In episode 308, I received a question from a concerned listener looking for advice on how best to support their friend who, having previously stopped taking medication because of the numbness that came with it, is struggling with her days and wondering whether to return to her prescription for support. In this post, I offer my thoughts on the situation and take a look at how medication can help give the boost to make positive changes in life.
Hey Robert just came across your page. Definitely gonna start listening to your podcast. I just wanted to ask some advice. A loved one of mine has kind of dealt with bad anxiety/depression her whole life. About 2yrs ago she started on 20mg cipralex (lexapro in Canada). She described it as it got rid of the anxiety but also got rid of all the good feelings she got tired of feeling numb and quit cold turkey. (That was rough) Lately she has been feeling some days that she needs to get back on it. What could you recommend supplement/food/ activity-wise for her to begin healing herself. Thank you in advance.
Thank you for finding me and checking out the podcast. Be sure to have a look through the archives at duffthepsych.com using the search bar to see if there are other episodes that have covered topics of interest to you. I’ve made tons of content about anxiety and depression including books about both, numerous podcast episodes and blog posts, and even an online course for anxiety.
One thing I want to address here is the fact that she tried medication, didn’t like it, and then went off. I highly encourage people to work with their providers when it comes to medications rather than just making decisions like that. Of course, a person has a right to do what they want with their body, but as you mentioned, suddenly quitting a med cold turkey can be rough. There are also other alternatives to simply stopping a med, such as going down in dosage or adding other medications or supplements. For instance, I am on the same medication as she is, but at half the doseage. I have only noticed good effects from it. No feeling of being a zombie or reduction of good feelings. It also may be the case that she had a resolution of her anxiety more than depression, so she had more courage to engage in activities, but not a lot of increased motivation to engage in them. In cases like this, there could be another medication like Wellbutrin that is more effective.
Regardless, it’s also pretty normal to periodically go on and off of medication throughout your life. There will inevitably be seasons of life where your mental illness is more challenged than others. Sometimes you can also feel a sense of confidence that is brought about by the progress you have made on medication, which doesn’t necessarily persist when the medication is discontinued. All of this is common in individuals that use medication to treat their mental health issues. Please take all of this with a grain of salt. I am a psychologist and not a psychiatrist. In the US that means that I can’t prescribe medication.
You asked about what other supplements she might be able to use. She should really talk to her doctor about this, but there are some things. For example, St. John’s wort is a plant that has been used for a very long time as a supplement for mood. It essentially acts as a mild antidepressant and antianxiety medication, with effects very similar to SSRIs. This is available over-the-counter in many countries, not requiring a doctor prescription. There are also other possibilities. For example, magnesium and B12 may be of some assistance for anxiety. Again, this is a conversation she should have with her doctor. I would advise her to get some blood work done. There are a number of physical issues that can contribute to depression symptoms. Thyroid issues, vitamin deficiencies, anemia, etc. Having a full panel done can help to narrow things down and see if there are any obvious culprits that can be addressed.
If she does need to go back on medication, there is nothing shameful about that. It is often the case that the first course of medication is a learning experience that can be used to inform the next time. For example, sometimes people rely a little too much on medication. By that, I meant that medications absolutely help and serve their purpose, but they are also limited in some ways. Medications don’t change your habits, behaviors, or the circumstances of your life. To have the biggest impact, meds need to be combined with changes to lifestyle, habits, and behaviors. Let’s say that someone has significant depression that prevents them from engaging in activities that used to bring them pleasure. Their life has become more limited because they feel a lack of inspiration and energy. The medications can help them feel some relief from the crushing impact of their symptoms, which not only leads to more happiness but allows them to have the space to engage in activities more. This is where it can be helpful to do therapy and make lifestyle changes that will support the impact of the medications.
For example, there are a lot of basic things like getting exercise, maintaining a good diet, establishing a good sleep schedule, and finding a routine that works for you that can be done when the meds give you the ability to. Not all at once, mind you. But the idea is that some of these habits may sustain even after the medications may be discontinued. If she hasn’t done therapy, that would also be something to encourage. I know I talk about it all the time on the show, but it’s effective. Medications and therapy together are a very powerful thing as well. Given that she has struggled with these psychiatric symptoms throughout her life, there are probably some underlying factors and reasons that the symptoms developed. If those are unaddressed, she may only be able to make so much of a dent in her symptoms. There are also a gazillion books, courses, and other resources out there that give ideas for coping with both depression and anxiety. I’d say that some fundamental skills are journaling, mindfulness, behavioral activation, understanding thinking traps, and deep breathing. These are all topics that I have covered before, so again, check out the search bar on the website for more information.
On your side, you said this person is a loved one, so I really appreciate the concern. But be careful not to take on too much burden for yourself. You can’t change for her. You can lead to resources, provide support, and be compassionate. But there’s only so much you can do. This is her responsibility even if you are an important part of her support network.
So again, thank you for caring. This is a good question. Be sure to dig into some of the resources I mentioned or send them over to her.
You can listen to this on Episode 308 of the podcast!
Thank you for the great question!
If you know someone else who might benefit from this, please do share it with them. Send them a link or shoot over a screenshot, and share it on social media to show your support – you never know who needs to hear this type of information.
Got a topic or a guest you’d like to appear on the show? Or interested in having Duff answer a question on the podcast? Please get in touch! Email Duff and maybe you’ll hear it on a future episode!
Want to help out the show and Duff the Psych?
- Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
- Leave a podcast review on iTunes. These reviews really help Duff reach potential listeners, and he appreciates every one!
- Share the show on Facebook or Twitter.
- You can also buy Duff a cup of coffee, which helps fuel the energy that goes straight back into creating more content for YOU!