Slight personality changes in the past 3 years
September 10, 2019 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious to know if they are due to medication, life experience, or both

I started taking anxiety medication about 3 years ago and I'm still trying to comprehend the slight personality changes I've noticed and integrate them into my self-image or self-concept or what have you. I consider all of these positive changes, and I'm not even 100% sure if they result from the medication or just from growing up but I'm very interested to know perspectives on this.

One thing that I think has changed is my sense of humour. I definitely crack more jokes now, and have a different taste in what I think is funny. I used to be offended more often, and never liked dirty jokes. But it's as if in the past 3 years, I actually came to be able to see the humour in these jokes -actually take them as a joke rather than seriously. I've always been a type B person who's more likely to giggle at convention than adopt it, but this tendency and the ability to actually laugh and find things funny has definitely increased over the past 3 years.

Another thing that has shifted is my taste in men. When I was younger I would always go for shy, nonthreatening men who were almost feminine in many ways. Lately though I have become more interested in "traditional"-looking men that have a more dominant and "typically masculine" personality. I am actually happy to discover this, because for the first time I actually feel comfortable and permitted to display my femininity ( which I am conceiving of as softness, sensitivity, attraction to cute animals, conscientiousness, consideration for others, admiration of delicate, pretty things).

Lastly, I find I spend far less time on spirituality. I used to do yoga at home regularly to deal with anxiety and sadness. I found the practice helped me find healing and acceptance of my emotions. I also used to spend hours practicing music, which also helped me find healing. To be quite honest, I don't miss having to spend so much time dealing with negative emotions. I've taken up new hobbies instead that I find equally interesting. The main difference with my new hobbies is that instead of being practiced alone at home, they are activities that require you to meet other people (ie: choir, rock climbing, book clubs, etc). So as a result, I've made far more new friends, which means I have a far greater sense of enrichment, confidence and satisfaction from life. There is still a nagging sense that my spirituality has taken a hit, though.

I'm trying to wrap my head around what these changes mean for my sense of self.
- Did I just grow older and a bit more confident and get to know myself more?
- Did the medication help me become a better and stronger version of myself?
- Did the medication numb me and take away my political potency?
- Or did the medication help me find more self acceptance?
- Do the changes result from lack of depression and an increase in resiliency?
- Should I feel bad that I'm no longer shy, anxious, suspicious of masculinity, morose and serious? Was I more "authentic" that way?
--> Or am I just not allowing myself to be happy?
posted by winterportage to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
- Did I just grow older and a bit more confident and get to know myself more? Yes. If we're lucky, we all evolve all the time.

- Did the medication help me become a better and stronger version of myself? The way I think about it (and what I tell patients): The medicine helped to turn down the volume on the anxiety and maybe depression, so that you were able to evolve and change as above. Severe anxiety takes up an enormous amount of headspace and can prevent people from using all the other tools out there (books, therapy, exercise, etc) that can help them grow and change.

- Did the medication numb me and take away my political potency? It doesn't sound like you're emotionally numb. You sound happy.

- Or did the medication help me find more self acceptance? It decreased anxiety to the point that you could do that.

- Do the changes result from lack of depression and an increase in resiliency? Yes--again, it's hard to make positive changes when depression and/or anxiety are weighing us down.

- Should I feel bad that I'm no longer shy, anxious, suspicious of masculinity, morose and serious? Was I more "authentic" that way? NOPE NOPE NOPE. This sounds a little bit like your old friend anxiety coming over to say hi.

Congratulations on making such beautiful changes in your life.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 7:18 AM on September 10, 2019 [12 favorites]

I think it's going to be really hard to disentangle what caused what. There are feedback loops in our lives, and medication may have facilitated personal change X which facilitated personal change Y- even if the medication was a relatively small perturbation, it may have enabled a transition to a new equilibrium. Even before the medication, you had to choose to get it- and sometimes just making that choice (before you even take your first dose) starts people on a better path. So figuring out the facts of what caused what might not be tractable.

In any case, it seems like your question is not just about factual attributions of causality, but also what value you want to attach to the factors that led you here. How should you feel about medication/lack of depression/increase in resiliency? Well, it sounds like you're pretty happy.

Should I feel bad that I'm no longer shy, anxious, suspicious of masculinity, morose and serious?

If there's something important that being your previous self gave you, then try to identify that and see if you can reconcile it with your newer (happier-seeming) self. But if you don't have any specific benefit you wish you had from your previous way, just let it go.
posted by Jpfed at 7:20 AM on September 10, 2019

Humans are far too complicated to disentangle all of that. For example, medication clearing up some anxiety probably allowed you to have life experiences that cleared up more anxiety. And allowing yourself to treat your anxiety with medication was itself a life experience.

I think the most that can be said is that you consciously set out to make your life better and that you’re now having a better life.

Did the medication numb me and take away my political potency?

I sometimes miss the intensity of severe anxiety. Everything was life or death and I felt driven in a way that I haven’t since. Which is good, because I was being driven with whips and chains and my permanently cowed head reflected that. These days I am not driven to do the Right Thing but rather drawn to it. It’s a choice I make, not an imperative.

Should I feel bad that I'm no longer shy, anxious, suspicious of masculinity, morose and serious? Was I more "authentic" that way?

Certainly. In an "authentic" world people do not to wear glasses, diabetics do not take insulin, 1 in 6 women die in childbirth, you don’t name babies until they’re one year old so you don’t get attached.... well, come to think of it the "authentic" human experience can really suck. Fortunately a truly authentic trait humans have is to push beyond what we we are given to make our lives better.

I remember the doubt I had when I first started to emerge from my cloud of anxiety and depression. It was very disorienting and a little bit frightening. All I can tell you is that the new state of things has become my "normal". That, and I am *not* going back.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:16 AM on September 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Are you hanging out (or working, or living in a city/area) with a different group of people than you were three years ago? Our tastes are socially influenced to some degree, and the things you mention all have a social element.

I do think treating anxiety and/or depression can give you more room to grow; the medication isn’t doing the changing, just removing some of the things that were getting in your brain’s way, as namemeansgazelle says (better than I can).

It might help to view your past self and your present self as points on a continuum, rather than a dichotomy where one version is the “right” one. We slowly change all our lives, and you may have significantly different tastes in another three years.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:36 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

The answer to all of your questions above, except for "Should I feel bad...", is Yes. Or No.

I'm really not trying to be flippant here. My point is that you're asking the wrong questions. IMO you should be asking "Am I happy with the changes I've noticed?" and if the answer to that is Yes, nothing else really matters. Further, your attention should be focused on integrating these changes into the rest of your life, cementing them into your self-concept, and marveling at the wonderful transition you're experiencing. That will help make the changes more permanent.

And good on you for observing yourself so closely, without trying to constrain what is developing naturally. Those are excellent habits to have and they speak to good mental health and ego strength.
posted by DrGail at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2019

I'm curious to know if they are due to medication, life experience, or both

Since one of the experiences in your life has been spending time on medication, I can't see how you'd separate those two options even in principle.

If you're wondering how your life would have turned out had you had a different set of experiences, the only answer is differently.
posted by flabdablet at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2019

Remove all the judgement from your questions. All that you describe about yourself sounds well within the range of healthy, safe, nice to be around sort of characteristics.

Probably people smarter than us could tell you what role meds, growth, life, age, contribute to changes, but I don't know that it matters much. As long as you are comfortable with who you are / are becoming, you are good to go - nagging existential questions are a part of life.
posted by RajahKing at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you're right to suspect a crucial role for your medication in these changes, and that they reflect a rebalancing of your hormones caused by successful treatment of your anxiety.

Because anxiety is associated with increased adrenal activity, and the adrenal glands produce androgenizing hormones, including testosterone — which I think is the fundamental reason anxiety is also associated with PCOS.

Essentially, lowering adrenal activity has moved the balance of your sex hormones toward estrogen, and the increase in your appreciation of traditional masculinity maps nicely onto the changes some studies have found in women's preferences over the course of a single monthly cycle, where estrogen dominant earlier days of a cycle are associated with attraction to more masculine potential partners, and the succeeding progesterone heavier days with attraction to less masculine partners.

This doesn't address the origins of your anxiety, but I would be interested in hearing whether you have a history of stomach problems.
posted by jamjam at 10:30 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

You’ve moved from inward to outward focus and are showing increased confidence. These are all great things! As others have said people are made up of intersecting feedback loops so it’s hard to say what changed exactly. Myself as I’m facing 40 I have gone through so many (non medicated but I probably needed meds!) changes and it can make one pause to incorporate and grow into a new identity. My best advice is to just let it happen. Like a snake shedding its skin, you are growing and it is exciting! Who will you be in 10 more years? Who knows!

I’d like to talk about the spirituality bit. Many people turn to spirituality to cope with negative feelings. Doing yoga and reflecting are inward activities but actually quite light on the spiritual side when you really think of it. Maybe you can think of spirituality as worship, as character building, as caring for others, as increasing ones capacity to love others regardless the circumstances. Redefining spirituality now that you are past the long dark bits will give you grounding as you enter this new phase. You want to be grounded inside as you venture out in this world.

Keep the introspection and Enjoy the extroversion. You sound like a really neat person with lots of adventure ahead of you!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:06 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

PS. Myself I have gone through a very similar shift, and I noted that I also shifted towards much more masculine guys, as my confidence increased they seemed to like me too! And I also felt free to act out my full range of being, including my femininity. To me this is a very natural shift as a result of your internal shift; outside reflects the inside so they say. Enjoy it too!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:13 PM on September 10, 2019

I definitely experienced the last thing when I went on medication. I used to spend soooo much time meditating, reading books by spiritual people doing visualisations etc., and now I don't. I think it is a result of being well, not having to search anymore, not being unhappy. I think it is a great thing. Now I can just try to enjoy the moment.

In a way I think I've become more boring. I'm more stable, don't have drama in my relationship, don't have breakdowns, don't have to analyse things all the time. I've definitely lost an intensity that I used to have. But again, I think that is a really good thing. That intensity came with misery and panic attacks and sometimes wanting to die.
posted by thereader at 12:35 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

your tastes in men changing from shy feminine ones to bold masculine ones is not a political drift, since men are not innately more feminist or more progressive the less body hair they have and the more frail they are. I think a lot of us make the mistake of believing that, or hoping for it, when we're younger, and it's good to grow out of that mistake even if we continue to like the delicate long-haired types on a purely physical level. do not mistake aesthetics or inborn physical characteristics for politics and you'll be fine. you are fine.

(seriously don't do what men do when they assign imaginary personality characteristics to women based on how big our breasts are and whether we're blonde or not. enjoy the evolution of your patterns of attraction, just don't mistake a look for a belief system. if you feel less 'politically potent' when you're dating a large bearded man in a flannel or whatever, that is a problem, but liking that genre of man is not the cause.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:32 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

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