Recipe For Problems

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

I suffered a horrible panic attack today, after not having one in years... I have been on [an antidepressant called] Cymbalta for at least 5 years now. You kind of get comfortable and the meds do their job and such an episode becomes a thing of the past. So, needless to say I was not expecting it and was so scared and very irrational. After seeing the doctor, I found out it was a mix of bad hayfever (allergies) and caffeine and an acai berry cleanse pill I had taken altogether that made me feel as if I could not breath and was going to die. He gave me Xanex and sent me home.

My issue is holy crap how can I get off all of this shit? [And] if I didn't have these friggin pills, how could I feel better? It's scary. I am a slave to medication. My regular doctor prescribes me these anxiety/depression pills and I haven't seen any other doctors in years. Now I am wondering if Cymbalta stopped working or what? Should I switch or go off meds and what the hell else do you do when you have become so dependant on them? Feeling shitty, got any advice?

ANSWER

Oh, I have a ton of advice, none of which I suspect you’ll like.

People, you cannot take pschotropic medications, i.e., pills for anxiety, depression, or any other mental health problem, WITHOUT BEING IN THERAPY. Furthermore, general doctors should not be managing those medications for you. A psychiatrist should. When you choose to take pills that are prescribed by someone who doesn’t specialize in treating mental health conditions, and you opt out of being in therapy, you are askingfor trouble. Not only are you likely to be on the wrong medication/dosage, it’s a recipe for a lifetime of dependence on psychotropics because you’re not learning any coping mechanisms that might equip you with the tools you’ll need to one day get off the medications.

I want you to know that I just turned to my wife, who is very knowledgeable about psychotropic medications, and I asked her if Cymbalta would ever be prescribed for panic attacks (and I only asked b/c I was fairly certain it isn’t) and her response, without knowing why I asked, was, “Only if it were prescribed it by a general practioner who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing.”

I also want to address the cleanse pill you took. If you are eating clean (i.e., not eating shit), you should not need a cleanse. And if you are eating shit, it will exacerbate your depression/anxiety. And if you are on prescription medications, you need to be very careful about any additional pills you take, and before you take over the counter meds, you should contact your physician, because as you now see, they do cause negative interactions.

Here’s your take away: Today (not tomorrow or next week), you need to contact a psychiatrist to schedule an appointment. Let him/her assess whether your Cymbalta is working for the specific reasons you were prescribed it. After you’ve scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist, go on PsychologyToday.com, select Find A Therapist, and find a CBT or DBT therapist in your hood and schedule an appointment ASAP.

There’s no shortcut to managing depression or anxiety. And if you want to do it in a way that allows for the possibility of being medication-free one day, you need to do something beyond popping a pill.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.