13 thoughts on “Taking Meds, Being Judged

  • August 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I couldn’t agree with this article more; this is a topic that medication users privately struggle with on a daily basis yet is rarely addressed in public or by professionals.

    As someone who has concurrent ADHD and bipolar diagnosis, I have found that my struggle is two fold: I have to learn to manage chronic conditions (with and without help of meds), and I also have to handle the shame, judgement, objections, and pervasive culture of abuse that has grown around the use of these meds.

    For example, I don’t advertise to friends that I take any medications (especially stimulants like Adderall or Vyvanse when I did take them) but occasionally they find out. The common, sarcastic reply is often, “oh you have ADD? Everyone has add! Come on!” The casual observer doesn’t understand the slight but defining difference between having one symptom of ADHD (e.g. hyperactivity, easily distracted) and having five or more of those symptoms all at once. People who haven’t truly experienced the condition have no idea how difficult it can be to maintain self-esteem when it literally feels as though the mind is doing all in its power to prevent any sort of day-to-day accomplishments.

    Additionally, I’ve noticed lately that friends whose parents are from cultures with fundamentally different perspectives on psychology (my friends are Indian and Asian), confess to me that they are struggling with certain psychological issues but their parents absolutely refuse to entertain the concept of therapy and/or prescription medications. Its not even a possibility.

    Ultimately, I think science is moving into a new level of understanding; the nuances and idiosyncracies of the brain and the mind are slowly revealing themselves. As we learn the specifics, things are no longer black and white. Generalizations are no longer accurate. This requires people to make more of an effort to understand, and some simply don’t want to do it.

    For my part, I respect everyone’s decision to have their own opinion. Its been a long road to accepting that no matter what I do, as long as I feel as its in my best interest and its backed up my legitimate medical science, I don’t have a problem.

  • August 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Thank you so mcuh for the article! I take Lexapro and for depression and anxiety, and Xanax as needed for quick anxiety relief, and I hear many people lately talk about how “bad” these meds are, and how they’re “poisons” and things like that, and sometimes it really hurts. Plus, I have some friends that are oppsoed taking any meds in general-even for phsyical alilments-and it makes me crazy. I am so happy to know that some people do still have a baclanced perspective on this issue, and do not look down on those who really need psychotrophic meds

  • August 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

    As a person with treatment-resistant depression I feel I am judged more for still being sick rather than for the medication I take. The attitude I get from my in-laws (both immediate and extended) makes me seethe with anger. If I’m honest, though, I judge myself badly too.

    • August 5, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Alana, thanks for adding this perspective. I would imagine that having treatment-resistant depression changes the experience of being judged – and judging yourself. The question – and the judgment implicit in it – them becomes “why am I not responding to treatment?”

  • August 5, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    This is a great topic, thanks for writing about it. I am bipolar and rely on medications in order to go about my daily life. I have been blessed that taking the three medications that I take has enabled me stay out of the hospital and lead a very successful life. I agree that medications are getting a bad name because society feels that everyone is being “diagnosed” especially the younger population. What were once thought of as behavioral problems are now thought to be more “medical” ones and therefore medication is required whereas once those now diagnosed with ADHD were seen as suffering from more “mental” conditions. Society doesn’t like this idea, there is a misconception that one should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and handle issues without any medical intervention. Over time, this attitude is bound to change as medications are found to be more and more effective.

  • August 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Interesting because I take a single antidepressant daily, don’t think of myself as part of this medication generation, and yet might unwittingly judge someone who takes multiple, serious psych meds.

    • August 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      That is interesting, Teddy. How might you judge someone who takes multiple, serious meds? Do you unwittingly see taking e a supposedly less heavy-duty antidepressant as somehow more acceptable than taking multiple meds, or other kinds of psych meds?

  • August 7, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Hi, Ms. Barnett–

    Your observation that “This so-called “pharmaceutical Calvinism” is a strain
    of anti-medication thinking that holds that meds are a quick, lazy fix…” resonates strongly with the piece I did on the “puritans” and their unhelpful influence on our attitudes toward taking psychotropic medication.

    You can find the piece at:

    Best regards,
    Ronald Pies MD

    • August 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Dr. Pies, thanks for linking back to your very thoughtful post. I encourage everyone to read it – it expounds on some of themes I touched on here (Dr. Pies also blogs blog about the profession of psychiatry at Psychiatric Times, where he touches on many other issues readers may find interesting). His Psych Central post also explains very well why large, placebo-controlled trials can result in antidepressants not performing much better than the placebos, even though the medications have been enormously helpful for many patients in “real life.”

  • August 7, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Thanks for the kind comments, Ms. Barnett…
    Regards, Ron Pies MD

  • August 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I wrote about something very similar in my own blog. I Agree with so many of the things that you said. I would love for you to check out my blog at http://Ohwhatapain.wordpress.com and let me know what you think!
    Very well written. Great job.

    • August 8, 2012 at 10:52 am

      Thanks for letting us know about your blog. Could you link to the specific post you’re referring to? I’d be curious to check it out.

  • July 5, 2014 at 1:17 am

    This article very aptly points out the stigma attached to taking these drugs but then seems to stumble in analysis of whether the stigma is wrong and if so to what degree. Yes, the stigma is wrong and, like all stigmas, it’s wrong in it’s entirety. Stigma, of any degree, is unhealthy. No one can really ever be sure of what another person’s experience is in life. No matter how exposed to someone else we are the fact remains that we aren’t with another person in his/her head at all let alone through the entirely of his/her life. We need not worry about how much we should be judging someone else’s drug use. Whether other’s have the permission of a doctor via prescription or not, the need to take a medication is ultimately a subjective thing only truly answerable by the one’s who take the drug. It is often difficult, in this era of “The War on Drugs” for a person to be able to find a doctor willing to take the chance of prescribing what is needed when it might result in the doctor having his or her license revoked by the DEA. If someone actually does have such a prescription then it certainly is not the place of anyone else to set himself up as a judge of whether or not the patient’s need is valid. Simply put, the correct response is to fight against such judgement and stigma and to spread the message that it harms everyone concerned. With such stigma so widespread it is very hard to think that such a large portion of society is just wrong. Throughout history, it has been the unwillingness of people to realize that a large portion of society has been fundamentally wrong on an issue that has allowed huge injustices to go on far longer than they should have been allowed to continue.


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