OCD and Medication

The topic of medication for obsessive-compulsive disorder comes up a lot in blogs, and always seems to incite lively conversation. There is talk of the stigma surrounding medication that society has perpetuated; some patients admit to feeling weak, or like a failure, for needing meds, even though intellectually they know it’s no different from taking medication for a physical illness. Others are adamant about never taking anything because it’s just “not for them,” while some are completely fine with taking meds. There are those who say meds have wreaked havoc on their lives, while others swear that medication literally saved their lives. Doctors themselves confirm that the use of psychotropic medication involves a lot of “trial and error.”

Everyone’s story is different, of course, and I think that’s what makes the issue of medication for OCD so complicated. There’s no set protocol. What helps one person may hurt someone else. What works for someone now may not work for them in six months, or a year, or it’s possible one particular medication could be helpful for their entire lives.

For me, the question that often seems so hard to answer is “How do you really know if your meds are helping you?” In a previous post, I wrote about how poorly my son Dan was doing when he was taking various medications to combat his OCD. At the time I thought, “If he’s this bad off with the meds, I hate to think what he’d be like without them.”  Turns out the meds were a huge part of the problem, and once off them, he improved by leaps and bounds.

Of course this is just his story. Others have stories of great improvement with meds. Still others have stories that are not so cut and dried, so obvious. If someone has been on a medication for a year and is feeling “okay,” we don’t know if they would feel better, or worse, without it. Unless we’re able to clone ourselves and conduct a controlled experiment where the only variable is the medication, there is no way of really knowing how a drug is affecting you.

Because of this ambiguity, I think it is so important to share our stories, both of success and failure, in regards to using medication for OCD. Sharing can raise awareness of side-effects, drug interactions, or withdrawal symptoms. It can also bring attention to the possible benefits of certain drugs, as well as new medications on the horizon. While having a doctor you trust is essential, it is also important to advocate for yourself and learn everything you can, good and bad, about the medications you are taking or considering.

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13 Responses to OCD and Medication

  1. 71 & Sunny says:

    Medication is a huge hot button issue! One of the reasons I hesitated going back on meds after being off of them for 11 years was that I kept reading and hearing how “everyone in America is on something. Everyone’s looking for a happy pill, blah, blah, blah.” That really made me feel bad. I didn’t want to take the easy way out. Of course, I realize that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I definitely haven’t taken the easy way out. Living with OCD has been brutal and the meds currently take the edge off for me. I can do ERP easier. I don’t cry every single day anymore. There are minor side effects, but I’ve decided to live with them for now as the benefits outweigh them.

    I’ve also been one of those people whose medication has wreaked havoc on her life as well. In the mid 90’s I was put on a large dose of medication for almost 4 years. Looking back I realize that I was completely doped up. My personality changed. I slept approximately 14-15 hours/day, at least. The side effects were intolerable and were hurting my marriage. I got off of the meds and didn’t go back on again until 2011 because I was also afraid I would react like that to all meds. Of course, I am now aware that I am extremely sensitive to meds and I am not one of those people with OCD that needs a high dose to get a good result. But, like you say, it is trial and error. Thankfully, I am getting much better results now.

    • ocdtalk says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Sunny. It’s too bad that your experience in the 90’s kept you from being on the proper meds until 2011, but I totally understand that. Dan had such a bad experience with meds that he is dead set against them. Thankfully he is doing well without them now, but it’s always good to have an open mind when deciding the best course of action…

  2. Tina Barbour says:

    An insightful post, Janet. You’re right–conversations about medications can turn lively! And you’re right about it not being an all-or-nothing matter. Meds help some people, but not everyone. Medication quite literally saved my life. It saved me from suicide when I was 26. But I’ve been on some meds that turned my life inside out and gave me so much anxiety, I could barely function. Thankfully, I’m on a good combination now. But I have a very good doctor, too.

    Thank you for reminding us of the value of sharing our medication stories.

  3. ocdtalk says:

    Having a food doctor is crucial, don’t you think, Tina? I’m so glad you found the right combination for you, especially after having bad experiences……thanks for sharing!

  4. Yes, it is SO true. I have taken so many meds over the years and even when finding a good combo it hasn’t always lasted. And I have even had some who oppose all meds and think I should just change my diet and take supplements. Which honestly seems a bit weird to me and scares me. No meds?? No way!

  5. Andrea says:

    I think about this all the time. I do still have trouble accepting the fact that I am on meds now. I am still on a very low dose & do wonder if I would feel better if I went up a bit. We would like to have another baby soon so I am holding off on that for now. For me, starting a med was a very difficult decision & it took me 2.5yrs to finally try. I do believe it helps a bit, but I wonder if this is something that will ever really go away completely.

  6. ocdtalk says:

    Andrea, your comment really illustrates so many of the common thoughts and emotions that go along with taking meds for OCD…….having a doctor who you feel comfortable with and trust is key when making all those decisions, I think……..

  7. I am so blessed to have found a medication that works for me. I’ve been on Prozac since 1994, and haven’t had a problem with it. For me, taking the medication has been a miracle. Yes, I still have OCD, of course, that will never go away, but the meds have enabled me to have a life, leave my house, have a job, and think about something else besides whatever thought is torturing me at the moment,

  8. ocdtalk says:

    Thanks for commenting, Ruth. I’m so happy to hear of your “success story” with medication, especially for such a long period of time. That’s great!

  9. KAREN VILLA says:

    I take Zoloft which helps with my depression and helps with my OCD, it helps with the thinking riturals I have, and for me the side effects are dry mouth and hand tremors which do not interfere with my activities, its just noticeable to me

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