A Baffled Look

The straight dope on mental health

Month: February, 2013


I suppose all medications have side effects, but my experiences with psych meds have been very frustrating. Zyprexa made me gain 45 pounds. I spent hours at the gym and counted calories and still gained. Everyone assumes you have no discipline when you’re fat. I was miserable so what was the point of taking it? With Seroquel I couldn’t swallow and had my period for half the month. To this day I’m afraid of choking on my food even though I haven’t taken Seroquel for years. Invega raised my prolactin levels and depleted my sex drive. Depakote raised my liver enzymes. . Lithium made me throw up. Cogentin, a drug used to reduce the side effects of antipsychotics, caused urinary retention. That was scary. Imagine not being able to pee even though you have to go.

And then there’s the matter of being misdiagnosed and given drugs that are contraindicated for the condition you really have. I once went to a county mental health provider for an outpatient evaluation. I saw a therapist who talked to a nurse, who talked to a doctor. I never got to see the doctor. The therapist told me that I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the nurse gave me a prescription for Ritalin, which is a stimulant. After I took it, I became enraged over the slightest transgressions. I couldn’t sleep. So I went back to the county mental health provider and told them what I had experienced. The nurse prescribed an antidepressant and told me to take it with the Ritalin. I left and never went back. I didn’t want to take any of it. My current diagnosis is Bipolar Disorder and uppers like Ritalin cause manic episodes.

It’s also frustrating to try so many different meds until I can find something tolerable and then those meds stop working. So then the whole crap-shoot of finding something that works happens again. It’s a pain in the ass.

I can understand how the antipsychiatry folks feel, but I’ve tried repeatedly to discontinue taking medication and it hasn’t worked. So I take them and the current cocktail I’m on (no one with a psychiatric condition takes only one drug anymore) seems to be working well. I lost the weight that I had gained.  I suppose I should be grateful. But it’s not easy.

I don’t like the idea of outpatient commitment – being forced to take medication on an outpatient basis – because of the horrific side effects of some of the psych meds. I see lots of frustrated relatives of mentally ill people embrace the idea of outpatient commitment. They don’t take psych meds so they have no clue about what it’s like to experience these side effects. I have news for them; they’re not magic pills. The medication I’m on helps, but I still have some symptoms. There are a lot of things I still can’t do. A few pills won’t make me whole.


Shell Shocked

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that sometimes occurs after a traumatic event. Symptoms include feelings of re-experiencing the trauma, nightmares, avoidance of things that remind the victim of the trauma, emotional numbing and hypervigilance. Other psychiatric conditions, including drug or alcohol dependence, depression and panic disorder, often coexist with this disorder. Treatment can include therapy and medications. This condition occurs more often in women. The following links might be helpful.


The National Institute of Mental Health gives an overview of PTSD symptoms and where to find some resources.


PsychCentral has an extensive overview.


The Mayo Clinic provides an overview of the types of treatment someone with this disorder might need.


The Department of Veteran Affairs explains types of therapies used and what to expect from a therapist and epidemiological information.



About.com and the VA list resources about helping victims cope.



What to look for in a self-help book – be sure to ask your therapist before you buy anything.


The VA has some pointers and referrals to peer support groups.


Trauma Pages provides extensive links to research.



I apologize for just throwing up a bunch of links the past few weeks, but I haven’t been feeling well and needed a break. Hopefully next week’s post will be better.

It doesn’t mean “split mind”

Schizophrenia 101

The word schizophrenia comes from the Greek roots skhizein (“to split”) and
phrēn, phren- (“mind”), but schizophrenia does not imply a “split personality. It is a chronic, debilitating brain disorder. Symptoms of the disorder include hallucinations, delusions (false beliefs that do not change when evidence to the contrary is overwhelming) and bizarre thoughts and ideas. Other symptoms include blunted emotional responses and lack of motivation. This illness usually presents itself during young adulthood, but is usually preceded by more subtle symptoms (called prodromal phase) such as social withdrawal, irritability and eccentricity.

PsychCentral is huge site with lots of information and support.



Research and clinical trials

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people with a particular illness. They are designed to address very specific methods of treatment.



Science Daily reports on recent research findings:



Schizophrenia.com doesn’t have the most recent antipsychotics listed, but has information on how to get free or low cost medications.


Drugs.com has the most up-to-date list of antipsychotic medications and their side effects that I’ve found.




Discussion boards:





Online and Face to face support group:


Support for caregivers




The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has face to face support groups all over the country.


News and Discussion


SZ Magazine is a wonderful magazine chock full of advice on how to cope.




Personal accounts and blogs

Dan Hoeweler writes about creativity and how it relates to schizophrenia.


This one is really good. She goes to school and works.


This site has over a hundred stories by schizophrenics.


Bipolar Disorder Links and Resources

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme highs and lows. This is by no means definitive, but it’s ample enough for a place to start. Some of the sites listed here offer even more links than I have and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.

 Bipolar 101

The best provider of resources is PsychCentral, which provides news, discussion boards and blogs relating to many mental illnesses, not just bipolar disorder.



The National Institute of Mental Health provides a great overview.



The link below features current areas of research. It’s a rather long article, but worthwhile.


Science Daily gives short synopses of current research.


Medical News Today also gives short synopses of current research.


News and Discussion

BP Hope magazine has a free newsletter with topics ranging from the latest research to recent changes in public policy.


The website Lucid Interval provides tips for coping with mania and staying out of the hospital.


John McManamy, a bipolar journalist, provides his take on the latest developments affecting those with bipolar disorder as well as many resources.




WebMD provides a brief overview of the types of medications used for Bipolar Disorder.


Julie A. Fast, a columnist for BP Hope magazine, provides general information on side effects on the different classes of medications.


Drugs.com has exhaustive information about drug interactions.


Mood Charts

Mood charts help track symptoms and make it easier to detect when an episode begins.


The link below provides reviews and links to several types of mood charts.


Screenings for Bipolar Disorder

Counseling Resource Mental Health Library has short quizzes assessing bipolar symptoms.





What would a resources page be without a link to the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance! They can direct you to support groups in your area.


Mood Garden is a discussion board for bipolar disorder.


Another option is to check meetup.com about local groups that meet in person and have a discussion board.


Support Persons

Bipolar Caregivers has information not only about how to help someone who is bipolar, but also gives tips about how caregivers can cope.


Personal accounts and blogs

Kay Jamison, a bipolar researcher and author, provides personal reflection on her illness.


PsychCentral lists popular and well received blogs that focus on various perspectives and subjects relating to bipolar disorder.