Monthly Archives: June 2014

Risk of Suicide Among Teens on Antidepressants Was Exaggerated

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Although I’ve been on the same antidepressant for the past eight years, and it’s worked wonders for me, I’ve been hesitant to oversell the idea to teenagers. In my book I note a few times that antidepressant use among teens is riskier than it is for adults because the medication may increase suicidal ideations. When it comes to suicide, after all, one can’t be too careful.

I just came across this article on NPR, and I have to admit I’m pretty shocked. At this point, we all know smoking cigarettes can have serious adverse health effects, such as lung cancer, so the warning labels are appropriate. But apparently there was never any real proof that teens taking antidepressants are more likely to consider or attempt suicide.download

According to “Warnings Against Antidepressants for Teens May Have Backfired,” by Rob Stein, “Starting in 2003, the FDA warned that popular antidepressants, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, might increase the risk that kids would think about killing themselves — or even actively attempt it.”

Since these warnings have been issued, antidepressant use among adolescents has dropped by 31 percent, and suicide attempts among adolescents has increased by nearly 22 percent.

The takeaway? Don’t write antidepressants off because of this warning from the FDA. The intention was always to prevent teens from committing suicide by keeping a closer eye on them while they took antidepressants, and it still holds true that you should stay in touch with your prescribing doctor and be upfront about how you’re feeling.

As always, if you are feeling suicidal, tell someone.

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It’s Not You, It’s Your OCD

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Have you ever tried to spare someone’s feelings during a breakup by saying, “It’s not you, it’s me”? Well, when you dump OCD for good, go ahead and tell the truth: It’s you, OCD, not me.

Dr. Lee Baer, OCD specialist, Harvard professor, and author, titled his book about intrusive thoughts The Imp of the Mind. That’s what OCD is–an unwelcome little devil that needs to be cast out with no pity. You don’t need to be polite to this rude guest. While I’m not one for making excuses, I definitely blame OCD for every terrible obsession that’s plagued me.

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But I haven’t always had this clarity: Before I was diagnosed with OCD I blamed myself, even though I didn’t understand what, if anything, I had done to deserve the intrusion. I felt helpless and scared. Then I met a psychiatrist who looked at me with compassion and told me I would be all right. Since I had taboo obsessions (Baer uses the categories of violent, sexual, and blasphemous, but I suffered  from the latter two), my doctor recommended that I read The Imp of the Mind. It was the best prescription ever. For the first time in my harrowing journey with OCD, I felt less alone. Here was a man who had heard everything from his patients with OCD and didn’t seem to bat an eye. Worried you might want to have sex with your dog? We can work on that. You’re a priest who can’t stop staring at women’s breasts? Don’t feel bad.

Dr. Baer knew how tortured his patients felt, and he helped ease their pain. He did the same for me when he documented many of their stories in The Imp of the Mind, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank him enough. So when he contacted me and asked me to share my story on his new website, I jumped at the chance. His contributions to the OCD community helped save me and made my life feel worth living again. Now I had the opportunity to help him.

OCD doesn’t define me, and it shouldn’t define you, either. You can take it down to size.