Side effects and how to minimize them

Illustration: Tony H.

 

* Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a pharmacist, nor do I have any kind of medical education (except first-aid training, which always comes in handy). I am not linked to any kind of pharmaceutical or medical company either. These tips and info are purely informal, they stem from my own observations and experience, or from tips I gathered here and there. Always ask your doctor for a proper diagnosis, always ask your doctor before taking any kind of medication, carefully read the medication's instructions beforehand too, never mix or use medications simultaneously unless told so by your doctor, and report to your doctor any side effects you might be experiencing -- even if they don't seem all that serious. When trying out a new non-medical product, you still need to always carefully read the instructions and to avoid mixing them with other products.

 

Side effects are an important part of taking psychiatric medication. They don't always happen but let's be honest, most of the time they do (just like any other medication). They happen differently for everyone of course, since dosage, interaction with other medication, living conditions and simply different metabolisms all enter the battle arena of how a person reacts to medication!

But remember: the definition of medication is that it improves your overall health. Meaning that side effects should be less damaging to your health (both mind and body) than the medication-free alternative. But, following that same idea, it means that you might have to deal with side effects for the whole time that you are medicated -- sometimes for your whole life. You have to carefully balance the two in order to make your best choice: what are you ready to endure if it allows you to live an overall good daily life, if it helps fight off your suicidal ideas, if it lessens your emotional and/or physical pain, if it has you achieve your professional and personal dreams? That's what you'll need to think about... but only once you've experienced the side effects of several different treatments, once you know all the options that are open to you, and once you know which ones allow you to feel better.

 

So let's get down to business and live happier, better lives which, let me remind you dear desperate reader, DO also come through psychiatric medication (otherwise you probably wouldn't be reading this article). I have listed a number of side effects (and tips for managing them) below, check regularly for updates and please feel free and highly encouraged to share in the comments those that I did not mention and if possible, whatever your tips to minimize them might be! The more we know, the more we can share, the better everyone feels. Winning trio.

 

For all kinds of side effects

That's where you'll want to be particularly gentle with yourself, and accepting of this "weak" state. I know how difficult that is, especially when you suffer from depression for instance, because the illness has one goal: persuade you that you are worth nothing but suffering, and in silence please. Let's be clear here, though I'll come back to this later: that is simply not true. You deserve to live a full, happy, painfree life, regardless of whether living a 100% painfree life is even possible for any human being.

 

Accept that your body is, for now anyway, weaker and not as healthy as it might have been before. It's a fact, not a judgment of value or worthiness, it's not saying anything about yourself except that fact. No more, no less.

Is denying this fact and forcing your body to go through the same things it usually does going to solve the problem? If you're answering yes, then let me ask a slightly different question: when you have the flu, does it make any sense to force your body to do all the exact same things it usually does? Will that make the flu magically go away, just because you want it to and are hard set on ignoring that you're sick and need to rest? I'm pretty sure that getting that much-needed rest will have you back on your feet much sooner than the alternative. And that works for all kinds of illnesses.

 

  • Please talk deadlines and severity of side effects with your doctor first, they're the most competent person on judging when you need to schedule an appointment with them again and in which case. If it's your psychiatrist who has prescribed the medication, and you're experiencing severe side effects, you can go to your general practitioner first: they're more likely to be quickly available for an appointment and they often actually know more about side effects than psychiatrists, simply because they follow patients in their daily lives. And if your GP determines that the side effects are too severe or unlikely to subside with time, then it's totally recommended that you schedule an appointment with your psychiatrist. Tough it might take some time and possibly a lot of adjustments, there's always a solution to make it all more manageable!

 

  • Ask your pharmacist for tips and recommendations.
    • They are experts on managing multiple medications at a time, and they know all the latest products out there that your GP and psychiatrist sometimes haven't heard about.
    • They see you on a regular basis (possibly even more often than your doctors do), which means they're able to witness the evolution of your symptoms.
    • AND you don't need to book an appointment with them.
    • Last but not least: in principle, each city has at least one pharmacy that's open all night long. It's either always the same one that's open 24/7 or it might change every night or every week -- for the latter, there should be a number you can call or a website you can visit to know which pharmacy is on duty. Beware that most of the time, getting your meds or purchasing stuff from the on-duty pharmacy will cost more than on regular hours.

 

  • Be sure to always take your meds on time (at the same time everyday if possible: setting an alarm on your phone will help with that), because big disparities in times at which you take your meds are often responsible for increased or longer-surviving side effects. Never, ever up the dose if you happen to have forgotten one or if you feel like it's not working well enough (unless specifically told to do so by your doctor).

 

  • Cuddle with your dog, cat or whichever pet you have throughout the day, as much as possible. It's been proven about a zillion times that pets can have incredibly positive effects on your health, including:
    • Slowing down your cardiac rythm
    • Helping you feel grounded in the moment and in your own body: you can feel your pet firmly installed against your neck or your leg, which helps you focus on that part of your body, and then on the fact that this specific body part allows you to be connected to the presence of your pet...
    • And feeling comforted (thereby less likely to experience stress-induced dizziness, heart palpitations, stomach- and headaches...). So take at least a moment in the morning and a moment in the evening to cuddle and connect with your companion.
    • And here's a cat gif, just because.

 

  • Get plenty of sleep. I can't stress how important that is, because of course ANY side effect will be multiplied on a body that's lacking such a vital element as sleep. You might actually not notice that the side effects are worse or that they're appearing because of your lack of sleep... until you sleep more and better and realize side effects are so much more manageable. So:
    • Avoid looking at screens during the two hours before bedtime.
    • Have a light but actual dinner.
    • Try to have a regular bedtime and a bedtime routine (whatever it is, it will signal by force of habit to your body that it's time to fall asleep).
    • Sleep in your bed at night (don't let yourself fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV) though you might want to rather have an afternoon nap on the couch or in a different room, which will signal to your body to not go on full-sleep mode and will have you wake up more easily and less time-confused.

 

  • Let go of the unimportant, the superfluous, the non-essential. Nobody cares that your flat is dusty, that you haven't done the dishes in several days, or that your bedroom floor is covered in clothes. Actually? Most people's homes look just like that on any given day, and you being sick is just one more good reason to suppress unnecessary feelings of guilt feeding on the myth that other people's houses look any better. Or that your house needs to look any better -- your health is immeasurably more important than the state of your home. Here's a quote by J.K. Rowling on how she managed household chores while writing her books, because if Harry Potter's mom can live surrounded by dirt and be awesome all the same, so can you.

The answer is: I didn’t do housework for four years. Living in squalor. That was the answer.

- J. K. Rowling, goddess of all dirty homes with still-incredibly-great people living inside them.

  • Ask someone to do chores for you. I'm serious. Whoever that might be: your (old enough) children, a loved one, friends, parents (yes, you are independent but no, that doesn't mean you can't accept their help), your neighbors (which might also be an occasion to get to know them better), or even hired household help. Most of the time people are readier to help than you might think, they don't take this as a whim on your part but rather as an easy and really helpful way for them to support you and make you feel better. They were probably actually looking for a way to do just that. Plus, your money is better spent on household help so that you can get better and the person gets a decent job, than on you needing even more time to heal and things only being done halfway with unhelpful guilt.

 

  • Favor healthy, actually nourishing meals. That's also when having someone by your side is helpful. Your meal should include a lot of (green leafy) vegetables, meat or more veggies that will give you plenty of iron among other things, healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado, not too much pasta or potatoes, limited dairy (especially if it's high in fat) and limited but nontheless-present fruit. I'm not a nutrition expert and the goal of this article is not to tackle nutrition issues, but these have been advised to me by my nutritionist and will work on average people with an average physical health (eating healthy can help with mental illness, but that's a topic for another time).

 

Dizziness and muscle weakness

Dizziness is one of the most common side effects but also, lucky for us, one that generally goes away after a short while, once your body has gotten a bit more used to the medication. Should it persist (think, over two weeks), talk to your doctor immediately. They might adjust the dosage, change your medication entirely or prescribe you additional treatment, because dizziness can prove unmanageable or dangerous in a daily setting, especially if you're on your own.

 

  • As much as possible, have someone stay with you at all times (in the same apartment, I don't mean that they need to follow your every move) because dizziness can quickly transform into passing out and you can get hurt. So, if you're the hibernating-bear kind or just can't bear (pun not intended but making me proud nonetheless) to constantly have someone else in your home, count with the fact that if you pass out and fall down the stairs, having your four limbs in a cast won't help you regain your independence. You don't want that, and the people who might have to deal with your cranky-bear-self afterwards probably don't want that either. At the very least, have someone call you on the phone a few times a day, or after whatever particular effort you know in advance that you'll have to do.

 

  • Getting rest, as much as possible considering your everyday responsibilities of course, includes avoiding unnecessary physical efforts for a while. Time to postpone non-urgent errands or better, to order online and have your goods be ready for home delivery or at least drive-thru (pedestrian drive-thru is also gaining popularity in French supermarkets). Again, asking someone to run errands for you is also a very good option that you really should consider. Cut down on the weight-lifting and zumba classes. You might still be able to exercise! Just choose slower kinds of exercise, such as:
    • Yoga movements (head here to find out what kind of yoga will suit you best and here for a hilarious song about yoga)
    • Going for a slow walk outside
    • Soft apartment-biking
    • Soaking in the pool (though be careful to never go in alone, to stay where your feet can safely touch the bottom, and to only dip your feet if the water's too cold because that can trigger dizziness too).
    • Walking your dog (one that won't risk ending up pulling you along on the leash) is also a good alternative because it happens at relatively fixed times, meaning you can schedule rest right before and right after.

 

  • Hot temperatures only make dizziness worse, so:
    • Favor the shaded sidewalk
    • Go out a little sooner or later than necessary to avoid rush hours
    • Prefer buses and tramways (more likely to be air-conditioned) to underground trains
    • Always carry drinking water with you (head here for a selection of reusable water bottles)
    • Cook meals that don't need to go in the oven, which will also help you avoid brutal exposure (whenever you have to check whether your food is ready) to really high temperatures
    • Wet a tissue and regularly refresh your forehead, back of the neck, wrists and the space right under your ears
    • Drink plenty of water (though not ice-cold!), which is extremely important even in winter
    • Wear your hair up and a hat. Though it might seem like trivial details, it can make the difference between passing out in front of the kebab place and making it home safe

 

  • Be sure to eat enough and to favor healthy, actually nourishing meals. That mainly entails avoiding sugar-filled products as you will experience a brutal dizziness-favoring sugar low a few hours later.

 

  • Get plenty of sleep. Personally, one of my first triggers for dizziness on a normal day is the lack of sleep, so let's not add that to the list of things that can make you feel dizzy.

 

  • When awake, if you feel dizzy without even moving, try not to lie down completely but rather with your head and back slightly elevated (with two or three pillows for example). I personally feel like it allows me to breathe better (the more oxygen the better). It might also help reduce the dizziness that comes with changing positions, since you'll be getting up from a higher spot.

 

  • Feeling anxious can also be a reason for dizziness and muscle weakness, and newly-appeared or increased anxiety can actually be a side effect of medication. In that case, talk to your doctor about it: they might be able to either modify your current prescription in terms of dosage or try out a whole different type of medication, or to prescribe an additional anti-anxiety treatment.

 

  • Avoid alcohol. I'm pretty sure you lot are not stupid and know that mixing alcohol and medication is a bad idea, but here's a reminder just in case (in case you forgot, not in case you are stupid). If you are addicted to alcohol, try to switch to lighter drinks. Also, minimize the dangerous mix of alcohol and medicine by allowing as much time as possible to pass between the moment you have a drink and the moment you take your medication.

 

Nausea

Eh, well, I don't have much to go on for this one but here's what I've gathered.

 

  • Don't hold the puke in. Like Hagrid said in Harry Potter (yes, I'm a fan and this might or might not be the last Harry Potter-related quote in this article):

Better out than in!

- Hagrid, to a steadily-slug-vomiting-by-curse, famously redheaded student.

  • Regularly refresh your forehead, the back of your neck, your wrists and the space right behind your ears (for me, that's where it works best to prevent vomiting) with a wet tissue. Or better even, take a cold-ish shower or two during the day.

 

  • Eat. Nausea, counter-intuitively, often gets worse when you're running on an empty stomach, especially in transportation. Plus, your body needs food to function (I hope that's not coming as astonishing news to you) and if you're constantly vomiting you'll need to eat again. Whatever you're able to keep will do, so cook food that is nourishing but not smelling too strongly. If you're having trouble keeping anything down (as opposed to throwing up at certain precise times, such as when you're taking your medication), try rice with plain yoghurt and a pinch of salt. It's a recipe from my Syrian grandma and it has worked pretty well for me in the past.

 

  • DRINK WATER. A LOT. When you're sick and you throw up a lot, water gets lost and that's what your system needs most, especially when it's not doing so well. So drink as much plain or slightly sugary water as you can and avoid alcohol, fruit juices and coffee (all those beverages are acidic and your stomach's getting enough rough time as it is), and then drink some more water. And then some more (that's also wise advice for minimizing hangovers, bam, two for the price of one).

 

  • Choose your seat wisely (if you're reading this in a deep, mystery-filled voice, then you're doing it right 'cause that's how I'm writing it). When in transportation, choose:
    • The front seat in the car
    • A window-side seat on a plane or train
    • A seat that's facing the same direction as the train (of course you gotta be on a train, otherwise it's much more complicated)
    • And try to keep your window open for fresh air (that's for when you're NOT on a plane. Ahem).

 

  • Ask your doctor for anti-vomiting medication if they haven't given you any yet.
    • Don't let more than 2 or 3 days go by if you're throwing up a lot, first because it can lead to dangerous dehydration, and second because if you're constantly expelling your psychiatric medication it's unlikely to have any positive effect.
    • If you're throwing up once or twice a day but manage to keep your medication down and your daily life also remains manageable, I guess you can let a week or two go by, as psychiatric medication typically takes some time to get accustomed to. Though please talk deadlines with your doctor first, they're the most competent one on judging when you need to schedule an appointment with them again and what kind of severity you can expect for side effects.

 

Hot flashes, increased temperature sensitivity, increased sweating

Believe me, I know how sore you can become in such cases. I come from a hot country so the first time I realized I was having trouble with hot temperatures here in France, I felt betrayed by the world as a whole.

I have some tips to help coming right next. But if you still find it truly unbearable, if it disrupts your daily life and keeps you from doing things you need or would like to undertake, as always, I suggest you talk to your doctor about it (preferably your GP first). A hormonal treatment might help, or perhaps a slight change in the dosage of your psychiatric medication would suffice. In any case, here's what you can do about it!

 

  • Prefer cotton, or natural materials, whenever you can. When you get hot your skin can also get more sensitive, especially with all the perspiration, so cotton is best because it's breathable and unlikely to cause any allergic reactions (you can find tips for skin-related problems just a little further down this article). Linen is also an excellent choice, just beware of its sometimes scratchy texture and possibly high price. If you can't afford or find those, and if it doesn't cause you any allergy, the sports section in clothing offers some excellent light-and-breathing options made of synthetic materials.

 

  • Shorter clothes won't necessarily do a better job: you'll get more direct sunlight on your skin and you'll still be too hot because of the tightness of the material. People who live in the desert or in hot places (both humid and dry climates) traditionally wear rather long, flowy clothes instead of short, tighter ones because they know it's more efficient. So both in the men's and women's sections, go with lighter, more flowy clothes. If you like what's usually called an "ethnic style", it's often all about comfort and practicality so go for it:
    • Choose large-cut pants or dresses (as opposed to simply a size larger than your own, that'll just make the whole thing difficult), flowy skirts and T-shirts. Kill two birds with one stone: long dresses can also be worn as tunics over a pair of leggings, for a different style.
    • If the leggings are breathable and light, you can also favor them over jeans or flowy pants (better in case of a stricter Western-office-appropriate style).

 

  • In make-up stores (and this concerns you men, too!), you'll find a little helper that doesn't look like much but might just save your day: mattifying blotting papers. They're actually efficient as hell for when you're sweating heavily (courtesy of my husband who used them with much relief on our summer wedding day), even more so than tissues, which might in turn actually cause more sweating for some f***ed-up reason.

 

  • Drink gallons and gallons of water. Because sweating.

 

  • Opt for anti-perspirants instead of deodorants. This is to take with a lot of caution, because sweating is a natural phenomenon that helps your body regulate itself. But if the sweating is really excessive and disrupting your daily life, then it's an option to consider, maybe not for the whole day everyday but at times when the sweating has become unbearable.

 

  • Carry a little Chinese fan with you at all times. It's better than nothing and it can look really nice (courtesy of my mother-in-law on that same summer wedding day). PS: men can use those, too, okay? It's HOT so people try to stay COOL. Nothing wrong with that.

 

  • Sometimes, losing fat can help with the sensitivity to hot temperatures because fat is a natural insulator, meaning your body better retains the heat (although it's actually a bit more complicated than that). Exercising regularly in warmer temperatures (we're talking 20 minutes a day in 37°C or 98.6° F MAXIMUM lads, don't push it, be careful and DRINK LOTS OF WATER) can also help you build a tolerance to heat, so you might wanna hit the gym. If, like me, you hate feeling sweaty, try swimming, aquabiking, aquadancing, aquagym, aqua-unicorning... Lots of options out there!

 

I'll soon be partnering with brands to let you know which of their products I like most and to offer you discounts, so keep an eye out for that! Also, hit the comment section to let me know about which products YOU love and use in such cases!

 

Skin-related ailments

For suddenly-oilier or brutally-itching skin, the first thing I want to tell you is, please don't hate your body. It doesn't help with anything.

Oily skin for example is actually just your body telling you it's being attacked, and trying to protect you! The key idea here is that your skin has a naturally sort-of-oily protective layer on top, which is meant to protect it from aggressive exterior agents. What you absolutely need to do is NOT cleanse that away! Oilier skin is a result of your body increasing its sebum production in response to brutal, skin-drying, irritating chemicals. So the more you scrub, the oilier AND the more sensitive your skin becomes, making it a vicious cycle. It can also come from an imbalance in your hormones.

Itching and dryness also come from your skin being under attack by the medication you are taking, and your skin being therefore unable to retain its natural oily-like protection from the sun, water, pollution & co.

The second thing I want to tell you is, no need to despair, solutions exist! Actually, most of the tips listed below work for both oily skin and dry skin, since they're all about respecting and soothing the skin.

 

  • See a dermatologist. They're of course experts on the subject and know quite a bit about medication-related skin reactions. They can recommend brands, specific products and fully-tailored skincare routine. Your GP should be able to recommend a dermatologist, especially if (as is the case in France for example) you're actually required to get a prescription from your GP to see a specialist.

 

  • If you can't or don't want to see a dermatologist for any kind of reason, try to at least follow these few rules:
    • Try to limit the total number of products you use on your skin, and especially the number of products you apply at the same time.
    • Always test the product on a small area of your skin and allow a few hours to go by before deciding it's safe for you. No, really wait.
    • The shorter the ingredient list, the better (less chances of there being agressive, unnecessary chemicals only added for their perfume-enhancing or foam-making properties).
    • Truly organic is also better, for the same reason mentioned before -- but beware of the fact that "organic" in different countries or even different labels doesn't necessarily designate the same organic percentage of the end product nor the conditions required to meet the definition of organic.
    • Scent-free is generally safer, and it doesn't mean your product won't smell of anything! It just means no added perfume, using the natural scent of ingredients included in this product for their actual properties, not their scent.

 

  • KEEP HYDRATED. I can't quite emphasize enough how important it is. Water is what your body needs most and once again, if your body feels dry it might secrete more oil (sebum) as an attempt to make up for missing water. Now, hydrating means... drinking plenty of water, and then some more. Most of your skin hydration comes from the inside, meaning the water you drink -- that's actually why 99% of skin-moisturizing products specify that they only hydrate the upper layers of your skin. COZ IT GOTTA COME FROM THE INSIDE. If you're having trouble drinking enough water because you just don't feel the thirst, here are a few tips. It honestly took years for me, but drinking more water daily has finally led my body to experience regular, more intense, healthy thirst!
    • Set alarms on your phone to remind you to drink water regularly
    • Drink from a (reusable) bottle so as to measure whether you're drinking enough water throughout the day
    • Choose a nice reusable bottle that'll make drinking water a more pleasant moment. I swear it can help! Here's a selection of reusable bottles that are free of plastic -- bad for the environment, and bad for you because it doesn't keep the water fresh, has a tendency to give a bad taste to your water after a while, and tiny particles of plastic tend to transfer directly into the water you ingest
    • Set a goal to drink a certain number of water glasses per meal or per day
    • Drink rather cold water: I find that it lessens the bad taste common to city water, and is somehow just easier to drink in big gulps
    • Add a light flavor to your water, either by:
      • Letting a slice of fruit such as lemon to soak in your water
      • Adding already-prepared fruit concentrate to your bottle of water (beware to choose real fruit-based ones without added sugar, and avoid sugar-full syrups!). Though if you're using a plastic reusable bottle, don't put acidic stuff in it! You have no idea how bad the water will taste because of the plastic it will contain, after the acidic component has attacked the plastic...
      • Simply buying already-flavored water (again, beware of the added sugar)

 

  • Use a different type of soap. Time to choose new, great-smelling, eco-friendly, harsh-chemical-free soap bars and shampoo bars (yes, that's a thing and it's pretty amazing)!
    • It should follow the same rules as mentioned before: short list of easily-identifiable ingredients and organic if possible -- meaning that soaps you'll find in supermarkets will most probably not meet these conditions. If you're really having skin trouble, I can only recommend to pay a bit more for a healthy skin that won't be a daily worry and nuisance. It used to drive me crazy and to the point of tears, so no shame.
    • You'll need to choose a purifying but soft soap, so beware of scrubbing soaps that can irritate your already-sensitive skin, oilier types included. Look online or in specialized stores for one of the following keywords: superfatted, creamy, oil-rich, or extra-moisturizing, in addition to cold saponification (very important: it's what ensures your soap has retained a great deal of the oils it's made of in their original state). Finding that kind of soap honestly saved my skin and my sanity, and stopped the steady raiding of my bank account by big, less efficient pharmacy brands. Meaning it's the best quality-price deal I've found yet, homemade-by-myself-soap included. You can use some of those soaps as shampoo, too, if they work on your hair type.
    • I'll be back with a selection of both soaps and shampoos but in the meantime, if you speak French, my favorite brand normally ships to France as well as to nearby countries, but you can also message them to ship elsewhere and they will calculate the shipping costs for you.

 

  • Moisturize your skin, either by:
    • Using daily moisturizing products. Oily skin needs just as much moisturizing as dry skin!
    • Doing 10-minute moisturizing masks two or three times a week maximum:
      • With raw (and better if organic) honey to which you can add lemon juice (not if you're on the dry skin side though!)
      • With white or green clay mixed with water, that normally leaves the skin pores cleared but soft (though from experience, better to avoid on irritated skin)
      • And of course you can do masks on other skin areas than just your face. Just steer clear from your eyes, mucous membranes (careful around your vulva if you're doing a mask on your thighs for example) and basically anything super-sensitive or insightfully located inside your body: gotta leave those body parts alone!

 

    • When stepping out of the shower, don't harshly wipe with a towel, especially if it's an old rough one. Rather, use said towel to gently pat your skin dry, in particular on your back, upper arms and chest. For bigger areas like your back, just squeeze the towel tight around yourself without wiping or even patting, letting the towel absorbe the water from your skin. If you don't cringe at the specific texture like I do, using a microfiber towel is a good option, as it is very soft and gets your skin (as well as itself) dry in no time. Also, you'll dry much quicker if you can leave a window ajar during or after your shower. In winter, you can rely on a fan heater.

 

  • Go easy on make-up and always remove it before going to sleep: as a general rule, make-up clogs your skin pores and keeps your skin from breathing properly. So don't forget to remove it, GENTLY:
    • Lukewarm (not burning hot) water on a soft clean cloth, with a scent-free glycerin-based soap if you really need some, is the most gentle way to go about it. Again, I'll be back with more deals but for now, here's my life-saving, eye-and-skin-preserving reusable soft cloth that needs only water to remove even waterproof makeup.
    • If you prefer to use an actual make-up-removing product on a cloth or cotton pad, I'll be back with a selection of skin-friendly make-up removers. Please don't harshly wipe your face: that'll cause the skin to get dry and irritated. Just GENTLY (that being the keyword here in case you hadn't noticed) pat your skin with the cloth or cotton pad, or wipe it really... well, gently.

 

  • If you really want to use a cleanser:
    • Contrary to intuition, even for oily skin, you'll want to favor an oil-based cleanser: such cleansers work by attaching to the sebum on your skin and you can then rinse with water -- both the cleanser and the sebum will go away.
    • You can also try salicylic acid-containing cleansers, which will help remove excess sebum directly from the pores of your skin. Be careful though! Your skin has to feel soft afterwards, not tight-stretched or dry.

 

  • After advice from your dermatologist (that is, if it seems all other options have failed), ask your GP or your gynecologist about taking hormones. Beware that it can have an array of consequences regarding weight, emotions, digestion, libido, menstrual cycle, etc. But do consider it because:
    • Maybe your psychiatric medication is messing with your hormone levels, thereby affecting your skin, and that can be balanced with taking additional hormones.
    • Or your medication is messing with *just* your skin, and that can be balanced with taking additional hormones too.
    • If you're on hormonal birth control (hormonal IUD, contraceptive pill, implant, etc.), consider switching to another birth control method or dosage or having your partner, whatever their gender, take up birth control instead of you (head here for a very thorough listing of all available birth control methods).

 

  • If you often break out into rashes:
    • Following the tips above may help on a daily basis though it probably won't eliminate the problem in itself. I can only recommend talking to your psychiatrist about changing your medication or at least its dosage, and absolutely seeing a dermatologist
    • Moisturizing your skin daily, or more often, with body lotion or organic natural oils (such as jojoba, coconut or almond) remains the best way to minimize the damage of such rashes

 

  • For pimples, black heads and acne more generally:
    • It's again best to see a dermatologist, because there are different kinds of acne that appear for different reasons
    • As a general rule, avoid food that is high in added sugar and/or high in fat, as those tend to favor the appearance of pimples and oily skin
    • You can apply organic white clay (delayed with a tiny bit of water to apply more easily) on the problematic area, which will absorb the sebum and help reduce the swelling. Apply once or twice a day, but remember that it has a drying action so be sure to also moisturize that same area
    • For pimples that look "ready" (slightly swollen, red, and with a white point in their center), you can try to GENTLY disinfect by patting them with a cotton pad previously wet/sprayed with disinfectant or rubbing alcohol. Don't make the same mistake I regularly do, by rubbing too harshly and actually causing a burn. That's really no better than the pimple itself, it hurts and it takes much more time to heal. There you go.

 

Hair loss or degradation

If you menstruate, you need to know that most people who do tend to have an iron (and magnesium) deficiency. So that could be an additional trigger to the medication side effect. Try ingesting more iron, that is:

 

  • Going for iron-rich foods from the non-exhaustive list below:
    • Red meat (beware not to eat too much of that though) and chicken liver
    • Lentils (excellent nutrition/tummy fullness/price ratio), chickpeas and beans
    • Shellfish (especially mussels)
    • Spinach is actually not that high in iron (sorry Popeye) but it has a lot of vitamin C which facilitates the absorption of iron
    • Pumpkin seeds (which you can eat as a snack)
    • Breakfast cereal enriched with iron (beware of the added sugar though)
    • And dark chocolate!
    • Best to consume those foods with vitamin C-rich foods to facilitate the iron absorption

 

  • And possibly asking your GP to prescribe you a few months of iron supplement, though beware that that kind of iron is not as well absorbed as the kind you'll find directly in your food.

 

Turning to an organic shampoo with rosemary might help, too.

 

Cravings, increase or decrease in appetite

If you can't resist the cravings, try beating them by actually scheduling them into your meals instead of giving in to them randomly throughout the day or night (it's difficult, I know).

 

For an increase in appetite, try:

  • Separating the day's food intake into several, smaller meals (like 4 or 5) by including healthy snacks
  • Varying the type of food and cuisine you eat (Mediterranean, Thai, French, Italian, Polish, Ethiopian... So many delicious possibilities out there!). I have discovered THE.BEST.APP for meal-planning and cooking, try it out!
  • Getting out of the house or taking more small breaks at the office, so that you don't eat out of boredom
  • Eating larger quantities of healthy food (include more broccoli and less pasta, for instance)
  • Drinking water very, very regularly
  • Drinking coffee/decaf/tea/flavored water, basically anything not (too) sugary so as to distract yourself from eating
  • Contrary to first instinct (which would be to reduce your food intake), you need to make sure that you eat enough in terms of nutrition
  • Getting enough sleep: you tend to eat more (from actually feeling hungrier) when you're tired
  • Talk about the side effects of every possible medication you could get on with your psychiatrist before they make the prescription (among which, the question of possibly putting on weight)
  • See a nutritionist or at least follow your weight changes with your psychiatrist so as to limit putting on weight (which is a common side effect of psychiatric medication). Beware of simply deciding to limit your calorie intake, for example, even by following general advice based on your gender or your height: it might not suit your actual, individual needs

 

For a decrease in appetite, try:

  • Consuming foods in a liquid form, such as super-packed veg and fruit smoothies (homemade or designed for nutrition by a food tech startup)
  • Consuming foods in a (healthy) snack bar form that you can nibble on at your own pace (you'll find plenty of food tech start-ups launching their products right now)
  • Having your bigger meal at the time you feel it's easiest (it doesn't have to be breakfast and it doesn't have to be at "normal" hours, do what works best for you)
  • Making sure the food you do eat is as nutritious as possible
  • Eating with loved ones (it helps you focus less on the food)

 

Most of all, try not to beat yourself up over it and remember that changes in appetite are a very common symptom of depression (which can itself be a side effect of medication)... so check in with yourself.

 

Suicidal thoughts (appearance or increase)

If it goes on for more than 3 days, the suicidal thoughts become really strong and intrusive, or you think you might act on them, go to your doctor immediately: either your GP, your psychiatrist or emergency services if neither of the former are available. No dithering and I'm not sick enough talk: this is a priority, this is an emergency, not the time to play it tough.

 

If it's likely that they're the cause of your suicidal thoughts, your dosage or your entire medication will be changed and you should feel better soon after, but keep an eye out on those thoughts as suicidality can take on more forms than just I want to kill myself. You will soon find an article dedicated to that topic, but as a general rule you should still watch out for major signs that are out of character for you, since no one knows you better than... yourself!

 

Dry or "cotton" mouth

Not much to do about this except drinking water... If you're having trouble getting more water into your diet, I've listed a few tips in the Skin-related ailments section!

 

Brain zaps

Not much to do about those, sorry lads. The good news is, they're not dangerous.

I have personally found that they can increase with tiredness (as pretty much any ailment out there) and long moments spent hard-focusing, on a screen for instance.

It depends on how frequently they occur of course, but you might want to endure through them if the benefits from the medication on your mental state are really good. They might also actually be temporary, although "temporary" here can last up to one or a few years.

Don't hesitate to report them to your doctor, though -- a slightly different dosage or the time at which you take your medication sometimes does wonders!

It's worth noting that brain zaps can also be a symptom of anxiety, so you might want to look into that.

 

 

 

Thats's it for now, more is coming, don't hesitate to email me at [email protected] if you think of more side effects and especially if you can share the way you deal with them! Always looking forward to your contributions ;)

The pharmacist who let me go without a word
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