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10 'Harmless' Things People Say About Antipsychotics

If taking antipsychotics 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. Things like, “Have you taken your meds today?” and “I prefer to manage my mental illness without pharmaceuticals” can feel extra painful when you’re already dealing with difficult symptoms like mania and psychosis.

Taking antipsychotics for bipolar disorder or another mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, and we want you to know you’re not alone if you’ve ever felt hurt by these kind of comments.

To open up the discussion about what not to say to someone taking antipsychotics, we turned to our bipolar disorder community and asked them to share a few “harmless” comments they’ve heard people say that actually hurt them.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “Have you taken your meds today?”

“I may have bipolar, but I can have days were I’m a bit more excited than usual or have a down day. It doesn’t mean I have missed my meds and now relapsing. We have emotions and feelings like everyone else.” — Amy W.J.

“‘Don’t forget to take your meds.’ I’m not a child and don’t need to be managed like a child. Yes sometimes I’ve forgotten, but I’m human too, and [am] allowed to make mistakes.” — Tarra B.

2. “Your medication is stifling your creativity.”

“‘Your medication is probably stifling your creativity and preventing you from becoming a real artist.’ This hurts because I feel my medication helps me to be functional. It helps me to express — the opposite of stifling.” — Heather J.

3. “Don’t call them that.”

“My mom always tells me not to call [my meds] antipsychotics if we’re in public. I think she’s afraid of other people hearing me call them that and then being judged.” — Jennifer V.

4. “Do you really need those?”

“‘Are you sure you really need meds? You seem so ‘normal.’’ Yeah, I seem ‘normal’ because the meds work.” — Shannon D.

5. “What’s the point of taking those?”

“‘Why are you taking these kind of medications? You will be addicted to them one day.’ Quite frankly, this kind of comment is destructive. It is hard as it is for me to function in my life, it does not need to get harder just because a bunch of people collectively agreed not to acquire proper knowledge about this. Medication shaming is the worst, people like us struggle to get help, it is hard work for us, we don’t need you adding more weight.” — Sara Z.

6. “Maybe you need a higher dosage.”

“It implies that the meds I force myself to take aren’t enough for the people around me and that every mood swing I have is related to my bipolar disorder.” — Ally H.

7. “What about the side effects?”

“’Aren’t you afraid of side effects?’ My doctor and I weigh risks versus benefits for every medication I take. My present combination of meds carries few side effects and has facilitated a long period of stability. I’ll trust my doctor before I trust even the most good-intentioned layman.” — Lizzie M.

8. “How do you know if it’s working?”

“‘Wouldn’t you be better off not taking anything?’ I know it’s working because I feel great, and if I don’t take anything then I’ll probably be back in inpatient care again.” — Bethany B.

9. “Have you gained weight?”

“‘You look like you’ve gained a few pounds.’ Before I was on antipsychotic medication I weighed 118. After taking them for a while I got up to 175. Luckily I lost most of it, but that doesn’t happen with everyone. I was super ashamed of myself because this side effect was not my fault and everyone just thought that I let yourself go when in reality I had no control over it.”

10. “Are you off your meds?”

“If I’m naturally upset over something that would upset literally anyone, I get hit with the ‘you didn’t take your medicine, did you?’ I get so sick of it. I’m allowed to get upset over things and shouldn’t be considered irrational or off my medicine.” — Brandy M.

Sometimes, people insert their opinion when it’s not wanted — even if they are trying to be helpful. But the important takeaway is that if medications are working for you, they’re working for you. That’s all that matters, and no one’s snide remarks should ruin your recovery for you.

Has someone said something hurtful to you about your antipsychotics? Let us know in the comments.