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Dealing with the Side Effects

Dealing with The Side-EffectsHaving lived with schizophrenia for almost nine years I’m no stranger to the myriad things that can happen when you’re on a course of antipsychotic medication.

Many times these side effects can be disruptive to everyday life. Sometimes they come on slow and have a lasting impact, such as gaining a significant amount of weight. Sometimes they can be dull, such as drowsiness or a dissociative feeling.

The important thing to remember in all these cases is that side effects are negligible compared to the benefit of the drug.

Still, there are some side effects that can be so disruptive that changing meds is the only thing you can do. I remember when I was first diagnosed and I was put on Abilify. This helped with the paranoia but it caused something that bothered me so much that I refused to continue taking it. It was a condition called akathisia, in which I felt a constant and bothersome restlessness. Every fiber in my being felt like it had to move. This resulted in afternoon long walks in an attempt to wear myself out. The feeling never subsided. Eventually I told my doctor and he prescribed something else.

Most of the time the side effects are manageable. Unless you’re extremely sensitive, little things like drowsiness or a strange taste in your mouth are easy to dismiss eventually.

Over the course of the last nine years, I’ve probably gained about 80 pounds thanks to side effects. When that started to become a problem, we switched my meds again. I’m now slowly losing the weight, but it takes discipline.

The point is to say that whatever med you take, you will inevitably have side effects. The main thing is whether their unpleasantness overtakes the drug’s potential benefit. In my case I’d much rather be sane and deal with a little drowsiness than off the walls with paranoia and delusions.

Some people, citing the side effects and the perceived malpractice of their doctors, choose to go without medications. While that is their own choice, it boggles me to think of having to be constantly under the weight of crippling symptoms.

Many of the side effects of antipsychotic medications can be also be offset by different factors. These include everything from what time you take your meds to being more conscious about your health.

Different medications affect different people differently. It can be hard to figure out what works for you. If something just doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor. There are numerous options out there for people with mental illness.

Don’t be afraid to try something new until you get it right. The number of combinations of meds is immense and it takes a good deal of time to find the right cocktail for you. It will get better if you stay open to the possibilities.

You shouldn’t have to suffer if you don’t want to. Although it’s true that there’s a stigma of taking medications for mental health, you can live better through chemistry.

Dealing with the Side Effects

Michael Hedrick

Mike Hedrick is a writer and photographer in Boulder, CO. He has lived with schizophrenia for many years and his work has been published in Salon, Scientific American and The New York Times. His book is available here You can follow his blog on living with schizophrenia here

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APA Reference
Hedrick, M. (2018). Dealing with the Side Effects. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 3 Jan 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.