Friday, May 27, 2011

OCD A to Z: M is For Medication

seratonin and dopamine went walking

I knew I wanted to write about medication as my M word, but I was feeling anxious about it. My path to taking medication was long and convoluted. I'm up to Part 7.5 of my medication story, as you'll see from the list of posts below. In Part 7.5, I had been off my SSRI antidepressant(pitifully low dose for OCD) for several months, and increasingly trapped in my anxiety about my body.

My incessant seeking of answers about my symptoms led to more medical tests, including a biopsy and a freak accident, after which I could barely sit or walk, and all manner of bandaging as the wounds slowly healed. I've never experienced pain like that before. Getting in and out of the car was an ordeal. Yet in the middle of this crisis, I realized I needed real help, and I found a therapist on the International OCD Foundation list, who specialized in Exposure Therapy, and made an appointment, just a week after my injury. I drove 1.5 hrs through traffic, in raw pain, and limped into the therapist's office. I was trying to sit on the couch and talk about my symptoms of OCD, while feeling like a freak.

This Exposure therapist referred me to another therapist in the practice, Leonard, who helped me change my life. I had gone back on my tiny dose of the SSRI after finding out my sister-in-law had had a heart attack at age 49, and the health anxiety was more overwhelming than my fear of medication. Leonard advised me that OCD often responds to larger doses, and with my doctor's approval, I slowly ramped up my dose of the course of a couple of months to the maximum. Leonard didn't patronize me. He didn't throw meds at me. He helped me to see that in order to do my exposures, and have some breathing room from the OCD, that a high dose could aid that. I'm still on that high dose, and in the process of slowing down my ERP therapy, as I've made tremendous progress. In the past my OCD would be agitating to get me off meds right now, because of needing to know right now if there are long term effects. I still get those thoughts, but if I go off the meds, it will be on my terms not the OCD's, and for now, the benefit of reclaiming my life is enough.

Part 1: OCD and Medication Decisions
Part 2: Starting Medication while Struggling
Part 3: The Limits of Research in Medication Decisions
Part 4: My First Prescription for SSRI's
Part 5: Feeling it in the Jaw: Side Effects of Medication
Part 6: Being on Medication & OCD Weeping
Part 7: Wanting to Get off my Medication
Part 7.5: Built on Sinking Sand: OCD and Health Anxiety


  1. You should definitely stay on the meds. I had a situation once where I forgot to renew my prescription and I ended up with two days off of my Zoloft. I had a full-scale freak out. When I ask the doctor, he told me that I had begun to experience withdrawal symptoms after about 24 hrs. Before I began my OCD meds, I didn't take any medication at all. I had a hard time getting used to the idea that drugs were necessary and I wanted to get off them as soon as I could. I now understand that my condition is one that took years to create and it may very well take years to remedy. After a few months, I stopped noticing any lasting side effects from the medication and I am thankful for the level playing field that allows me to do exposures. Hang in there. The meds really are your friends right now.

  2. Thanks for the thoughts Greg. I am grateful for the breathing room meds have given me, and the ability to do exposures, and glad they are helping you too!

  3. I can so relate to your various posts about medication. For the past 20+ years of my dealing with OCD I have fought the idea of meds tooth and nail. I have been on them less than I've been off them. I have struggled so much with the concept of accepting (at least for me) that part of this is probably a genetic issue (my twin has OCD as well) and that I need to approach my OCD, at least partially, as a medical condition. I have NEVER wanted to stay on a medication but I have come to the conclusion - some 20 years later, that I need to be able to function and live my life with some degree of quality, and what little peace of mind I can garner. I am on a low dose of Zoloft and it has helped. I should be on a significantly higher dose but I'm just not ready yet. I had so hoped to never go back to medication again but here I am, 4 years later, still on this low dose of Zoloft. I applaud you expwoman for your honesty and for so articulately laying out your thoughts about medication. Thank you!

    1. Beth--thank you for sharing your experience. I wanted to share my experience, because when I was going through it, I felt very alone.