Thursday, May 13, 2010

Obesity and Psychoactive Drugs © Megan Snider

** First of all, I want to make an amendment to this article that I did not clarify to the best of my ability. I consider a child any human under the age of 10 to 12 years of age.**

Out of all the effects of psychiatric medications can have, I suppose obesity shouldn't be taken seriously. But, let's talk frankly for a moment. Obesity ruins bodies, self image and skewers our sense of beauty in relation to ourselves and in relation to the eyes of others.

I'm embarrassed to track my own record with psychiatric drugs and obesity. All I know is that I couldn't fathom how or why I was getting fat when I started anti-depressants. I remember staring into my mother's full-length mirror, cradling my stomach like a pregnant woman and being at a loss of words and feeling shame stacked upon more shame. I had never been fat in my life and I didn't know what to do. So, I bit the bullet and I began to work out. That helped. Until they introduced the antipsychotics.

In a study done to track the effects of antipsychotics on children (yes, children! What a horror!) two doctors studied the effects of six different medications on animals. Within a six week study, the animals virtually DOUBLED their body weight and developed Type II Diabetes.

There had also been reports that some children on antipsychotics had died of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a rare complication to Type I Diabetes. In the research with the animals, rare complications in Type II Diabetes had been recorded as well.

My father has diabetes and every night I watch him give himself a shot through his stomach wall and wonder how he seems to manage that so easily. If that were me, I'd ask for a blindfold and cigarette before I even contemplated the shot.

I still struggle very much to this day to keep my weight under wraps. I try every diet I read about, even the ones which include virtual starvation. I think there's a sad loop that goes on in someone's brain who used to be beautiful and knows they have lost that quality. The loop is of former days and causes him or her to see him or herself in the minds' eye as that old beauty he or she once was. When confronted with a new image, one of a mishappen and twisted body, he or she is unable to recognize that reflection in the mirror for a few seconds. I am no longer blessed with the perfect metabolism or the perfect body. But, I am working very hard to get it back.

Now, when I think of these atrocities happening to children, it bothers me a great deal. Imagine how a child would see him or herself as he or she ballooned and swelled from medications. It's a very sad thought. More dangerous is the threat of juvenile diabetes and the strict regimen one must follow with that disease.

I was never formally treated for my illness until I turned 18. I have had Panic Disorder since a very young age and it did affect me in very scary ways. But, then again, it still does. I don't believe children should be treated in any manner until they are grow. If they are of a reasonable age and have the courage to say that they have a mental illness, then they should be treated. But I think this reasonable age should be around 17 to 19. And I think they should be prepared for the effects no one ever mentions, which is obesity which piles on you year after year if you are not vigilant and prepared to take your own bodily health into your own hands.

© Megan Snider
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  1. I have to disagree with you, Megan. A parent cannot stand by and watch her beloved child drown in a sea of depression.

    However (and I think we've talked privately about this), there are some serious ethical dilemma when it comes to using strong medications for ANY disease. In the case of my son, I wondered at times if his quality of life was good enough to justify the side effects of the TRANSPLANT, let alone the psychotropics. It's a conflict a parent shouldn't have to face, but must deal with when the situation demands.

    There is no clear cut answer. And the side effects, no matter what age, are devastating to the psyche, the body, everything. What's the answer? I have yet to discover it, but hopefully the questions that you and other dedicated advocates ask will compel researchers to keep pursuing answers.

    Much love and gratitude,

  2. I respect your position to disagree. Believe it or not, I was sort of flip flopping on what to write this morning. I know when I hear cases of 3 year olds being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, it sort of worries me. If 3 year olds have serious Bipolar Disorder, then who is safe? Where do the diagnoses stop? But, in part, I do agree with you. If you have a child that is suffering, he or she should receive help. The only problem I have is that the age for diagnosis keeps getting lower and lower and that's what worries me. I was speaking more of children and less of teens and adults.

  3. I do respect the touch decisions you have had to shoulder, C. I totally understand where you are coming from and everything is pretty complicated with psychiatric issues and medical issues. Like you said, there are a lot of ethical arguments. It's hard to know what's right to do by every patient.