What do I do when a medication changes everything?
April 26, 2006 6:43 AM   Subscribe

If you're taking medication that alters your personality, do you let people know? What kind of pitfalls or issues do you face with this kind of thing?

Just started taking a medication that makes me a little hyper, and apparently very cheerful. I can't help but think that coworkers and friends are going to wonder if I started taking speed, or if I'm going crazy. Should I let them know? Or would that be weird?

I'm also finding it a little bizarre to be acting in ways that I have never acted. Although in a way I feel like this is the way life should have really been all along, I'm sure that people who go through chemically-induced personality changes have to grapple with some identity issues. Is there any good writing on this? How have you dealt with it, or have you been able to just enjoy the ride?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you just started taking the medication, the marked effects may lessen over the next couple of weeks. At the very least I would wait to talk about it with anyone not personally close to you until things shake out a bit.

In general, anyway, I would not share any more of your medical information than necessary with people in the workplace. Especially changes for the good, I'd just let ride. That's advice based purely on personal preference.
posted by OmieWise at 7:14 AM on April 26, 2006

I've been in your situation, if the medication you're taking is an SSRI. Like OmieWise says, if all continues to go well, in the next few weeks the edgy side effects will go away -- and it won't seem so conspicuous.

It's not exactly what you're looking for, but I found Undoing Depression to be an interesting read during that stage of my life. O'Connor maintains that many depressives have a hard time changing their mindset after they take care of the chemical issues, and he offers some cognitive strategies for doing so.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:34 AM on April 26, 2006

I had a similar experience with taking medication. My co-workers and friends noticed, but just thought I was getting laid...a lot. I let them think this and kept on smiling. The cheerfulness and hyper feeling also diminished after about a month - or rather, just evened out.
posted by meerkatty at 7:46 AM on April 26, 2006

I think it depends on what it is and, more importantly, what it's treating. It shouldn't, but it does. If you're taking pseudoephedrine because your nose, she is clogged, and it makes you hyper than I'd just go ahead and say something... "I'm a little hyper, aren't I? Sorry -- just some decongestants I'm on right now." I mean, who cares if you've got a cold, or some allergies?

But if you're taking medication for a condition that others might view negatively (which might include depression), then it's none of their goddam business and you don't have to tell them jack shit unless you actively want to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:29 AM on April 26, 2006

I had a girlfriend who was experiencing the same things you mention.

With her the effects were so marked (unconditional blissful feelings, being hyper to the level of distractednes, not being able to concentrate for a prolonged time, being too open) that they interfered with her ability to do work. If she had had that personality from the beginning she would have chosen a different line of work.

Steps she took: take the medication in smaller doses across the day. One dose per day resulted with her in uneven blood levels of the medication.

She lessened the dose a bit according to advice by her fysician.

Also eating a bit seemed to help a bit when the effects were too much.

In the end she changed to a different antidepressant that did not have these undesired extremes.

By the way: her general fysician really wasn't that knowledgeable about the undesired effects and the differences between individuals and alternative medication. When she consulted a psychiatrist she got much better advice.
posted by jouke at 9:19 AM on April 26, 2006

I think you may also be overestimating how much they care, really. Not that you're not a wonderful human being; I just think we all tend to overestimate how big a role we play in other people's thoughts. They may notice a change and react for a bit, but once that becomes the "new normal," they'll likely cease to notice.

I had a teacher in high-school who was a total grump, extremely frumpy, mean, just unpleasant to be around. Sometime in my senior year she got her hair cut into a really cute style, started smiling all the time, and just acted totally happy. For about a week all of us thought, "She must have finally found a guy!" After that week, the novelty wore off and we just thought of her new self as normal, and responded to her as if she had always been happy and pleasant, even though it was completely different from how she had been for years and years.
posted by occhiblu at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2006

If you are taking psychotropic medications, my advice would be to keep it between you and your therapist. There can be some real downsides to being open about such things.
posted by phewbertie at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2006

There are a lot of idiots that confuse an inability to properly control your emotions with an inability to reason (2+2=5, etc.). They'll take this belief as license to dismiss you out of hand when they disagree with you, regardless of the merits of your argument. They're everywhere and you can't avoid them so don't say anything to anyone. In my case, it's far too late, and I sincerely wish I'd never mentioned it to anybody.

Yes, the personality changes are normal. Yes, it is a little weird, but if you've got something difficult to treat that requires significant experimentation to fix, I can nearly guarantee you'll get used to it after the first few times. The only thing really notable as far as I'm concerned is that it destroyed the last vestiges of my belief in free will.
posted by Ryvar at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2006

I'd say your coworkers don't need to know. Close friends, maybe. Family, maybe. But only in the context of talking about the problem in a general sense. I mean, if you've never discussed the mental health issues before, there's no need to spurt out "I'm on medication!" If people who don't know about the mental health ask about the changes, you can say "I've been feeling a lot better these days," or something along those lines if you don't feel comfortable discussing the subject.

If you really want to mess your head up, start asking yourself if you're a better person when you're on the medication--and what that means about you in your "natural" state. Haven't quite figured that one out myself.
posted by schroedinger at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2006

My suggestion is that you check with your doctor. Depending on just how "cheerful" you are, you might be showing an underlying predisposition to bipolar disorder.

Especially if you are taking an antidepressant.

And yes, I know this from experience.
posted by konolia at 1:09 PM on April 26, 2006

When I was on adderall, I became significantly more energetic, thinner, and obsessive, and I drank about 100x more water than I had before, and started smoking a pack a day. I didn't go around volunteering the reason to everyone I knew, but when people asked, I told them. The truth is always easier to remember anyway.
posted by bingo at 1:57 PM on April 26, 2006

I would keep the information to myself, unless someone asks about the changes. Even then, I would have to think about who was asking before I told them much. I don't think that many people notice things like this in other people though.

OTOH, someone I know makes it a habit to discuss her depression meds with anyone who indicates even the slightest interest. She says she finds it liberating to bring these kinds of things forward. I think she's crazy, but that always seems redundant in this situation...
posted by schwap23 at 4:01 PM on April 26, 2006

Maybe they think you're happy because it's springtime.
posted by salvia at 4:42 PM on April 26, 2006

How ironic, I just went back on Adderall and Cymbalta today. There is a dramatic difference in my personality when I'm on them and my boss doesn't like it at all. (I'm usually on the hyper side and very talkative and funny, on meds I"m mellow, quiet and keep to myself because I"m working).

My boss and one other person at work know about the meds, but the college kids I work with don't. They all did notice my quiet mood today and asked if I was ok. I learned my lesson about making jokes about my meds so now I keep that stuff fairly quiet.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:53 PM on April 26, 2006

If adderall chills you out, then you must be one seriously chilled out mofo.
posted by bingo at 11:02 PM on May 2, 2006

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