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Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Prescribed medication for mental health problems and their side effects

Mental health problems are often treated with medication. Different medications address different symptoms: antipsychotics for psychosis, antidepressants for depression, mood stabilisers for changes in mood and benzodiazepines for anxiety. Other classes of drugs, such as anti-epileptics, can also be used to treat bipolar depression, and yet others used for nerve root pain have been found to be useful in Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Doctors should review medication at least annually, but preferably more frequently.

Mixed feelings about taking medication
Many people had mixed feelings about medication, even though many recognised they needed it and found it helped them live more "normal" lives. Reasons for being unsure included the feeling that if they took medication it would be like admitting that they were unwell. Feeling sad about taking medication long-term and the physical and psychological side effects also caused concern. Many said, however, that medication had really helped and took it because it helped to relieve their symptoms. Some said it helped to keep their mood 'even', 'in the middle' or 'not happy, not sad', and others said medication had helped prevent breakdowns or self-harm. Getting medication from their doctor reassured some people that their symptoms were being taken seriously.

 

David says medication is the only thing that worked for him and it has been a lifesaver.

David says medication is the only thing that worked for him and it has been a lifesaver.

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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Well the negative stuff really prior to seeing my new psychiatrist the services were quite appalling really. I didn't get much help, I didn't seem to have my problems taken seriously. Nobody seemed to have a clear idea of what they were doing about my illnesses. And I seemed to go from one different specialist to another. Even recently I've just finished a course of CBT and even these talking therapies, they don't work. The only thing that seems to really work for me is my medication. Now my medication for my mental health because I've also got diabetes, I'm taking two tablets of fluoxetine a day. So I believe that's 40 milligrams. I'm taking one haloperidol a day and two lamotrigine. The lamotrigine was a new recommendation by my new psychiatrist for, for stabilising my moods in the day and it's helped a lot. It's taken a lot of the pain out of my day. So that's been a pretty beneficial and good thing. All the, all the other negative stuff I mean is, is just , you know, try this, try this therapy, try that therapy and, and none of them really seemed worked. There seem to be two schools of thought on this. One is that, I, by just working on my personality I can change it, and the other one is that, his personality is in place and the only thing that's really going to help him is to have medication and some pretty, shall we say, some heavy duty treatments. And I fall on the side of the heavy duty treatments because I've tried all the soft stuff. Like different therapies, meditation, exercise all of that and it just doesn't work. Whereas since I've been on my medication I really have felt like a different person and it's, it's been a real lifesaver for me. 

And have you got the, the dose right for your medication now or do you have side effects and that sort of thing?

At first when I was put on one fluoxetine a day I had. I had severe headaches and I felt nauseous for a day. But I decided to stick with it because I thought that's a small price to pay. And then, as the weeks went on I started to feel a lot calmer and lot more relaxed. As I've reported back to my psychiatrist and told him how I'm feeling and I'm behaving with, they've come up with this, this regime of tablets and medication that seems to work OK. It's been a very good approach because it's, it's been gradual. Give him a little bit of medication and see how that works. If he's stable that's fine, if not just keep on increasing the dosage and maybe reduce the dosage of something else. So it's been a bit of a trial and error but I don't think I've been a guinea pig or anything like that.

 

Ali says his antidepressant is the best medicine in the world and although it gives him some side...

Ali says his antidepressant is the best medicine in the world and although it gives him some side...

Age at interview: 27
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 26
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And is the medication that you're taking helping?

It gives me a limit of going down. It's like a threshold. I wouldn't go down below that. I wouldn't feel worse than this. It's' Yeah, simply yes, it does help me. But it kills my, I don't know. I'm a very expressionful person, but it sort of kills everything. It's, it makes you a bit more bland. But yes, it does help me, in terms of bad mood swings. Yes.

Levels you out?

Yeah, yeah. I think that's what I wanted to say.

Does... Because you seem to suggest as well that it, it stops you from dipping down

Yeah

but it doesn't necessarily bring you up?

No

Is that right?

Yes. Yes. That's exactly what I wanted to say. Yeah, yeah, it definitely doesn't bring you up. It doesn't make you happy. No. But it doesn't, it doesn't let you become sad. That's I think what it's doing.

 

She's ambivalent about taking an antipsychotic; although she realises she needs it she feels she...

She's ambivalent about taking an antipsychotic; although she realises she needs it she feels she...

Age at interview: 42
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 25
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Over the years I've come to realise that it is very, I mean at first, I mean yeah I've always been trying to sort of get back to normal, like I said you know, people always you know, telling me you know, I, first of all they're telling me ill because I hear the voices, then they give me medication you know, to help me get better and to, you know, but I, and then I think to myself well but if I'm really and truly better I won't be taking this medication. So you know, I've been sort of struggling with it for years to try and come off it, but it hasn't, it hasn't, so far it hasn't worked and I'm looking at homeopathic remedies now but [Rubbing hands together] yeah so but I mean I've always, I was always sort of like trying to say well if I really do get better and I am back to normal then I won't be on the medication but that sort of hasn't worked yet'

When I get very tired on the medication, I get very tired you know, I mean you know, after I get very tired, I don't sleep well as well either, I suffer from insomnia, I have done for the whole of the fifteen years that I've been taking this medication which means that you know, I'm, quite often don't, you know, don't sleep well you know, and I'm always tired. as I think I've mentioned before I, sometimes I shake, I can't sit still I, you know, at night time I have dribbled, you know, just saliva, just you wake up and the pillow is wet and all that kind of thing if you are sleeping. You know, you get terrible side effects and the doctors don't like to, I mean I have to say this they don't like to hear, the doctors and professionals in mental health they don't like to hear you know, that the medication is, you know, there's anything you know, sort of detrimental about the medication. When not only does it give you terrible side effects but I mean seven out of ten I mean because I wanted to change my medication a while ago and I said to my doctor, 'I'd like to change my medication,' and he's very good, you know, he's not too bad for you know, a white middle class man you know, attending a Caribbean woman, well you know, second generation Caribbean you know, he can be understanding but he just you know, , you know, so you know, I give him credit where credit is due. But , so he brought in a load of information about other medications and I just surprised to hear that seven out of ten of them cause, you know, affect the heart, cause murmurs in the heart and all other kind of things and three of them actually cause you know, stroke or heart attack or something like that. And you know, they're giving you this and you know, it just, I mean you know, they're just, I mean you know, they're just, I know they're just sort of handing out death to really and I mean. And there are I think, I think people with mental health problems apart from suicide live something like that 10 to 11% shorter lives than the average person in the population. So you know, it's just, it's, it's you know, and you've got to take this knowing that it's possibly doing some good to you, giving you some kind of normalisation to your head but it's destroying your body and you know, how long are you going to live on it? And you have to take it for you know, the rest of your life, that's what people are saying. So you know, I mean you've got all this to cope with and first these crazy episodes when you're doing mad things, it's a very depressing world.

Some thought mental illness was caused by a chemical imbalance and believed that medication restored this balance, but not everyone agreed (this view is not supported by scientific evidence). Medication also helped people to sleep - particularly important for those who worked - and to feel calmer or generally feel better. A few people said medication helped them recover, though most expected to continue taking medication long-term to manage their condition rather than expecting to be symptom free (see 'Recovery'). One woman who found medication helpful wondered whether it was just a placebo effect. Overall, people judged that their medication was right for them when it controlled their symptoms and they could get on with their lives.

Some people found that medication didn't help their symptoms (or didn't help enough). 

 

Chapman says that taking medication did not help his symptoms and he has tried several different...

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Chapman says that taking medication did not help his symptoms and he has tried several different...

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 20
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OK. And I know you said why you think he gave you that diagnosis, but why do you think you don't have that, is there something about that diagnosis that you think is not right for you?

Because if I had that the medication that I'm on would be working but, would have made a difference but it's still the same up to now, there's nothing, nothing's changed, it's still the same voices, hearing the stuff, seeing, seeing the stuff which I don't want to be seeing. Images and all that.

Have you, you've only had that one type of medication did you say?

No I've had different medications, they've changed me I think, they've changed me some medications about three times.

Right OK but nothing's'? 

Nothing has done the trick I should put it that way.

Right, can you remember what the others were?

No I can't.

Some people with psychosis said that medication only reduced but did not stop, their voices or intrusive thoughts. One man, however, said his latest medication (aripiprazole) completely rid him of psychotic symptoms. A few people felt worse when they started taking medication and others mentioned that medication took time to work - although some felt the effects immediately. One man thought he should have had something else to help his depression in the four week period he waited for his medication to work. He said he felt like taking alcohol or drugs to help him cope, and on one occasion attempted suicide because the medication wasn't working. For others, the effect of medication was temporary, or on and off. 

Side effects
Most people we talked to experienced side effects and these caused concern  (find out more about antidepressant side effects). Common side effects of various kinds of medication included drowsiness, poor concentration and memory, feeling flat or emotionless, and weight gain. Many people also experienced physical side effects such as dribbling, dry mouth, headache, dizziness or the shakes. People also described losing control of their legs: one man described shuffling around and having to walk on his hands and knees. He thought he had been given a bigger dose of the medication because he's Black, but says he wanted to get better so he listened to the doctors. 

 

Devon says he was given bigger dose because he is Black, and couldn't walk properly as a result,...

Devon says he was given bigger dose because he is Black, and couldn't walk properly as a result,...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 22
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So I was down in the hospital on all fours, very badly treated. Either because of institutionalised racism, because of my long hair and smoking dope. Being sectioned for no reason. I responded to treatment and that's why I got better. The other thing why I got on to the responding treatment I worked with the people that were helping me, the doctors, where other folks, other Black guys who didn't, they gave them the medication' Oh it affected me physically, I was like this on all fours. But because I wanted to get better, and get back out into the community and do my music. That is what gave me the driving power, the will to get better. Because people said to me, 'Devon you are a good musician. You write songs, your band.' So that made me really want to better and get out there and do my music again. 

So I listened to what the doctor was saying to me. I never disregarded. They used to say to me, 'We are going to give you this medication.' Some of the guys would say, they would fight them. 'No way.' I said, 'Give it to me. Even though it was making me bad.' Because I knew that was the right thing to do. I said to myself, 'These are doctors and nurses. They're not trying to harm me.' Because when you are paranoid you think people are trying to hurt you or harm you. It did seem that way to me at some point, that they were trying to hurt me, or trying to harm me. But something in the back of my head said, 

'They have been trained. They wouldn't want to harm you. They've been trained. If they have been trained as doctors and nurses why would they harm me?' But other folks because of their paranoid mentality, it seems that they are trying to have a go at them and that is why I responded to the treatment I was getting.

Other people described more unusual side effects. 

 

Ataur's antidepressant made his head burn and itch and caused pain in his joints.

Ataur's antidepressant made his head burn and itch and caused pain in his joints.

Age at interview: 60
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 17
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Well a lot of time the joint, joint paining or something, you need a massage, [frowning] or head is burning or itching, all those tablets is doing that.

Oh you think it's side effects?

Side effect [nods] but you have to, you can't take another tablet to, not to have a side effect, then you're taking too many tablets so therefore I try and, well my GP is a very friendly person, my doctor, he advise me try to take as less as possible the sleeping tablet and depression tablet. Well if you have to you can't help it, you take it. And I think it's same thing because all this year I'm taking a drug, well tablet is a drug, I mean I take pain killer, I take sleeping tablet, I take depression tablet I take cholesterol tablet, I have to take aspirin for the circulation [circles arm] of blood, this is a lot of tablets, you know.

You're not very keen on taking so many tablets?

Well now I'm old man I have to take it because, I have to it take it because without tablets I can't do.

So you've resigned yourself to having to take them?

Yes from 60, you see when I have a problem, a depression in 1967 I take it, then I get better but I keep on taking, taking, taking and then I give up a few years. And some of the problems come as I told you before, you know, so, [pause] you see I don't want to take a tablet for nothing but when I have to do it then I have no other choice. Instead of getting worse in my health, my mind and my , for running business, or running life it is better to have a tablet to take a, have a stable and not too aggressive way to talk and things like that.

 

Raj's prescribed medication made him dribble, gave him bad breath, blood in the toilet, and...

Raj's prescribed medication made him dribble, gave him bad breath, blood in the toilet, and...

Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
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Do you take any medicine for depression?

No, for depression the doctor's medicines were giving me side effects so I read a herbal medicine in some magazine that you can take from Holland and Barrett's.

Ginseng?

Not Ginseng, St John's wort. [section removed] German doctor has done a survey in Germany and they work well, [section removed] when I went to psychiatrist there was that magazine. When I tried those pills, they suited me and then I told the doctor that I have tried this medicine after reading in the magazine. It works well and it has no side effect then the doctor told me to buy it and take these.

What was the side effect of doctor's medicine?

With that medicine water was coming from your mouth and your mouth smells when you are eating bread or you were feeling giddy or blood in the toilet or a smell from your urine. These were the side effects but the Holland and Barratt medicines suited me to the extent that I bought and take them myself.

Side effects can be serious: people experiencing drowsiness described being in danger when operating machinery at work, falling asleep on a bus late at night, being late for work and not being able to care for children. Other side effects caused people a great deal of distress. 

 

The drowsiness caused by too high a dose of her medication led her to fall asleep on a bus late...

The drowsiness caused by too high a dose of her medication led her to fall asleep on a bus late...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 22
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It was a time when the bus took me away, fell asleep from downtown, the number 5 right back into [district]. I got awoke and then the surroundings wasn't familiar so I saw the driver looking at me and smiling and he said to me, 'Where, you, you have lost your stop?' And I said, 'Yes.' And he said, 'Where, where are you supposed to get off?' And I said, what's the plaza name again' I can't remember the name of the plaza but it's in [district], [district], [plaza] and he said 'No worries I'll take you back to [plaza].' Came, told him thanks, but I was a bit frightened because in the back of my mind, it's coming to me now, the bus is empty, suppose he had taken me further and suppose he had taken, suppose he was not a good busman and he taken me to rape me or kill me or rob me, nobody would know because I was living alone in [district], it was a bedsit. That's before I met [my husband]. So I walked home and I say, I have to tell my doctor this. So anyway she took me off the 5mg and kept me on three 1mg. Still sleeping. So now [caseworker] took it up and he investigated it and she recently she has now halved me on two 1mg. A day like today I'm not sleeping because I went to bed early last night just to get in gear for you.

 

When she takes her medication she is "knocked out" for 2 days and there is no-one to look after...

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When she takes her medication she is "knocked out" for 2 days and there is no-one to look after...

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 24
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Once I've taken my tablet, I'm knocked out, I'm no use for nobody [sighs]. So that's, you know, that's what I have to do is take my tablets, knock myself out, sleep two, a couple of days, miss two days, then wake up. And you don't know what's gone on next day. You're missing a day out. And I think that's no life. 

And I'm sick of going to doctors all the time, because they're always saying, “It's anxiety.” If you've got something wrong with you, they'll just write you a prescription. “Here you are. Take your tablets.” They'll just put you on tablets all the time. I mean I don't want to be a zombie all my life, and I don't want to take tablets. I'm not one for tablets. I only take them when I really really need them, when I feel like I'm going down and down and down. But that's when I take a tablet and that's when I'm knocked out for a day or two. And I don't know if my kids are dressed, I don't know if my kids are fed. So I'm waking up, I'm waking up with a house upside-down. The kids, they're only young in their self, but they clean up, they do what they can. But I'm waking up, there's the house untidy, there's nowt in the house, there's no cooking being done. So I think to myself, “It's a waste of time knocking yourself out, [Shareen].” The house needs cleaning, the cooking needs doing. So I keep myself going. I mean in the morning when I get up, I get my kids up, get their breakfast. I should have a cup of coffee for myself first. But I don't. I do everything, I clean the house from top to bottom. About 12 o'clock I sit down and say, “Now I'll have a drink.” I don't eat. My food, every time I eat I get like indigestion. It sticks in me.

 

Sara was distressed when the antipsychotic she was forced to take gave her facial hair,...

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Sara was distressed when the antipsychotic she was forced to take gave her facial hair,...

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 17
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And one of the side effects of the medication was that I started growing facial hair and they had no kind of understanding that that would be distressing for me, or that, you know, the huge weight gain was distressing for me, or that the fact that I couldn't manage to care for myself and that I couldn't go out do the things that I used to do. And it was kind of like, well you're sick now, this is your life from now on.

You know, and one time the nurse did say to me, because I said to her, 'Am I going to have to do what the psychiatrist says for the rest of my life?' And she went, 'Well, preferably yes.'

I had beard growth from the medication. I was just wearing people's cast offs because none of my clothes would fit me because I was so big. And one of the lesser known side effects of that antipsychotic medication is urinary incontinence and it is listed in the, in the book, the prescribing reference book, but it, I was never told that would happen and so I would, I would sometimes have accidents, which if you, because I couldn't wash, so I would just take my clothes off and throw them away and then put something else on.

 Yeah and I used to get beer cans thrown at me as I walked down the street and stuff and get shouted at, 'You need a razor,' and things like that which was. I think I had to get to the point where I didn't care, you know, otherwise I would never have left the house.

 

Jay describes various side effects and felt "dirty" because one type of medication made her...

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Jay describes various side effects and felt "dirty" because one type of medication made her...

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But I've had quite a few different medications that are supposed to keep my mood at a certain level. But it doesn't always work like that. I think the effects of medication has been my biggest stumbling block, because it's so public. You can't hide it when you're lactating, because you just don't know when it's going to happen. And you could just sort of brush past something and then you're all wet and you feel dirty in a sense. You just feel completely dirty, even though it's not a dirty thing. But you do feel dirty. And then, you know, when you, I had one that made me dribble. And, oh, my God, it was just awful. Everywhere I go I was, constantly had a tissue there [holds hand against her mouth] in my hand, always at my mouth. It was awful. And then there was the one that, I can't even remember half the names of these things, the ones that just actually made me do this [stares] all the time. I'd be like, oh, caught in the headlights the whole time. And then of course there's the one that makes you sleep all day, and the involuntary movements. I went through all of it until I just said to my GP, 'Look, there has got to be something.' Gone back to the consultant and he put me on quetiapine.

Now I've been on that now for seven, eight years and it's, it's fine. The, the worst part of being on it is that it sedates you heavily and it takes many hours to, to wake up from being sedated. So if you was to, to be at work say till 6 o'clock and you come home at 7 and you kind of potter around like you do, doing dinner or whatever, having something to eat, an that, you'd have to make sure that you took your medication by 9, 10 o'clock, because if you don't, you are not going to be able to wake up until 9, 10 o'clock the next day. And if you're going to work, 9, 10 o'clock is not the time you have to get up. You have to get up at 7, 8 o'clock. So it can cause a lot of late mornings at work. But that's just another story.

 

Michael was distressed when the antipsychotic he was forced to take interfered with swallowing...

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Michael was distressed when the antipsychotic he was forced to take interfered with swallowing...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 15
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I think the other thing that, that I kind of think, experience of choking and swallowing from being given antipsychotic drugs. And I don't know if this is a recognised side-effect but this, I mean I have ongoing swallowing problems anyway and I have to take drugs to prevent acid reflux. And that the feelings seem to be like translate to chest tightening and breathing problems as well. And I find this, you know, very, very disturbing aspect of, of antipsychotic use and it's interesting that it has this sense of suffocation and stifling. It could be seen as, as relating to the experience of, you know, stopping me telling my story and I have to tell you that it is physically difficult for me to communicate when I'm under the influence of drugs and it's really hard to say that that would apply if I was given the drugs purely by themselves without cocktails of other drugs and without having drugs for the swallowing problems withheld. So it's like many different problems but I mean some drug information leaflets are now warning that people with swallowing difficulties might be at special risks of side-effects from anti-psychotics.

 I really need to do some digging on the internet and see if there's some psycho-pharmacological research on this. Is it something that, that you've come across from other people? I mean because people in, in my mental health trust who've been at this hospital have said that they noticed that whilst they, they were being treated there and being given injections and other antipsychotic routes, routes to administer other psychiatric medication that they noticed breathing and, problems and, not so much the swallowing and choking but the breathing problems.

Consequently, some had tried many different kinds of medication and had only recently found one that helped. Others found ways to manage the side effects caused by the medication, such as napping to deal with drowsiness or taking medication at bedtime. One university student took his medication late at night after studying so he could concentrate and remember what he had learnt. A few people took an anticholinergic to relieve the shakes. Many people felt it was worth continuing their medication despite the side effects: one man thought they were “a small price to pay.” 

People also worried about the risks to the heart, brain, and liver and of becoming addicted. A few people worried about forgetting to take their medication or taking too much, and some were helped by their carer.

 

Ugo found it difficult to remember to take her medication and uses a blister pack to help her...

Ugo found it difficult to remember to take her medication and uses a blister pack to help her...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 31
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The only positive thing is they've got me medication right and that I'm feeling a lot better at the moment.

Right

But it doesn't last for long.

OK so can you tell me a bit about the medication that you take?

Yes I'm on an antidepressant called venlafaxine and I'm on diazepam and I'm chlorpromazine which I take three times a day.

And how do you feel about taking your medication?

Well if I don't take it I know I'll become so unwell and that I'll cut and I'll want to hurt my baby so I make sure I take it every day.

OK and do you have to follow certain instructions for taking the medication?

Yes

What?

They're in, they're in blister packs because if I don't have them in the blister packs I wouldn't remember to take them because I wouldn't remember if I'd took them. So the chemist has done them in blister packs for me.

Control over taking medication

A few people said they did not understand what their medication was or how it worked, and some said there was not enough information or evidence about alternative medication that might suit them better. When medication was not working, people sometimes went to their doctor to change their medication or the dose - but doctors didn't always agree with them. One woman felt confused and concerned about the changes to her medication because her doctor gave her no opportunity to discuss them. Another woman had tried numerous medications, and compared one doctor (who was unsympathetic about her side effects) with another who said she could take more of her antipsychotic if she felt like she needed it. While some people trusted their doctor to make decisions for them about medication, others preferred being given more control over what they took and when.

 

Dolly says doctors do not understand side effects, but is pleased her current doctor supports her...

Dolly says doctors do not understand side effects, but is pleased her current doctor supports her...

Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 21
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And you mentioned that you tried before this medication that you have now, 22 others'

Yes

What was it that wasn't right? How come you got through so many do you think?

Well either they didn't work at all or they were extremely sedating, you know, I think, I can't remember which medication it was, but I would sleep like twenty hours a day. Well the doctor said to me, 'Well at least your symptoms have gone.' 'Yes,' I said, 'But I'm not alive really. I'm just sleeping twenty hours a day.' And he said, 'At least your symptoms are gone.' I said, 'You don't get it, don't get it that every person should have a life, you know.' Or it, it gave me kind of really bad physical side effects. So that's why I have gone through so many. And some of that have worked but only for like a year or two, and they have stopped working, so, that's how I've gone through so many. Also I have been, like, you know, been in the system quite a long time as well.

And this one that you're taking now, do you know the name?

It's quetiapine. It's an atypical antipsychotic. It also has the name Seroquel. I mean that has been the most helpful. I am also on an antidepressant called citalopram and I take other medication but that is for physical ailments. That has been the kind of right balance and that has kind of helped me I would say, this last year or so. 

So that controls the symptoms that you normally experience or?

It really helps with paranoia. I'm not as paranoid as I was. The voices are there, but they feel like they're in the other room, rather than right next to me. I mean it just feels like the distance between me and voices has been widened. So that's how the anti psychotic drugs have helped, in that way. The antidepressant, well I don't know if it, it works. I do suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so during the summer I'm OK, but you know, in the winter I do get very low and I don't feel like the antidepressants are working then. So I think, you know, on the whole, it's a good balance.

And do you get, I mean do you get any side effects or anything from those? 

I sometimes get a dry mouth' that's it. I mean they are quite good for side effects as well, you know.

And you've got the dose right?

Well I've been kind of told by my doctor if I feel like I need a bit more, I can give myself a bit more. Not many doctors will say that to their patients [Laughing]. So I have, when I feel like I have gone slightly a bit more paranoid, I will increase it myself. Well just only, you know, not that much, just one more tablet. So for the most part, yes, I am on, you know, the right dose, but I do increase it slightly when needed.

For some medication alone was not enough; they felt it should be combined with other treatments such as talking therapies. One man said he was helped by both medication and prayer (see 'The role of faith, religion & spirituality'). Some thought doctors were only interested in prescribing medication and felt they received little other support with their mental health problems, or with medication side effects. One man thought doctors treat people “like a machine”. One woman, however, had been refused medication despite seeing her doctor several times until she saw another doctor in an emergency.

 

Rehana described her symptoms to her doctor so many times she lost count, and was eventually...

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Rehana described her symptoms to her doctor so many times she lost count, and was eventually...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 44
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So how many times did you have to go back before he gave you the help you wanted?

A lot of times. I lost count.

And what did you actually want him to do for you?

It was a her actually.

Her, sorry

It was a lady doctor. Yeah, a lot of times, yeah. Then that time when I had an attack, I had an attack, emergency doctor, he gave me the pink medicine, he said, 'You've got a severe anxiety attack' and so my husband asked him, 'Is it serious?' He said, 'Yeah kind of.' And so he told me to have a straight away the medicine, two every four hours.

This was in hospital?

No, emergency doctor.

Oh, emergency doctor at home, right.

Doctor, yeah

What medicine did he give you, do you remember?

Propranolol.

Twice a day?

Yeah, no, every four hours.

Every four hours, yeah.

Then after one week, twice a day. Two in the morning, two in the evening.

Did that help?

 Yes, oh yes. Straight away. Straight away. In two hours I can tell I'm feeling better,

Some people had been taking medication for many years (over 30 in some cases). One woman had been taking an antidepressant for a few weeks. A few had been told to expect to be on medication for the rest of their lives, which caused them a great deal of concern. One woman could envisage taking medication for a long time, but hoped to eventually stop taking it. One man felt he was taking too many tablets and wanted to stop taking his antidepressant, but thought he would always need a sleeping tablet so that he could continue to work.

For more experiences of taking anti-depressant medication see Healthtalk websites on ‘Depression’ and ‘Experiences of anti-depressants

Last reviewed September 2018.

Last updated June 2015.

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