ON MENTAL ILLNESS: This Is Your Intellect on Antipsychotic Meds: Use It Or Lose It

Jack Bragen
Monday December 04, 2017 - 10:17:00 AM

Antipsychotic medication can impair concentration. When concentration is difficult, we might be more tempted to do mindless things and we might not try to do anything that requires concentration. However, this is the first step toward what I will call "brain atrophy."

A large dose of antipsychotic medication can actually make it painful to concentrate. Concentration and focus are capacities that should not be relinquished. Fortunately, there are ways that we can retain our valuable mental capacities.

Just because an authority has told you that your brain has a defect, it is not a good reason to give up on your mind. While life circumstances and a psychiatric illness may dictate to us that we need to be medicated, we should value ourselves enough to realize that we still have a good mind. 

When authorities, such as mental health practitioners try to foist on us the assumption that they are superior to us, or the assumption that we don't have competence and smarts, then we must disbelieve mental health practitioners. It should be good enough to accept the treatment that at times may be forced on us--we needn't relinquish our entire value of ourselves. 

This is my understanding of what happens: When psychotic, apparently the brain goes into overload. When this happens for a long period of time, it can cause damage to the brain cells. Antipsychotics slow down brain activity. When the mind is in the "ballpark" of a normal amount of activity, it becomes easier to track reality, and the brain cells may no longer be overloaded. It seems to me that antipsychotic medication may protect the brain from damage due to overload.  

By slowing brain activity, antipsychotics, even while they are protection from the damage of psychosis, could introduce other damage due to lack of activity of the brain cells. 

Someone who suffers from a psychotic episode could be getting double whammy; the brain goes into overload, from psychosis, and is later suppressed by meds. This is like a double shock to the brain. 

The human mind has a multitude of types of capacities. For example, there is the capacity of adapting to various job environments, or other environments. If you take an antipsychotic and go for a long time without working, it could be a lot harder to try to go back.  

When I was interviewed for eligibility to receive Social Security benefits, the psychiatrist who interviewed me told me "If you are on medication, you are disabled."  

Remaining active and engaged in life may help prevent the loss of mental capacity that could happen through brain atrophy. When mental capacities are exercised, it can improve mood, and it can transfer better function to other areas of life. 

There are people with psychiatric diagnoses who have gone to school, obtained a degree, and have become a lawyer, an engineer, a health care professional, and more. You don't necessarily have to be young to do this, but it probably helps. 

When in my twenties, I went to school to do electronic repair, and then I worked in that field for several years. Had I not decided to do writing, I most likely would have returned to that field and would have become a techie.  

However, huge ambitions are not necessary. No accomplishment should be seen as small, and no accomplishment should be downgraded. With these conditions, achieving anything should be lauded. 

Any constructive or at least nondestructive activity that engages your body and/or mind may be beneficial in comparison to doing nothing. If you try reading while on antipsychotic medication, and if you find it to be painful because of interference of side effects, take a break and come back to it later. 

Sometimes we may find that the mind works best at certain times of the day. If you read, choose something to read that you enjoy. Exercising one's faculties is not intended to be torture. 

Physical activity may also be difficult, and may require more effort, due to being medicated. Physical activity also engages the brain. For example, if you are washing dishes, your brain works to tell you how to sponge the dishes with your hands, tells you how to adjust the temperature of the water, tells you where to put the dishes after they've been washed, and so on. If you are walking your dog, your brain is adapting to the outdoor environment, is giving you direction as to how to handle the dog, and might remind you to bring a bag so that neighbors don't get a surprise on their lawns. 

Activity can be a good antidepressant. This is not to say that when we feel crappy that the solution is to "get off that sofa and go jog around the block" or something. However, some type of activity that we feel ready for, or that we may actually want to do, could certainly do something to help your mood. 

We must not give up. Yes, our life situation may seem to be lousy because of having a psychiatric diagnosis. However, if that causes giving up on everything, and possibly resorting to drug or alcohol addiction, or some other form of escapism, this means that we have given up without a fight. Also, it is not of benefit to go on massive amounts of medication and be a zombie who can only watch television. 

This is not intended to knock people; if you do not feel able to do very much for the time being, it is fine to take a break from life, and postpone things that require effort until later, when you feel more prepared to make an effort.  

If you are reading this, presumably you are still alive. In that case, there is no reason to allow fate, the mental health treatment system, medication, and the presumed illness, take over your existence and erase all of your hopes. If you never try anything, it is certain that you will not get anything. However, if you do continue to put effort into life, while you might not get all you want, you could still create good things.