When it comes to psychiatric medications, certain side effects get all the publicity. Everyone discusses the sexual side effects and the increased likelihood of suicide in teenagers. Weight gain (or even the less common weight loss) is another side effect that is often discussed.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other possible side effects. If you count the side effects that taking two different medications at the same time can produce, the number soars even higher. However, most of these side effects are exceptionally rare and often avoidable by working with your doctor.
There are a few common side effects that many people who take psychiatric medications live with and manage to cope with. These aren’t discussed frequently, but if you sit in a mental health support group, you’ll likely find at least a couple participants who tolerate them.
Common Psychiatric Medication Side Effect Number 1: Taste Changes
Medication is serious business and is designed to change the way your body works. The point of medication is to help your body do something that it’s not doing efficiently on its own. In some cases, certain medications will literally change the way food and drink taste to the person taking them.
This means that a food or drink you loved before taking the medication may now taste different, or even bad. This may seem like an insignificant effect – and often is – but imagine if you woke up one morning and Mom’s meatloaf, or other favorite comfort food, tasted terrible? It can be a jarring side effect that causes a lot of confusing, uncertain, and unhappy feelings.
Common Psychiatric Medication Side Effect Number 2: Memory Issues
Any medication designed to modify the way your brain functions is also going to impact memory on some level. There is a spectrum of effects that needs close attention.
On the worst end, the medication could cause serious memory loss. Much more common, however, is causing forgetfulness or difficulty in focusing or concentrating. Losing any mental capacity is a big deal, however, and it represents a compromise on the part of the person taking the medicine. It once led me to say that I’d rather have partial control over a working brain than full control over a broken one.
Common Psychiatric Medication Side Effect Number 3: Frequent Urination
This common psychiatric medication side effect is actually a two-in-one. There are medications that, for reasons only known to science, make a person urinate more. But, more commonly, these types of medication lead to dry mouth. Dry mouth leads to drinking. And drinking leads to urination.
I’ve led support groups for people with mental illness for years and I can tell you that, without fail, someone will need to use the restroom during the session. And at least half the room will bring a drink with them citing dry mouth as the reason. Dry mouth is easy to remedy and frequent urination, though annoying, is livable. The worst part, to be honest, is the comments we hear from all of our friends announcing the number of times we get up to head “down the hall.”
We get it. You urinate less. No need to rub it in.
Common Psychiatric Medication Side Effect Conclusions
While none of these side effects have quite the impact of doubling a person’s body weight or removing a person’s ability or desire to have sex, they do represent a loss. Living with the side effects of medication, even “easy” ones, means the person taking them has to give up something.
No one wants to accept less than 100% of anything and learning to compromise on health issues can be a delicate matter. I never thought that I’d be okay with losing a part of my memory in exchange for less depression. It was a difficult and unfair choice, but it is one that most people living with mental illness face.
For that, we deserve to be commended.