I was put on antipsychotics in 2005 due to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Today this diagnosis has been changed to possible cyclothymia, which is a lesser form of bipolar disorder. It’s interesting to me that this is my new diagnosis because I remember that when I studied abnormal psychology in college, I felt like I might have this. But I got the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder and got put on a lot more meds than I needed.
The initial antipsychotic that I was on was Risperdal. While this evened out my moods, it caused anxiety from day one. My panic attacks increased despite being on an antidepressant, which I also think may have increased my anxiety. Over time I grew more and more anxious on Risperdal, had memory loss, and other problems. By 2013 I could no longer tolerate it. But my psychiatrist at the time told me that the problem was not the medication that it was me. He said that I was developing a tolerance to it. But my reaction was so bad at the time that I had to be taken off of it cold turkey. This was the first time that I experienced antipsychotic withdrawal, and it was the worst one that I went through. I felt like death, and couldn’t even eat without prescription strength anti-nausea medication. I also didn’t sleep more than an hour a night for about a week and felt incredibly dizzy to the point where I could barely walk straight.
Instead of considering the possibility that antipsychotics weren’t the best choice for me, my psychiatrist pushed another antipsychotic, Latuda. Again I became more anxious over time, and when I brought it up to my new psychiatrists (I had moved) they wouldn’t take me off of it because they assumed that the problems that I was having were due to me, not the medication.
Finally, I found a doctor who listened to me and took me off Latuda. My anxiety decreased right away once I started to taper on it. But the withdrawals became to be too much for me, to the point where I was hospitalized, but instead of helping me withdraw I ended up back on antipsychotics- this time Olanzapine. Again, the psychiatrists assumed that my high anxiety and insomnia were due to mania rather than being associated with a medication and it’s withdrawals, even though I was exhausted. I was, though, showing psychotic symptoms, but it was for the first time ever. My new psychiatrist says that this was due to the medication withdrawals, but at the time no one would listen to me at the hospital, and my psychiatrist at the time became convinced that I needed more antipsychotics.
Olanzapine actually wasn’t too bad, except for two things: it caused me to be starving all of the time, and my obsessive thoughts and behaviors actually increased. I’ve always had issues around body image and compulsive exercise (I’ve wondered before if I have an eating disorder) and these actually increased while I was on Olanzapine. I was miserable, and I was forcing myself to exercise despite having flu symptoms because I was obsessively concerned with my weight. This resulted in re-activated mono. I became really sick.
My psychiatrist switched me to Vryalar (sp?), but my obsessive thoughts did not decrease and I was still extremely depressed. But again, this psychiatrist now didn’t want to take me off of these medications despite my problems with them. So I found a new one. The other interesting thing too is that I’d been diagnosed with ADHD and Autism in September, but I never even received treatment for it from multiple providers. The new psychiatrist that I found is an Adult ADHD expert though, and took me off antipsychotics and put me on Ritalin.
It’s been about a month now since I completely went off antipsychotics. My brain is clearing up, and my mood is actually improving. My anxiety and obsessive thoughts are also decreasing. I suspected that antipsychotics were contributing to treatment-resistant depression, and it appears as though I was correct. I’ve also been taking an inventory once a week to monitor for any bipolar/manic symptoms and they actually have decreased over time since we began the most recent taper. My boyfriend can definitely confirm that since going off of antipsychotics that my mood symptoms and temporary psychosis have decreased, and my last bipolar/mood disorder inventory score was zero.
But still, I’m back to antipsychotic withdrawals. On top of all of the other problems that I had, antipsychotics caused me to not have periods hardly at all for about 5 or 6 years. So the first symptom of withdrawal that I had was a rebound to this, and I experienced distressing menstrual symptoms (prolonged bleeding) for about three and a half weeks. Now I am experiencing insomnia, general malaise, and nausea that accompany withdrawals every time that I have experienced them. I just feel like total crap. This time though, thanks to Ritalin, which decreases my anxiety, I think that I can get through it.
Thanks for reading! I hope that you don’t think that I’m one of those people who just want to be off of their medications because I’m not. I genuinely want to get better, and I am constantly monitoring my symptoms. I am beginning to use therapeutic techniques like CBT and visualizations to reduce my mood symptoms as well. All of this seems to be working. I’m finding that it takes a lot more than medications to fully address mood disorders. So I’m doing all that I can to better myself and my life.