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  • Writer's pictureRyan Sheridan, NP

Why Your Psychiatric Medication May Be Holding You Back from Success

Your Psychiatric Medication May Be Holding You Back from Success

Amidst the hustle and the never-ending quest for personal and professional success, there's a nuanced conversation we need to have.

It's about our relationship with psychiatric medications and how, sometimes, they might be more of a roadblock than an answer to our problems and a bridge to our aspirations.

I'm an Integrative Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and I've seen firsthand the complex interplay between mental health, medication, and personal growth. In this blog post, I explore the concept of medication as a hindrance to growth. This is not meant to be applied broadly or suggest anyone in particular should come off their medications. Instead, this is a warm and open discussion about a delicate subject: the possibility that your psychiatric medication may be holding you back from achieving your fullest potential.

Quick note: this post is not intended to serve as specific medication advice, instead it is to provoke a thoughtful discussion about our relationship with medication. To be clear, there is no shame in taking psychiatric medication when used appropriately.

The Comfort Zone Conundrum

It's deeply ingrained in human nature to seek paths of least resistance. Our primal instincts drive us toward safety and comfort while steering us away from pain and peril. In the context of modern mental health care, this inclination can manifest through our relationship with psychiatric medications. These treatments, invaluable for countless individuals navigating the complexities of mental health disorders, can inadvertently become a cradle of comfort, shielding us from the very experiences that catalyze growth and transformation.

The Safety Net Paradox

Consider the metaphor of a safety net. Its primary purpose is to catch acrobats should they falter, a fallback that enables the daring to attempt feats they might not otherwise. Yet, imagine if the acrobat chose to lie in the safety net, fearing the height, the risk, and the potential for failure. In doing so, they would never experience the thrill of the performance, the mastery of their craft, or the applause that comes with success. This is the crux of the Comfort Zone Conundrum in psychiatric care.

Medications intended to serve as a safety mechanism can become a comforting hammock, lulling individuals into a state of complacency, where the prospect of facing life's high-wire acts seems unnecessarily daunting.

The Numbing Effect

Emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, are integral to the human experience. They guide us, inform us, and sometimes push us to change. However, in the quest for stability, it's possible for psychiatric medications to turn the volume down on our emotions to the point where we feel numbed. This emotional blunting can make it hard to connect deeply with our passions, our motivations, and even with other people. Success, in any meaningful sense, is not just about achieving goals; it's about the journey, the connections, and the personal growth we experience along the way.

Life is textured with challenges, hardships, and moments of discomfort. These experiences, while often unpleasant, are the forge of character and personal development. They teach resilience, adaptability, and courage.

When psychiatric medications are used to blunt the sharp edges of every emotional and psychological discomfort, the opportunity for growth is similarly dulled.

The lessons learned in navigating adversity — in enduring the sting of failure and the sweetness of triumph — are irreplaceable. They imbue us with strength and wisdom that a life of unbroken comfort cannot.

The Biological vs. Emotional Dilemma

Often, there's a tendency to seek medication solutions for problems that are fundamentally emotional or situational rather than biological. While medication can be life-changing and even life-saving for many, it's not always the best tool for addressing every psychological challenge. Emotional distress, life transitions, relationship issues, and existential questions are realms where therapy, lifestyle changes, and integrative practices often have deeper impacts. Recognizing when our struggles stem from non-biological roots is crucial in choosing the most effective paths to healing and growth.

Creating Balance

The journey toward mental health is not about the eradication of all discomfort but about learning to navigate life's tumultuous seas with resilience and grace. It's about using the tools at our disposal — including medication, when necessary — in a manner that supports our overall well-being without inhibiting our growth. This delicate balance requires a nuanced understanding of our own mental health needs, the courage to face discomfort when it's a necessary part of growth, and the wisdom to know when to seek the shelter of the net beneath us.

Medication as a Tool, Not a Crutch

The goal of psychiatric medication should be to enable individuals to engage more fully with the world, not to disengage from it. When medication is calibrated to a point where it shields an individual from any discomfort, it might also be insulating them from the richness of human experience. Life’s pivotal moments often come dressed in discomfort, be it the anxiety of a new job, the grief of a lost love, or the fear of failure. These experiences, while challenging, are also gateways to deeper understanding and personal evolution.

Embracing Our Emotional Spectrum

Embracing the full spectrum of our emotions, including those that are uncomfortable or challenging, can lead to a richer, more connected life. It encourages us to face life with authenticity and courage, fostering a sense of true accomplishment and fulfillment. By seeking a balanced approach to psychiatric medication, we can ensure that our journey towards success is not just about reaching our goals but also about enjoying a vivid, emotionally rich journey that connects us deeply with ourselves and the world around us.

ADHD from a Different Perspective

For many managing ADHD, medication is a crucial tool that brings clarity to a mind frequently visited by a whirlwind of thoughts, impulses, and distractions. It can be the difference between chaos and focus, between scattered efforts and completed projects. However, the reliance on medication presents a nuanced challenge: finding the sweet spot where it aids in managing symptoms without becoming a crutch that deters from facing and growing through life's inherent challenges. Moreover, here's something to ponder: are we medicating away the very characteristic that makes us unique?

There are many positives to stem from ADHD, including creativity, intense flow, alternative perspectives, and general divergence from the "norm". In fact, many of the world's greatest artists, creators, and investors have or had ADHD (think Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein)!

We have to ask ourselves, is there something wrong with us? Or is society demanding we fit a square peg in a round hole?

As it relates to medication, viewing ADHD medication as one tool among many in the toolbox can help maintain a balanced perspective. Medication may ease the way, but it's the combination of skills, strategies, and personal insights that truly propels one towards personal and professional growth. It's about using medication to create to help us excel, not to "fix" us. This is one of the reasons I work to change how we prescribe and use ADHD. It has a place in our discussion, but it should not be the only option.

As a framework, might it be helpful to replace the words "treatment of ADHD" to empowerment of ADHD? Treatment implies a problem we are fixing. How does this implication impact our sense of self and our personal expectations and successes?

A Few Questions to Ask About a Current Medication Routine

Reflecting on our psychiatric medication routine is crucial for ensuring that it aligns with our broader goals for mental wellness and personal growth. If we're navigating the complexities of medication while striving for success in all facets of life, here are some thoughtful questions to ponder:

1. Is My Medication Supporting My Growth or Serving as a Crutch?

Consider whether your medication helps you face your challenges with clarity and strength, or if it's being used to avoid the discomfort that comes with growth. It's essential to differentiate between necessary support and avoidance of necessary personal development.

Key concept: Xanax, for example, may stall progress in the treatment of anxiety by enabling avoidance of discomfort. The desire to live without discomfort, though noble, just might be inhibiting our upward growth through the problem in the first place.

2. How Do I Feel Emotionally?

Reflect on your emotional range and depth. Are you able to feel joy, sadness, excitement, and frustration in ways that feel authentic and manageable? Or do you feel a sense of emotional numbness or detachment that could be impeding your ability to fully engage with life?

Key Concept: As an example, an SSRI may blunt or dampen the dark feelings, but at the expense of bright feelings.

3. Am I Using Medication to Address Issues That Might Be Better Resolved Through Therapy or Lifestyle Changes?

Sometimes, the challenges we face are more situational or emotional than biochemical. Ask yourself if there might be alternative or complementary approaches that could address the root causes of your distress more effectively than medication alone.

Key Concept: Exercise, nutrition, sleep, or perceptual changes may elicit a similar response but without side effects or other concerns all the while empowering our agency in our success.

4. Am I Able to Pursue My Passions and Goals with Energy and Motivation?

Assess whether your medication supports your drive and ambition. If you find that your motivation or passion has waned since beginning your medication, it may be worth discussing this with your healthcare provider to explore options that support both your mental health and your personal aspirations.

Key Concept: Apathy is sometimes the byproduct of relinquishing agency. If medication is or is seen as the savior we give up the power of our life to the pill.

5. Have I Discussed the Long-Term Plan for My Medication with My Healthcare Provider?

It's valuable to have an ongoing conversation with your healthcare provider about your long-term mental health strategy, including the role of medication. Discussing goals, potential adjustments, and alternative therapies can ensure that your treatment plan remains aligned with your evolving needs and aspirations.

Key Concept: Most psychiatric medications were not originally intended for long-term use. Regular check-ins about the usefulness of medication are important.

Taking the time to honestly answer these questions can provide valuable insights into how your psychiatric medication is impacting your journey towards personal and professional success.

Remember, the goal is not just to manage symptoms but to thrive in all areas of your life. If you find areas where your current medication routine may be limiting your growth, consider reaching out to your healthcare provider to discuss possible adjustments or alternative approaches.

Integrative psychiatric care, with its emphasis on a holistic approach to mental wellness, can be particularly helpful in navigating these complex considerations.

Integrative Psychiatry: A Path Forward

This is where integrative psychiatry shines. It's an approach that acknowledges the value of traditional psychiatric treatments while also embracing a wide range of therapies and lifestyle changes. From mindfulness practices and nutritional adjustments to exercise and psychotherapy, integrative psychiatry offers a holistic path to mental wellness and personal success. It encourages us to explore and address the root causes of our distress, whether they're biological, emotional, or a mix of both.

In embracing this balanced approach, we open ourselves to the full spectrum of life's experiences. We allow ourselves to learn from failure, to be molded by adversity, and to be enriched by the complexities of our emotional landscape. The Comfort Zone Conundrum, then, becomes a call to action — an invitation to explore the boundaries of our comfort zones with curiosity and courage, recognizing that the most profound growth often lies just beyond their edges.

Remember, medication is a tool—not the only tool—in the toolbox of mental wellness. Let's work together to find the balance that lets you live, grow, and succeed to your fullest potential.

I invite you to think of your journey to success not just as a destination but as a path of discovery, growth, and holistic well-being. The road may be challenging, but with the right support and strategies, it's a journey that promises profound rewards.

Ryan Sheridan, NP

If you're looking for mental health treatment in Washington, DC area and interested in working together, please reach out! If you're outside of Washington, DC, feel free to reach out too! I have a list of like-minded providers to whom I can refer you!


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