This is one question I get asked a lot and so I thought it would be helpful to share with you my thoughts on this. I have a lot of experience working with clients who are weighing up their medication options however I do need to point out that medication is not my area of expertise and you should always discuss the specific details of your medication with your GP or Psychiatrist- especially when you want to come off it. When you withdrawal from the medication you will most likely experience all the same side effects that you felt when you first went on it so it needs to be taken away in a very specific way as to make this a little more manageable.
Some clients say that they don’t feel as low or negative on their anti-depressant medication, but equally, they often report feeling flat and lacking any positive emotion too. Often people tell me that this feels even worse because at least when they were sad they were feeling something. At times people start acting in risky ways in order to feel anything. If you feel like this you should definitely discuss this with your GP and your therapist. A different medication may be the answer, or perhaps medication isn’t the right thing for you.
In terms of therapy, there are pro’s and con’s to medication and I think the balance is different for everyone. Some people worry that the medication will mask what they are really feeling and therefore therapy won’t address the real issues. To some extent I think this can be true. If people are coming to sessions without having had any experiences during the week that they want to tackle then therapy won’t really be hitting the mark because you can’t be practising the skills that you need to learn in order to feel more equipped to deal with life in the long run.
On the other hand, therapy is often very challenging and as therapists we ask an awful lot of our clients. We ask you to face your fears, to talk about intimate painful experiences, and to put all your trust in us when your gut is telling you to run. For some, this feels completely unmanageable without having the edge of their anxiety or depression taken away. In these instances, taking medication can help you to slow down and think more logically about how to tackle life. This means that for some they can actually get more from therapy by tackling it with medication.
Often I talk to my clients about how to come off medication post treatment. People worry that without the medication they will relapse and be back at square one and to be realistic there is always the possibility that a badly timed withdrawal in the middle of significant stress could be very difficult. However, if people have positively engaged in therapy then they will be tackling life without medication with a host of new coping mechanisms and insight that they did didn’t have, or couldn’t access, prior to therapy. This means that when things don’t go to plan, as they inevitably will as some point, you will have more skills to be able to deal with the unpleasantness of this.
As an ending note I would just like to say that emotions can be unpleasant, however we are all human and as such we should feel emotions. They alert us. A life without emotion is often a very negative experience as totally avoidance often eliminates positive emotions too. Rather than trying to ignore unpleasant emotions with medication or skills, accept that they exist in all of us and accepting them often means they pass over quicker.