Is It a Psych Med Side Effect?
Last week I wrote about how psych meds can make you feel boiling hot or freezing cold. And, of course, they can.
What surprised me is the number of people who wrote in here and on Facebook about how they didn't know that. Not only did they not know it, but it had been happening to them and they didn't know it. They didn't make the connection and in some cases the doctor said it wasn't possible (like mine did).
This brings me to something I always say:
An effect that occurs after starting a medication is a side effect until proven otherwise.
Side Effects and Bipolar Medication
Quite frankly, bipolar medication is nasty stuff. Not compared to, say, chemotherapy, but I wouldn't call it fluffy bunnies and rainbows either.
And medication causes side effects. No, it's not that it may cause side effects; it's that it will cause side effects - they just may or may not bother you.
And the specific side effects the medication will cause is a semi-random thing. Generally, doctors can tell you what to expect of the common side effects. On the other hand, you may get side effects that are uncommon, that no one will have warned you about because, well, they're uncommon.
Take divalproex (Depakote), a very common bipolar medication, for example.
Common side effects include:
OK, fine. Pretty predictable.
But then you look down the list at the side effects that have been reported and you get things like:
- Hair loss
- Breast enlargement
- Hearing loss
- Increased cough
And about a million other things, many of which I don't even understand.
Cause and Side Effect
Now, you must understand, side effects have to be listed even if there is no established cause and effect relationship with the drug. It's a legal thing. So just because it's listed in the gigant-o-list of side effects that doesn't mean the medication caused it. But it may have.
And if you end up being one of the few people to experience an odd side effect from a medication, say, cough increased, deafness or abnormal vision, you may not even think it could be related to the drug. And worse, your doctor may tell you it's not related to the drug.
Doctors Don't Know
But the fact of the matter is no matter how weird your experience, unless your doctor is looking at the complete list of possible side effects for that medication, they really don't know. When they say, "the medication didn't cause that," they're kind of lying because no human being could possibly memorize all the side effects listed in the prescribing information for a medication. What they're really saying is, "I've never seen that."
Well, big freaking deal. I've never seen an elephant either but I hear there's a continent full of them.
Please Look It Up
So if you have an odd experience, even if the doctor says it couldn't be the medication, perhaps you could ask them to look it up. Because, while for some odd reason, they don't do this spontaneously, it is quite a reasonable request. They have a computer sitting right there on their desk. Time for them to click the mouse a few times and use it. (Yes, you could look it up too. But it is their actual job.)
Because side effects matter. You need to know what's happening to you. You need to know if there's something else that needs to be ruled out. You need to know if you should be seeing a specialist.
Tracy, N. (2011, September 12). Is It a Psych Med Side Effect?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/09/is-it-a-psych-med-side-effect
Author: Natasha Tracy
Glad to help :)