Here's Why You Should Never Google Your Medication
Do you research everything before you try it? Here's why you should skip Google.
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA - Are you one of those people who looks everything up before you try it? For example, when you're going to go eat out at a restaurant do you go to Yelp and read all the reviews, imagine yourself walking through the restaurant based on the photos, memorize the menu so you know which items are popular there?
It's perfectly normal, but you gotta take everything with a grain of salt. Pardon the pun.
If you read carefully, you'll notice that happy people write short comments. "Delicious." "The pork was fire." "Had a great time."
The angry people write long essays about how they were running late because of traffic and missed their reservation by only 45 minutes. They'll say the host was not accommodating even though they had never been there and it was the diner's birthday -- two weeks ago.
Well, the same thing happens when people start taking medication. Many patients come in and ask the same questions: "What will the sexual side effects be like?" "How much weight gain can I expect, and how much hair will I lose?" "Am I going to turn into a zombie."
"The only people that turn into zombies are dead people who come back alive," is usually my answer. There are no shrinking testicles, overnight obesity or balding, or multiples personalities that will come from taking psychiatric medication (that I know of anyway).
And then those four words -- "I read on Google..."
Let's go back to the Yelp example. You see, the problem is that when people have a bad experience, they'll immediately go to Google and talk all about it, hoping to find others with the same experience, wondering if they are the only ones, trying to make sense of why they had a stomachache. That's exactly what happens when people get side effects from medication.
When a person starts a new medication and something GOOD happens -- they go for that promotion, ask that guy out, or move to a new city -- They post the news on Facebook.
Many medications have side effects. But psych meds are stigmatized while others are not. Diphenhydramine (Benedryl) for example, is an antihistamine that causes sedation. But you likely wouldn't go to Google and put "this medication made me soooo sleepy. Take your money someplace else. I wish I could give this zero stars but since I have to, I'll give it one star."
In 2016, NBC reported that 1 out of 6 Americans take psychiatric medications. More and more people are beginning to see the importance of mental health. The brain is not just behavior and action, it's an organ just like your heart, lungs, and thyroid -- it needs to be treated if something is not working correctly.
Why can't I do it "the natural way?" Well first of all, this question comes from mental health stigma. Medications don't deprive you of doing anything "the natural way." All of your actions and decisions come from you, which makes them natural. Unless you're a robot (if you're not sure, then there's a test called a CAPTCHA...).
The problem is that if you leave something untreated, your other systems will need to compensate. If anxiety is causing your blood pressure to rise, then your cortisol levels will rise. If your anxiety is unmanaged, then your cortisol levels will remain high for as long as it's left untreated - giving your endocrine system a run for its money!
Some medications have side effects. But most people don't get them. If most people got them, your provider wouldn't prescribe them. It would be tedious, and dangerous, (not to mention unethical), to give harmful medications to people, knowing that they'll be back feeling sick, with lots of complaints.
Trust your provider. Ask them questions about side effects, and also the risks and benefits. DO NOT trust Google.
Chris Lee PMHNP-BC is a psychiatric nurse practitioner at DreamCloud Psychiatry, a hybrid telemedicine practice based in Miami Beach, Florida. Learn more at www.dreamcloudpsychiatry.com