Adolescents on psychiatric drugs: how do they develop? An adult with such a history responds

I got an email from Danielle, a reader who was moved to write me when she read my speculation about what might happen to young people who are on psychotropic drugs when they should be developing sexually. I wondered and made these comments:

What happens when the normal drive for sex and orgasm and romantic love is muted or altogether absent because the kids are on SSRI or SNRI antidepressants (and/or other psych drugs)? My friend talked with an adolescent counselor and she’s noticed that these kids are strangely uninterested in romantic love and sometimes even appear to be asexual.

and from the first time I posted these thoughts I said:

And then when you think about all the kids on these drugs who simply don’t develop normally. Teenage hormones are part of growing up. What happens when you skip that developmental stage? What happens if you never enter it at all due to a lifetime of being on drugs? We are stopping the human experience from happening. read this post here

So Danielle wrote to tell me what it was like for her as an adolescent who became an adult while on these drugs.

Hello Gianna-

I was put on meds at 15 for “depression”, and was on a laundry list of antidepressants and benzos, and later mood stabilizers and antipsychotics for the next 15 years. So from 15-30 I was medicated. I eventually decided to come off, and took myself through the over 1 year process of weaning off meds. Your blog and your resources were so amazingly helpful – thank you.

I’ve been med free for almost 2 years now and dealing with the fallout of the hormonal suppression through adolescence. In a word – it’s chaos, and my marriage may very well not survive. Try having your body and mind telling you you’re 15 (because it’s trying desperately to heal itself and catch up developmentally), when you’re 32. The meds kept me from doing all the individuation and exploration and personal expansion that most people get to go through in their 20s. Now I’m struggling with an intense drive to be on my own to “find myself” as if I was in university…but, again, I’m 32 and married.

And don’t get me started on how my core relationships are all in turmoil due to the fact that they were formed on one dynamic which is no longer valid. Needless to say I am in therapy (I found a great recovery therapist that uses Buddhist philosophies and meditation and techniques to augment the psychotherapy) and while in most ways my newly won health is a deep and exciting blessing, it is also causing a whole new kind of misery as I have to readjust to life, but do so from a context in which that is complicated and difficult

I am very angry about having been medicated (turns out I don’t have any kind of mood disorder at all – I was a regular moody teen who was medicated, and then the meds caused an insane amount of other psychiatric symptoms, which were then medicated further; you know the cycle). And I’m SO grateful that material about the hormonal impact of these meds on teens is now surfacing. My life has been turned upside down by their resurgence, and with trying to deal with it. It’s been frightening in its intensity. In all the med withdrawal and recovery material I came across, none of them warned of this and I feel blindsided.

Anyway – I could go on and be much more articulate about things, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. I just wanted to thank you for posting that article, and let you know that I am more than willing to share in more detail the experiences I’ve been going through over the past year as my bodies hormones and emotional/sexual development have tried to come back online.

~Danielle~

Danielle has said she will share more here on the blog as she has the time. I would love to hear more from folks who were drugged since childhood. I am not far off from that myself as my journey started at age nineteen. I can say that some of what Danielle talked about I too relate to quite a lot. I imagine though that the younger one was drugged the more their development and growth will be challenged and harmed.

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