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Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: The Inside of My Head has Changed


 jackpenguin - Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:29 pm

I've been on antidepressants for about 4 months now, showing signs of depression (irritability, change in sleeping pattern, feelings of worthlessness and guilt) a few months prior to that. My personality seems to have completely altered. Before, I was a very private person. Now, I feel like I have no privacy, no shame. I'm also spending recklessly.

This may be because I've had to open up a lot to a multitude of counsellors and psychiatrists.I feel like this has cracked me, given me more problems than it has actually solved, ie the complete reverse of what talking therapies are supposed to achieve.

I've become suicidal over the perceived alteration in my personal reality. I used to inhale books. Now it's hard to get to the end of a single page. I was reading novels in French at Christmas for fun, now it's hard to follow the grammar of a single French sentence.

People keep banging on about low mood. I've been diagnosed with severe depression due to my suicidal thoughts and other depressive symptoms. My mood is fine now, it's the core of me that has gone drastically wrong!

For months, I have beaten myself up over the smallest errors in my past. I've probably been harder on myself than some murderers. Those trains of thoughts were driven by depression, I guess. I would go over pointless things in the past, relentlessly, up to the point where one day it felt like something in my head snapped, or burned itself out. Now the inside of my head feels completely different, as if something that contained all my intelligence has vanished.

I feel like a phantom in my own body. My mind feels so slowed, so devoid of thought, so uncomfortably EMPTY. The very way in which I read has changed. I do not read in the same way. I always thought that would be a constant, a sensation for life. Apparently not. The doctors say it will return but it will take time. Well, my reading seems to have disappeared literally over night. Has anyone ever had this experience before?

I try and fill my time with other things. It's had when even reading a newspaper feels so reduced. All my pleasure from reading and words has gone, evaporated away. I am no longer absorbed by what I read.

Sexual pleasure is also greatly reduced. For a 21 year old, this does feel like a death sentence.

Am I going to spend the rest of my life approximating every experience to what it would have felt like if I'd never gotten ill? At the moment, this reduced way of life seems permanent, unalterable.
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Tue Jul 13, 2010 4:05 pm

Hello, jackpenguin,

If you have not discussed your feelings, as you have described here, with your treatment providers, please do so as soon as possible. If you feel the need to harm yourself or others, contact your therapist or doctor immediately, or call the local mental health agency/crisis center.

Major depression is very difficult to go through. It affects all aspects of life, as you have described. Your lack of concentration and enjoyment of usual activities, decreased libido, cycling thoughts, and feelings of depersonalization indicates the severity of your depression. It took you longer than you may realize to reach the point of severe depression, so it unfortunately will take time for you to begin to feel better. The fact that your mood has improved is a very good sign. It may seem odd, but the time that feels worst to a person recovering from depression is when the depression starts to lift. You appear to be at that point. Your safety during this period is a major concern; I will stress again to contact someone immediately if you feel like actually harming yourself.

It's tempting to be very hard on oneself during an episode of depression, because we can't see concrete evidence, as a broken bone or elevated blood sugar or other specific, measurable signs of disease. However, depression really isn't any different than other conditions, in that it doesn't happen because the person did something wrong. No one is strong enough to withstand it by will alone. Treatment requires supportive therapy, medication assistance, and patience. Sometimes keeping a diary of symptoms can help the person see their improvement, and it can help the therapists and doctors to track how the person is responding to treatment. Committing to a mild exercise program, as walking or jogging, can help a great deal as it helps neurohormones in the brain replenish. If there is a physical reason why you shouldn't exercise, please consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Exercise can also help fill your time, and "wake up" some of the brain cells to help you concentrate, at least for a time.

I hope this is helpful to you. I wish you all the best. If there's something else we can do to help you, please don't hesitate to ask.
 jackpenguin - Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:02 pm

Thank you for your excellent advice.

I've started going swimming and cycling quite regularly and I'm starting to feel much more like my old self. I've never really exercised before but now I can see, and feel, all the benefits!

I have glimpses of improvement from time to time, which is really lifting my spirits. I did spend a couple of weeks in hospital over concerns for my personal safety. Those thoughts have all but gone now, I'm determined not to give up.

Maybe something had to change. I've been fixated so long on trying to return to exactly my old self whilst forgetting that was the very person who became depressed. I'm never going to move forward if I don't accept what I'm capable of in the here and now, and aim for a bright, fulfilling future.
 Faye Lang, RN, MSW - Sat Jul 17, 2010 8:01 pm

Hello again, jackpenguin,

I'm glad we were able to help! You deserve the credit for taking charge of your life and making some changes to help maximize the effect of your medical/psychiatric treatment. I often suggest that people maintain a daily diary of symptoms, including what the symptom is, when it started, how long it lasted, what helped or made it worse, and other data that seems important. Such a diary can help you track your normal ups and downs, and help you feel secure in your recovery. I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

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