Do Psychiatric Meds Change Your Personality?

A friend recently said that brain meds don’t change your personality, and I had a knee-jerk response of “Yes they do!” but I was surprised at my own conviction and had to think on it awhile. It’s a completely philosophical, religious, or spiritual question. Who am I? What makes me me? When am I most me? When am I not me? Can I be something other than myself? I am both a proponent and an opponent of prescription medication for mental illnesses. I was on a whole cocktail of meds for awhile, and they were right for me at the time. I’ve been off of them for a few years, and that is right for me now. Meds can be a godsend, and they can also be over-prescribed. Many of these “illnesses” are caused by our culture. Our culture causes them, and then offers up imperfect solutions with downsides that require additional imperfect solutions. To our culture, I say fuck you. Fuck you and the toxic nonsense you offer up to solve the problems YOU caused. To the people living in the here and now with real problems that need immediate solutions, I say, hey – take the drugs if you want to! Many people take brain meds and feel that they become “more themselves”. Their previous, disordered, dysfunctional self was “not them” and their current satisfactory self feels “more them”. Other people take brain meds and feel like they lose themselves. They feel diminished or hopped up or otherwise “not like themselves”.
Additional reading: Do I Feel Like Myself?

When I took Zoloft, I experienced some of both of those things. I felt clear-headed, confident, and smooth in a way that I felt I “should” feel. I felt more like the self that I imagined I could be. This confidence came with a jitteriness, too. I picked fights more often, and I stayed aggressive longer than my social anxiety would normally let me get away with. I found myself having to regularly ask myself “Is this behavior ME or is it Zoloft?” in order to check my own approval for my actions against some nebulous concept of self. Here’s something more specific. I am never late to things. I am always early. This is true no matter what is going on in my life. When I was a nanny in a household of four kids, we were always on time. My own parenting didn’t change that, either. I am simply never late.

Here’s a barley field, because that’s the kind of thing that reminds me of an antidepressant advertisement.

Enter psychiatric medication. I was treated with meds for a variety of things, including anxiety, depression, and eventually bipolar. It turns out that being early for everything is related to anxiety. I have a constant internal sense of pressure about upcoming events. When I have something coming up, I am continually performing background calculations about the remaining time left and what I need to accomplish in that time to get out the door with plenty of time. So when brain meds reduced my anxiety… I started being late to things. I suddenly wasn’t worried about that space of time before leaving. I wasn’t doing the background calculations. I didn’t feel the pressure. And I simply didn’t care that much about what anyone might think of my arrival time. But I have to admit that I was a little bit PISSED! And confused! Because I am a person who is not LATE to things! What the fuck was doing showing up late to things? Did psychiatric meds change my personality? Is being a “person who is on time” or a “person who is always late” your personality? Or is that just a detail? If it changes are you still you? What if it changes because you “decide” to change? What if it changes because you grow up or because your life gets busy or because you have a new partner who helps keep you on time or who always makes you late? See? It’s a philosophical question. Not a medical question. I’m currently treating my mental health with dietary changes (among other non-med things). When I stick to my food plan I’m a relatively pleasant person. When I deviate I get depressed and I’m a bit of a bitch. Does food change my personality?
Additional Reading: The Distance to Crazy

I certainly LIKE myself better when I’m on my treatment game. And I don’t have to think about it too hard since the food plan doesn’t come with ANY side effects except people thinking I’m weird for having a weird diet. But I’m much, much more suspicious of psychiatric meds. I don’t blame past me for taking them, and maybe it’ll seem like the right call sometime in the future, too. But I do kind of wish that I’d found this food option before I ever took the meds. I had a few years of knocking my brain this way and that trying to find the right combo. It’s been almost four years since I’ve gone off them, and some of the negative side effects are still lingering. Psychiatric meds do CHANGE you. That’s their purpose, right? That’s what they’re supposed to do. Something is wrong with you, and you’re trying to get a new, better you. They may not change your “personality”, but they definitely CHANGE you.