12 'Harmless' Comments People Make About Psychiatric Medication
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If you live with a mental illness and taking psychiatric medication is part of your mental health treatment plan, you might be familiar with some of the seemingly “harmless” but incredibly hurtful things people often say to those who take medication.
Sometimes these “harmless” comments come in the form of a question. (“Pills have so many chemicals. Have you tried some natural alternatives like meditation and drinking green tea?”) Sometimes they come with a “solution” via personal anecdote. (“My friend Debby used to take antidepressants, but once she started doing yoga, she realized she never even needed them in the first place!”) Most often, these kind of comments come from a good place, but reflect a lack of understanding of the complexities of mental illness. Though these “harmless” comments may not intend to hurt, they can often invalidate the struggles of someone who takes psychiatric medication.
When a friend opens up to you about taking medication to manage their mental illness, instead of telling them about the dangers of medication, offering your mom’s best advice or your personal natural remedy healing guide, listen first. Chances are, your loved one has already considered things like side effects, “natural” alternatives and lifestyle changes — just to name a few.
We wanted to know what “harmless” comments people who take psychiatric medication have actually heard, so we asked our mental health community to share one with us and explain what it feels like to hear it.
It’s important to remember what may seem “harmless” to one person may actually be hurtful to another. No matter what anyone says, your feelings are valid, and you deserve support.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. “Whoa. Have you taken your meds today?”
“When I had a ‘normal’ reaction to being treated like crap and my own mother asked…’Have you taken your meds today?’ Yep. My meds don’t keep me from being upset at you treating me like crap.” — Andrea G.
“‘Have you taken your meds today?’ Ugh! Yes! Every day I take them. They aren’t 100 percent. I’m perfectly allowed to have bad days and I don’t need to be patronized and made to feel as if I’m a child.” — Michelle L.
2. “You’re just contributing to ‘Big Pharma.’”
“’You don’t need meds. Meds are just Big Pharma’s way of controlling you. It is all about your perspective.’ No… I wouldn’t be here today without my meds and when I was in crisis mode, ‘wishing myself better’ seriously has never worked. I hate when people try to sound educated or enlightened when they don’t know anything about it.” — Tiff K.
“Big Pharma is using you to make millions.’ It doesn’t hurt as much as pisses me off. None of them every says Big Pharma is using me when I talk about my thyroid problems or high blood pressure.” — Brenda T.
3. “Pills are so harmful. Have you tried natural alternatives?”
“’You don’t need medication. Have you tried essential oils and praying?’ Yeah, I do both. I still have raging anxiety without my meds.” — Sloane S.
“’Pills are so harmful, have you tried yoga or exercise?’ As if that wasn’t my first go-to and I’m new to a mental illness I recognized first at the age of 5.” — Ellie B.
4. “I personally don’t think I could ever take medication.”
“’I have that too… but I am managing it myself. I really don’t want to go down the medication road myself.’ (As if we could all do that and heading down the ‘medication’ road is a cop out.)” — Rob K.
“’I would never take medicine like that — you don’t know what it could do to your body in 30 years!’ Would you be saying this to someone who takes heart medication or insulin? This medication is critical to my health just like any other medication someone might take for a physical illness.” — OhLivia S.
5.”If you really trusted God, you wouldn’t need medication.”
“’If you’d actually listen to what God says in the Bible, you wouldn’t need medication for anxiety. He’s taken care of everything.’ I love God and I love my church. It hurts hearing this because it makes me feel like I’m running from my faith. I can be a Christian person and be on medication.” — Ashley B.
“’You obviously don’t have enough trust in God if you need those.’ I’ve gotten this comment several times and it makes me cry every time. I have faith in God but I also need help. There is nothing wrong with taking medication for my mental illnesses. Just because I believe in God does not mean I’m excluded from mental health problems. Mental illness does not discriminate.” — Alexis D.
6. “Don’t you know those pills will make you gain weight?”
“I’ve gotten, ‘Those kinds of meds cause weight gain which will just make you more miserable.’ I struggled with anorexia for years so hearing these kinds of comments only causes me to not take my meds and then I fall down again and again.” — Lyssa A.
7. “Have you tried smiling more often instead?”
“’Happy pills won’t help. Have you tried smiling more often?’ ???? Had an anxiety attack right there…” — Maria J.
8. “I like you better when you’re not taking your medication.”
“I am the type of person who needs her medication. Being told that I’m more fun to be around without medication brings negativity to something that really helps me feel better… Then I feel guilty for taking something that changes my personality.” — Desirae W.
9. “You’re setting yourself up for a lifelong addiction.”
“’You’re going to end up addicted, and you’re going to be dependent the rest of your life. If you don’t grow up and learn how to deal with this now, you never will.’ This hurts, because mental health is not just a season of life that goes away, I feel like for many of us it’s a lifelong battle. Speaking down to someone for the use of medication is highly inappropriate since they were courageous enough to ask for assistance, and get the help they needed — temporary or lifelong.” — Elizabeth A.
“’You can choose whether you need to take it or not. You’re basically choosing to be addicted to it for the rest of your life.’ This was coming from my ex who is a heavy smoker — he didn’t see the difference between me taking psych meds and him smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.” — Stephanie M.
10. “Be careful, you don’t want to be taking those pills for the rest of your life.”
“’You’re going to come off them though aren’t you? You don’t want to be on them for the rest of your life.’ For me, that is a huge statement. Yes I acknowledge that it’s not ideal to be on medication for a long period of time, but right now, I rely on them to get me through the day, so why would I even consider coming off them? Assuming I haven’t already beaten myself up about being on medication for long periods of time is really not helpful!” — Jordan G.
“’I’m sure you will manage to not take them anymore some day.’ It’s hurtful because it is like saying the goal is to not take meds instead of feeling better and have all of the tools I need to live with my anxiety.” — Catherine C.
11. “Those pills cause birth defects. Think about your future children.”
“’They cause birth defects.’ I’ve got enough issues without other people being concerned about the defects of a child I have yet to even decide to conceive.” — Evonne T.
12. “Wow. Do you really need to take so many pills?”
“’Do you really need to take all of that?’ Yes, I do… I don’t enjoy taking them but I do need them. People who don’t fight a war in their heads every day don’t understand.” — Alyssa H.
If you just started taking psychiatric medication, are considering going off your medication or are struggling with judgment from loved ones about your medication, you’re not alone. Here are some pieces that might relate to you, wherever you are in your medication journey.
Getty Images photo via Stas_V