Antidepressant Side Effects
I've never been officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), partly, I believe, because there have been so many other disorders for my doctors and I to focus on (depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder, anyone?). Looking at the description of GAD, though, I am pretty sure that I have had at least mild anxiety disorder most of my life. I'm definitely a worrier, although I've learned to control it to some extent, and I have had tension knots on my neck since I was a teenager. And I'm really, really bad at relaxing. It's almost impossible for me to relax unless I'm physically exhausted. I used to think that it had something to do with my ADHD, but I'm beginning to think that's not the culprit.
Another tipoff is my nail biting. I've bitten my nails as long as I can remember, down to the quick. I've tried to stop many times, and have even succeeded, sometimes for a year or more, but the majority of my life has been spent with virtually no nails. It took me a long time to figure out why I could stop sometimes and why I couldn't, but I think I've finally hit on it. I think that when I go through periods of heightened anxiety, I start biting my nails again. When I am going through those fairly rare periods of low anxiety, it's a snap to stop.
So the other day I was looking at my nails, wondering why it had been so long since I'd been able to stop biting them. The last time that I had long nails was right before my son was born almost six years ago. After a bit of rumination, light finally dawned. Thinking back, I realized that I have been more anxious overall the last few years. I certainly could chalk it up to the stress of having a child. While being a mother is undeniably enjoyable, it brings stress and worry with it. However, I don't think that's the main problem.
In the fall of 2000 I switched from my longtime antidepressant, Norpramin, to Wellbutrin. My psychopharmacologist, a psychiatrist who specializes in psychiatric medicine, was amazed that I had been on Norpramin so long, since it is an old antidepressant and has some uncomfortable side effects. The dry mouth from the Norpramin had in fact caused my teeth to decalcify over the years, so I saw his point. I tapered off the Norpramin and then started taking the Wellbutrin. Looking back, I can see that I have overall been more anxious since then, except during my pregnancy - when I went off the Wellbutrin.
So now I do feel a bit stupid. I did know that Wellbutrin could exacerbate or even cause anxiety, but I was not on the lookout for it. You would think that, given my extensive knowledge of mental health and antidepressants (for a layperson), it wouldn't have taken me over seven years to figure this out. However, the increase in anxiety was slight, slight enough that I really needed hindsight to see it at all.
So next week I'm going to see my doctor for my quarterly medicine check, and I'm going to tell him I'd like to try another antidepressant. Although switching antidepressants is one of my least favorite things, since there's always a short period of depression in between tapering off the old and the new one taking effect, I think it's worth it. I'm kind of tired of being so anxious all the time. I'm sure my husband would be relieved if I were a little less tense about everything. And I'd really like to wear nail polish again.