Linda has just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BP) and doesn't want to believe it or accept that she needs lifetime medication. Robert feels deeply unhappy most of the time and nearly suicidal some of the time, but doesn't ask for help because he doesn't want to be dependent on meds. Greg is upset because his mood stabilizer has taken away everything he loved about mania. Rhonda's depression has lifted so she's sure she doesn't need to take an antidepressant anymore. Karen and Ralph are so angry about the side effects of their medications that they want to stop taking them.
The bottom line is that if you have a mental illness, you have to take responsibility for your treatment -- and in most cases, that means seeking professional help, accepting that you need medications, working with your mental health provider to find the right combination of meds (often changing them as time passes), and taking the medications that are prescribed for you. It also means discussing side effects with your provider and, as long as they are not dangerous or debilitating, working to find ways to deal with them.
So why do people resist or not take medications? Here are some bad reasons:
1. Meds Are For Life"I don't want to take medications for the rest of my life," says Linda. "There's got to be another way!" The truth is, even if you find an effective alternative treatment for your bipolar disorder, it's still for life. And so far, there are no proven alternative treatments for BP.
If you have a chronic mental illness, it's caused by an imbalance in your brain's chemical and electrical systems, and it's not going to go away on its own. The classic comparison is to diabetes. That doesn't go away. It can be controlled by diet, exercise and medication, but failure to be responsible means you risk gangrene and the loss of eyesight, kidney function and life. Failure to be responsible for your mental health treatment risks such things as your family, your job, your home and, again, your life.
2. I Don't Want to Be Dependent on MedsRobert thinks he should be able to pull out of his depression by himself. "I feel like something is very wrong with me to be so miserable when I am in job I know many people would love to have. I know my family has a history of bipolar, but I really don't want to go on meds."
Denial, denial, denial! Even though Robert is aware of bipolar disorder in his family, he doesn't even ask for a diagnosis because he doesn't want to take medication.
Whether or not to start taking medications is each individual's choice, but by choosing not to do so, Robert is choosing to continue to be miserable.
Next: Two more bad reasons to stop taking medications