? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy) which I found to be very helpful. I just began Shock and am not very far along but it got very good reviews and has both a personal narrative and a scientific one.

Honestly, the procedure itself is completely different than what people think of when hearing ECT. I would go to a well known academic hospital and have a consult about it. Memail if you have questions.
posted by maxg94 at 3:37 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you had therapy for OCD, did you do anything resembling Exposure and Response Prevention? If not, you need to see an ExRP therapist. It is the #1 empirically supported treatment for OCD. For many, it is the one thing that helps them get their OCD under control. OCD is a disorder that for sure requires specialized treatment.

It would help to know where you are in the world as well.
posted by The Sock Puppet Sentience Movement at 3:50 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

CBT and ECT sound like options to discuss with your therapist/doctor.

when you have symptoms of anxiety and depression after being off your meds for months, it's not withdrawal - it's the underlying illness that isnt being treated. I am sorry you have had such a difficult time of things and I am sure you must be frustrated. good luck!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:56 PM on February 8, 2015

Have you had a sleep study?

Husbunny has severe depression and was on the med merry-go-round. He snored and stopped breathing at night and I set him up. The CPAP has made a huge difference. He's taking Pristiq for his much less severe depression and he's as happy as he's ever been as an adult.

We have a friend who had horrible depression, she did ECT and it's changed her life.

I'm sorry you have this, it's real. It's a thing. It may take something drastic to really change it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:00 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Wow, that sucks and I'm sorry to hear what you are going thru. I do think there are several treatments available that you haven't yet tried that might help. I have OCD and depression, fortunately both well treated with SSRIs— the OCD isn't particularly severe, but I know how hard even not severe OCD can be.

First, whoever told you that drugs permanently damaged your brain as a teenager is someone you should not trust. You had the problems, that's why you took the drugs— and none of the data on this can control for that reality. There's no evidence that marijuana irreversibly damages the brain— the data that suggests this is from one study, that has not been replicated and that has been the subject of a re-analysis that suggests the real problem was socioeconomic status and it's correlational, besides. And lots of studies of recovering people with addiction show recovery, anyway!

First thing to do I think is to find someone who is actually doing evidence based treatment: the sad thing about most therapists is that they actually have no clue what the research shows to work or if they do, they still prefer to be "eclectic" so you don't actually get the real treatment. If you haven't tried Exposure and Response Prevention and can stand to do it, it definitely has the best results for OCD of any talk therapy. It's hard because you have to face what you are trying to avoid, but the people who manage to not drop out do very well.

As for meds, high doses of SSRI's tend to be the recommended treatment— don't know if you reached a dose that was maximally helpful without too many side effects.

Finally, there are some researchers studying brain surgery for OCD, typically involving an implanted stimulation device— only for extreme cases that have failed all other treatments and they would make sure you actually had access to and did fail them if you were to decide to want this. It does seem to help in many cases, but it's obviously a huge step and you would want to research it very thoroughly via PubMed etc. before considering.
posted by Maias at 4:11 PM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It's very popular, so it should be easy to get a referral for someone who practices it. Or, this workbook is quite good, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 6:54 PM on February 8, 2015

I think medication works, but I don't think medication works in a vacuum. Therapy doesn't work in a vacuum, either--it works in the context of the rest of your life. I haven't gotten benefit from every single therapist I've ever seen. Some of them have been crap. But I've also had some who had a huge positive impact on my life in even short periods of time. If you don't have good results, I'm now pretty convinced that the answer isn't "therapy doesn't work", it's that you haven't found the therapist who works for you. Similarly with meds: sometimes even when you've tried a lot of things, that doesn't mean that meds don't work. It took me years of fiddling to get the combination of things that's working pretty well for me right now. I tried some things that worked for awhile and then stopped working, I tried some things that didn't work at all, I tried some things with terrifying side effects.

Right now, I don't take an SSRI but I've gotten benefit from them in the past. I do take Adderall, but with a beta blocker that deals with most of the negative side effects. I take N-acetylcysteine because I have a picking problem but there are suggestions it might also help other mental health stuff--I think of it more as a supporting player than a main character, you know? I don't see a therapist at the moment, the last one was kind of a dud, but I have a good support network of friends and I'm working through Feeling Good again. I have Ativan but I take it only once in a blue moon. I think my best results have come because I've started paying very close attention to the differences in how individual things make me feel. Keeping a journal helps, not rambling thought stuff, but, "today this is what I took and this is how I'm feeling". A record so you can go back and actually see trends over time.

Some of us just have more fiddly brains, and if you have a fiddly brain then it's going to take trying a lot of things and trying a lot of variations on those things. I'm now tracking how I'm feeling well enough that I can tell you that sometimes I take my Adderall in spaced half doses--and sometimes I don't. Now, I know when I get up in the morning what kind of day it is, but I didn't always know that. I get a lot of benefit from exercise, but some kinds of exercise work way better than others. My diet never seems to make a difference except insofar as "I need to eat food" and "I need to eat food that isn't just half a bag of marshmallows, a two-liter of Coke, and a large order of french fries"--but you might be different. And I might be different next week. I don't think it's possible to render my brain "normal", but I think I have a very sustainable thing going by just actively managing it instead of expecting to just find a magic solution. I don't have OCD or bipolar, but that much I think is something that will generalize well to your situation even if your brain doesn't work like mine and the same things don't work for you that work for me.
posted by Sequence at 7:41 PM on February 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

As others above have said, Exposure and Response Prevention is the gold standard, non-medical, treatment for OCD, and SSRIs, at high doses, are what most psychiatrists will use, at least initially, for medical treatment. Unfortunately, not that many providers are trained to offer Exposure and Response Prevention, and many of those who are trained do not accept insurance. (You can pay out of pocket and will usually be reimbursed up to some percentage by your insurance company). This kind of therapy involves managed exposures to what causes your anxiety.

If you have depression combined with OCD, you should seek treatment as soon as possible (like tomorrow). People who suffer from both are at an especially high risk for suicide.

If I were you (and assuming you have insurance), I would start by calling my insurance company and asking if they can help find a psychologist who is specially trained to treat people with OCD.

While I don't have any general issue with alternative medicine, I don't see how these elaborate blood tests you describe could do anything for you except relieve you of your money. OCD is not easy to treat, but there are options that have been well studied and are effective; looking at possible genetic mutations and so on is just going to pull you further down the rabbit hole of suffering.
posted by girl flaneur at 8:01 PM on February 8, 2015

yoga. like a really challenging vinyasa flow practice.

not kidding! it took a lot of work but it has made an incredible difference and I have tried a LOT of medications in the past and none of them helped. I don't know why none of the multiple therapists I went to over the course of 15 or so years ever strongly recommended exercise but that is the thing that actually helped me.
posted by citron at 8:09 PM on February 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would not describe it as a cure but vigorous exercise has been the most helpful thing for my anxiety (and the depression that comes with it), including therapy and meds. Walking doesn't do enough for me; it has to be something more intense, like jogging (even if I have to alternate walking and running, when I'm not fit enough) or using an elliptical. Presumably riding a bike would also work for this.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:37 PM on February 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've been continually clinically depressed for 50 years or so. The best I can ever hope for is learning to live with it, which I constantly struggle to do. I really don't think there's anything like a "cure" for that sort of depression. There's only mediating the effects.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:12 AM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you tried checking for non-neurological causes?

Get yourself checked for asthma or other breathing difficulties. You could be experiencing chronic shortness of breath. Symptoms of chronic shortness of breath can include lassitude, depression, fatigue and anxiety. If you developed asthma as a kid you have have been breathing through a constricted airway for decades.

Get yourself checked for sleep apnea. Symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation include irritability, depression, fatigue, recurring bad thoughts, fatigue and more.

Is there any possibility of a hormonal imbalance? This is especially likely if you are overweight.

Have you tried raising your serotonin levels by tinkering with the carbs in your diet? This reportedly is more likely to work on people who have self mediated with drug addiction in the past. There is a book called "Potatoes not Prozac" that gives more information on this.

Have you tried the whole slew of non-pharmaceutical depression busting techniques - Gratitude journaling, hug therapy, exercise, good nutrition, exposure to sunlight, elimination diet, Cognitive Therapy, volunteering in order to feel useful, exposing yourself to green growing things, spend time with a dog, art therapy, joining a religious community that is not a cult and is not punitive, scheduling time to worry, humour, singing the blues, play therapy....? A lot of these are fun and good for you, whether or not you are depressed, so they are well worth trying to sneak into your life for their own sake.

Depression can be learned. A chronically depressed primary caretaker tends to produce a chronically depressed kid. It is hard to unlearn what was learned in childhood but not impossible.

Apparently our level of happiness often correlates to the people we spend time with and interact with. Unhappy people form clusters and happy people form clusters. Are you in an unhappy person cluster? Can you change the people you hang out with if so?

Do you have something tangible to be depressed about? Yes, you lost three loved people in six months recently. Are you bullied, ignored, in chronic pain, housebound, experiencing penury, orphaned or abandoned as a child, in danger or oppressed? If so can you remove yourself from the situation temporarily to see if your moods change? (I recognize that if your parent abandoned you when you were twelve it can be difficult to undo, but you there are possibilities that range from becoming your own parent, getting adopted by an older-than-you person, or reconnecting with the absent adult in a positive way.) If getting a two week break from your housemate gives you a much more cheerful outlook on life, then that might give you a goal and the incentive to work on getting out of the situation permanently. Working on grief such as by memorializing the people you lost could also potentially help you gain the ability to experience good feelings again.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:57 AM on February 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

The only thing that appears to have eradicated my depression, anxiety and obsessions is SERIOUS meditative practice with techniques that aren't very well-known (i.e., I don't mean 20 minutes of watching my breath every morning). I'd rather not give out details in the thread, but if you're interested, please message me. I've been in therapy for 10 years, I've tried medication, I've tried psychedelics (also not a bad idea for you in the right circumstances), I've tried neurofeedback, I've tried it all. This is the only thing that's helping. I assume because I'm rewiring neural networks intrinsically. If you want to talk, I would welcome that.
posted by namesarehard at 10:55 AM on February 9, 2015

This is an old thread but I joined MF just to answer this.

Yes!!!! You can completely get better!!!!

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in my 20s but had it as a child/teen. I am now 40 and have not had a major depressive episode in I don't know how long, probably in my 30s.

Don't ever let people take away your hope, not even doctors who might tell you there is no cure. Doctors are bound by their medical protocols but it is a big universe out there with endless possibilities.

At one point in my 20s I did go on Zoloft, but it mostly took the edge off and it worked better when paired with other strategies. The happiest I felt while still being depressed was when I was taking Zoloft but also exercising and eating healthfully. I have been medication free for about 10 or more years and while I do struggle with anxiety do not experience long bouts of depression anymore. I feel that I have a joyful, meaningful life, in spite of my obstacles.

Before I took meds, the only thing that lifted my depression temporarily was yoga. I'd feel good immediately after the yoga session but the effects would not last.

I also needed to change my negative thinking patterns through Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Now I'm a positive thinker to a fault because that is what saved me. I'm working on being more balanced in that regard and instead of putting a positive spin on everything, I'm working on mindfulness and acceptance. Now if I feel like I'm sad, I don't freak out and break out the positive affirmations. Instead, I say to myself, "It's okay I feel this way." By not fighting my feelings, they lose their momentum. It's been an evolution and a journey.

There are many different things you can do to help yourself but everyone's journey is different. However, one thing that is true, no matter what: Be kind and easy on yourself! Don't compare yourself to other people. Just do what you can do and pat yourself on the back for the "little" accomplishments. If someone else, who seems to have it all together, had the same issues you were dealing with, they can't say they would do any better. These issues you are dealing with are not for wimps!

I do not get depressed anymore but I do deal with anxiety from PTSD. I am making great strides. Many experts say PTSD can't be cured either, but I WILL beat it.

I hope this helps.
posted by LilEB at 7:38 AM on December 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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