Happiness Articles

How did Lena Dunham turn OCD and ‘countless psychiatric meds’ into a hit TV show?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Lena Dunham-Rolling Stone-croppedLena Dunham, the 26-year-old force behind HBO’s popular and much-discussed show Girls, hasn’t grown famous through discretion.

Part of the cringe-inducing delight of watching Girls is hearing Hannah say things and do things she knows she shouldn’t. And part of what’s refreshing about Dunham herself are her irreverent, indecorous comments and self-revelations, whether on Twitter, New Yorker essays, or interviews.

So I was especially curious to hear what Dunham had to say about her obsessive-compulsive disorder and medication use in a just-released Rolling Stone cover story. Especially since it was titled Girl on Top: How Lena Dunham Turned a Life of Anxiety, Bad Sex, and Countless Psychiatric Meds into the Funniest Show on TV.


Mixing Meds and Alcohol: Just How Dangerous Is It?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Most psychiatric drugs bear some version of the warning: “Do not drink alcoholic beverages when taking this medication.”

In reality, though, many people taking psych meds drink anyway. They have various reasons: not wanting to curtail their fun, not putting much stock in the warnings, or simply thinking it’s easier to take a proffered drink than explain why they’re turning it down.

Doctors oftentimes don’t bother to talk to patients about potential dangers. Or they tell patients not to drink, but don’t explain why. To make matters worse, because of a lack of studies on the subject, patients inclined to do their own research will have a hard time just how risky it is to drink while taking various kinds of psychiatric medications (I’ve written elsewhere about this troubling lack of evidence).

A widely publicized study that came out last month in the journal Neurology underscores the problem. The findings, which pooled data from 16 studies, showed that people taking SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft or Celexa were 40 percent more likely to suffer a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain and 50 percent more likely to suffer any bleeding in the skull.


Can You Be Too Attuned to Symptoms and Side Effects?

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Doctors and mental health professionals have long encouraged patients to keep track of their moods and behaviors to gauge how they respond to psychiatric treatment.

With the explosion of mobile apps and websites such as PatientsLikeMe, which help people chart symptoms, medications and side effects, we’ve entered a new era of unprecedented medical self-monitoring.

Is this a good thing when it comes to psychiatric medications and mental health?


Waiting Until You’re “Old Enough” for Antidepressants

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

What’s it like to suffer from severe depression for as long as you can remember – and to be too scared to ask for help until age 18?

Today I’m featuring the story of Allie, a 21-year-old college senior in Wisconsin who was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Allie kept her unhappiness a secret and didn’t begin taking medication when she was old enough to ask for it without her parents finding out.

Allie’s story is interesting, because it shows how kids can suffer from severe depression from a very young age. It also shows how in a culture where psychiatric drugs seem ubiquitous kids can come to focus on medication as a source of salvation.


Medicating Class Cut-Ups But Overlooking the Rest

Monday, August 20th, 2012

This weekend a mother published a New York Times column about how her son came to be diagnosed with ADHD and became a member of the ballooning “Ritalin Generation.”

“Just a little medication,” the teacher told the boy’s mother, “could really turn things around” for the boy, who was having trouble focusing on class worksheets and lining up quietly for transitions between classes.

When the mother firmly responded that she and her husband weren’t going to medicate their son, the teacher backtracked, sounding mock-horrified.

She wasn’t explicitly suggesting medication, she said. The law prohibited such a thing. She just didn’t want him to fall through the cracks – and thus was was merely suggesting the boy’s parents have him evaluated by a psychologist.

The boy was evaluated, and sure enough, he ended up on Ritalin for a short-time, though he quit it on his own a year later, matured out of his former inattentiveness, and eventually ended up a well-adjusted, school-loving honor-roll student – and medication-free.

Such stories are commonly invoked as cautionary tales about the alleged over-diagnosis of ADHD and other behavior disorders and over-prescribing of drugs like Ritalin to keep children’s behavior in check. Teachers recommending meds for disruptive students often feature prominently. In fact, the debate over school involvement in medicating disruptive children showed up as early as the early 1970s.


Do Meds Reduce the Risk of Being Bullied – or Increase It?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

In a recent post, I explored the question of whether meds can help reduce bullying behavior in kids with psychiatric conditions, since they are more likely to bully peers than kids without such problems.

But research shows that kids with psychiatric problems are also more likely to be bullied – and that those who are bullied are at elevated risk of suffering from psychiatric disorders later on.

In my own research for my book on young adults who grew up taking psychiatric meds, I was struck that almost everyone I interviewed reported having been bullied during childhood or adolescence (some also reported bullying other kids).

So how does taking psychiatric meds affect the likelihood of kids being bullied? Do the drugs enhance kids’ self-esteem and behavior so that they’re less likely to be picked on? Or do kids get teased because they take meds?


Enduring Psychic Pain vs. Feeling “High” on Meds?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

#ds358 - Better Living Through Chemistry

Last week, I featured a guest post from M., a reader from Texas who began taking Ritalin for ADHD when she was 12, then quit before college.

M. concluded in retrospect that taking that taking Ritalin taught her she couldn’t rely on herself to control her behavior. Instead, she learned to look to others for feedback, which she thinks provoked her anxiety.

Today, I’m following up with the second half of M.’s medication story, about her experience starting Zoloft in her mid-20s to treat some of that residual anxiety. Read on to find out how she fared during a second stab at medication treatment.


After Years On ADHD Meds, No Shortage of Questions

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

What are the issues involved in taking stimulant medications for ADHD from early elementary school onward? And what happens when someone who has done this decides to quit the drugs in college – only to find her motivation and academic capabilities diminish without the meds, and to suffer a crisis of identity and mood problems upon resuming them?

Two recent guest posts from a reader raised these questions and prompted ample discussion and comments from readers. In those posts, I let the young woman in question speak for herself. Now, I’d like to highlight some of the larger issues her story illustrates.


After Years On ADHD Meds, Searching For The Authentic Self

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

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Yesterday, I published the first part of a guest post from a young woman, now 20 years old, who had spent the majority of her life – pretty much as long as she can remember, she says – taking medications for ADHD.

After working hard in high school and getting into her top-choice college, she decided she wanted to see what she was like without medication. She wanted to prove to her parents – and to herself – that she could function well in school and in life without the drugs she’d been taking for so long.

The summer before beginning college, she stopped taking her medication. Here, in her words, is what happened afterwards, and how it changed her view of herself and her need for the drugs.


Growing Up With ADHD Meds – And Deciding to Quit Them

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

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I’m always thrilled when readers write in wanting to share their experiences or their children’s experiences with medication.

So often when we talk about psychiatric meds, we discuss it only on the most superficial level. But when people have a chance to really open up about the ways they think long-term medication has impacted them, I believe they can share some valuable insights and lessons.

I try to provide that kind of in-depth storytelling in my new book, Dosed: The Medication Generation Grows Up, but with so many medications, so many psychiatric disorders, and infinite life experiences accompanying them, there are many more stories out there to tell.

I was intrigued and pleased, then, when a young woman, a 20-year-old incoming college junior who grew up in Georgia, wrote me to say that she wanted to tell her story of taking medications for ADHD “for as long as I can remember.”


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Recent Comments
  • Jeanette: I am a 50-yr-old teacher who has been on bipolar meds for over half of my life. My daughter has ADHD and...
  • vegasangie: What can we do? Evan was so brave and had so much courage for a 15 year old boy. I am 48 and have...
  • Jay: This article very aptly points out the stigma attached to taking these drugs but then seems to stumble in...
  • Kaitlin Bell Barnett: Richard, it sounds like you have a very measured approach to this topic. Very refreshing...
  • Richard: I think that the most important thing that anyone taking any form of anti depressant meds should be aware...
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