Why Patients Stop Taking Psychiatric Medication

I have this twinge every time I watch something involving mental illness and the entire plot line revolves around, “Oh, she went off her meds, she didn’t think she needed them anymore.”

I have had times where I HOPED I didn’t need them anymore. Couldn’t AFFORD them anymore. Couldn’t take them due to surgery or pregnancy. A few times I’ve gotten so confused by side effects I phase off them for a week or so, then reintroduce them gradually to get an idea of what causes what.
Never once have I thought I was cured and didn’t need them anymore.

It’s not for lack of people trying to convince me otherwise. I am surrounded by so many people who think mental illness is imaginary, they nag me incessantly about “popping happy pills.” In light of that kind of stigma and pressure to “snap out of it”, I should be the first to abandon the medication ship. But I am not. I’ve done it too many times, often simply due to lack of money, and all those professionals who told me how I HAD to be medicated…Didn’t give a damn because insurance was gone and I had no money. When the doctors do their surveys, do they even ask how often that happens? Probably not, even as they write scripts for Latuda-esque toxins that cost nearly thirty bucks a pill.

Nor do they care that you have so many side effects you’ve forgotten if that pain in your side was there before Medication X or if something is very wrong. That’s not an excuse for going off meds, that’s a cry for help to determine if something is killing you and being masked by these meds.

But, nope. People just stop psychiatric meds because we’re delusional enough to think we’re cured. Even when it’s the world around us who dictates that we should be cured, most of us who have suffered long term know it’s unlikely we will ever be anything but a work in progress to be maintained. Trial and error, the perfect cocktail elusive and something we always pursue.

Then some meds, especially the anti psychotics, fuck calling them atypicals for bipolar, cause such heinous side effects people go off them just to FEEL something. Because crying, raging, stabbing things, busting shit- after so long being in emotional Novacaine, it’s nice to feel something. Rather than be treated with compassion and worked with to find the medication that works with the fewest hindering side effects…People are castigated as irresponsible and dangerous.

Being bipolar two, outside the manic rages (which rarely happen since finding mood stabilizers) the only person I am a danger to without meds is myself. Without meds, I may experience some mania, but following is such a long crippling depression, I can’t even plan suicide. Just saying. The notion that bipolar and violence are exclusive so we should be forcefed pills as some sort of public service pisses me off. And it’s the same with schizophrenia, where most patients truly are not violent. If anything, they retreat inside themselves a lot of the time. Can unmedicated patients be violent? Yes.

I don’t think people with psychiatric disorders are any more violent than people without them. Maybe we are less so. Depression doesn’t render one full of energy and the foresight to plot an elaborate spree of violence. On the upside of a manic episode, a bipolar person might lure you into bed, steal your credit cards for shopping sprees, or raid your liquor cabinet..Very rarely, outside psychotic diagnoses, does it turn violent.

Mental illness is an inexact science and it is treated like a ball of toxic waste, no one wants to touch it, be near it, lest it infect them.With this fear comes an unwillingness to educate and learn. “He’s off his meds again, better run for the hills.” “She’s acting goofy, she must have gone off the meds.”

So the next time someone tells you to “take your happy pills, you’re grouchy”…Remind them that smiley happy person across the room is more likely to bash their skull in than you are, even without your pills.

And do NOT go off your meds because scumbag brain tries to convince you that you are cured. If you’ve suffered more than sporadically or a few months…chances are, there’s no cure. But hey, there’s no cure for lots of stuff. Doesn’t make it hopeless.

Now, stupid people…That’s hopeless.

I’m gonna get the soup ladel out and take my morning dose of pills now.


22 Responses to “Why Patients Stop Taking Psychiatric Medication”

  1. Thank you for sharing! This is so well written. I am a psych student and of course we read about side effects in the text book but it’s nothing compared about hearing the true experience. This is one of the main reasons I chose to go into psychology instead of psychiatry. Not because I don’t believe in the power of meds but because I want to offer help that doesn’t have side effects like medicine does. I wish the best of luck to you. Keep writing, you’re going to help so many people!

    • Thank you for the input. I am always glad when a post turns out well, especially to those in the field, as I do tend to get lost in my ADD brain and ramble. I wish more mental health students/professionals would be willing to see it from the patient’s side rather than just the DSM.

      • Honestly, that it the most profound statement I have ever heard concerning mental health. I promise as I go on through my career I will take those words with me, every single day. Thank you!

  2. Pass the ladel, I gotta take mine too. One of my favorite soap operas Y&R has a story line I hate. Sharon has BP1, & almost any unfavorable decision she makes is questioned by everyone ~ is Sharon off her meds? ‘Causethat’s when she did XY&Z,,, also she’s been violent (?BP related too?)
    **I have to acknowledge lots of weird Shit goes on in soap story lines MI or not, but this DOESN’T help matters,,,

    • I gave up soaps back in 2001 when the suspense over the weekend would give me panic attacks. (How fucked up is that?) But one of my favorites was Days Of Our Lives and the whole Stefano/Hope thing when he had her trapped in a big bird cage. And, oh, Marlena’s demonic possession. Oddly, NONE of these people are in straight jackets or labeled with some illness. I think, as mindless as soaps are supposed to be, maybe if they’re going to tackle a mental health issue…They might want to get some technical advisers to make it ring truer.

      As for bird cages and demonic possessions…Sweeps week? LOL.

      On Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 8:59 AM, Take a Ride on My Mood Swing wrote:


      • Ok , I’ve watched B&B, Y&R (my fav) off & on since they’ve been on, As The World Turns & Guiding Light since I was little until they went off air

      • Ohhh I saw the witch/demon thingy & bird cage when I was at a friend’s. I never WATCHED them, though,,,

      • My mom had me programmed as kid. 11 a.m. on CBS, Y and R. 12 noon All My Children on ABC. 1 pm, Another World, on NBC, Two pm, Days Of Our Lives at 2 pm. I was six and I still remember that line up. Sooo glad I started watching forensic shows instead, much more helpful if I decide I want to get away with a spork massacre 😉

        On Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 9:19 AM, Take a Ride on My Mood Swing wrote:


      • I was programmed too, LOL, I do like forensic shows/science (all tyes to my love of medicine & strange twisted shit?)

      • I had to give up Mystery Diagnosis because I’d have two symptoms and suddenly become manic that I had worms living in my brain or something. Forensics don’t bother me in the least, though some of the psychological profiles or sociopaths disturb me. I can’t fathom such evil and it’s terrifying because these are people around us and they don’t have warning labels!

        On Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 9:27 AM, Take a Ride on My Mood Swing wrote:


      • Hah! My sister’s a self admitted hypochondriac!

      • I know, people are all freaked out when a (psycho/socio pathological) heinous crime is in the news, I’m always saying ‘that shit’s going on all over in in multitudes right NOW’

      • Everybody’s rich, are CEOs, have very ‘interesting’ bizarre lives & are or are related to doctors/hospital administrator,,, yet I’m hooked (can always catch up even if you haven’t watched in forever)

      • What I remember from Y and R was Jabot Cosmetics, Danny Romalotti, Nikki and Victor, and oh, yeah, David Hasselhoof played a male stripper my mom went gaga for. Ick. I do night time soaps now, shameful things like Vampire Diaries. Much sexier than CEOs.

        On Thu, Jun 11, 2015 at 9:23 AM, Take a Ride on My Mood Swing wrote:


      • Yep Chris (Cricket’s) w/ Paul (CHIEF OF POLICE) & so much more, blah blah blah,,, 🙂

  3. This makes perfect sense. Ima reblog this. When people tell me I don’t need my meds I tell them you aren’t in my shoes, you don’t know how I am without them and is meat her be medicated and stable than unmedicated and accepted. Then I walk away. Pass the ladle.

  4. Reblogged this on SassaFrass, The Feisty and commented:
    This is EXACTLY why we stop. We aren’t listened to by those meant to “help” us, dismissed and pushed aside, told to be accepted by society we need to not be medicated and we are all violet crazies. If they only knew how debilitating it is…I would rather take my meds and be stable than unmedicated and accepted. I’m much less stabby 😉 Can’t say the same for Reggie

  5. Never once do I stop them because I think I don’t need them. It’s a choice that has nothing to do with that and it pisses me off when things get generalized. There are so many different reasons and a lot of times it has everything to do with cost or other forces beyond our control, as you said.

  6. […] Why Patients Stop Taking Psychiatric Medication. […]

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