Friday, September 7, 2012

Depression and Anxiety Disorders

Rather serious title I know, but this subject has been striking me lately as I see more and more people, online and off, dealing with these issues. What I'm seeing a lot of in particular is a fear of living up to the Goth stereotype, which could lead to not seeking help.

I have an anxiety disorder. Before I sought help, I was constantly nervous to the point of not being able to do anything, failing classes because I felt I could not do the work, and having panic attacks on an almost daily basis. Now, anyone who has ever had a legitimate panic attack will tell you that they are not fun; you literally feel like you are going to die.

I did not seek treatment for about two years after it had gotten really bad. I thought I could handle it on my own; it had nothing to do with fear of what the doctor would say, but I had a weird thing about being on "happy pills". However, it got to the point that either I was going to seek help or end up in the hospital from a heart attack or something, so I finally went to my doctor and was first prescribed antidepressants for both anxiety and depression.

The pills had minimal effect, but my doctor kept upping the dosage instead of trying something else, until finally I began to have thoughts of suicide. This had NEVER happened to me before, and it scared me so badly that I stopped taking the meds and found a different doctor. My new doctor listened to me a lot closer than my pervious one had, and told me that I had an anxiety disorder that had nothing to do with depression, and the antidepressants had actually made me depressed. She then prescribed me a pill specifically for anxiety that has sense stopped the panic attacks and helped curb the everyday nervousness.

I say all that to say this: I was asked if I had began dressing in a Gothic manner before or after the symptoms started. I had expected this, so it did not jar me very much. However, I have read some accounts from people who have much worse experiences with their doctors or counselors, in effect telling them that the way they dress contributes to or is the root of the anxiety or depression they are experiencing. From hearing these accounts, I worry that fear of being patronized by a doctor may be keeping some Gothy or alternative people from seeking help (or continuing to seek help) for their conditions. This should NOT stop you from getting help. If you think your doctor may not be giving you the best care because of some misconceptions about your appearance, go to another doctor.   

source: Goth Confessions 

Maybe this post is just for me, but here are some tips I've picked up in dealing with anxiety and doctors:

1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Depression and severe anxiety are not problems that are going to go away on their own. Maybe you can seek counseling instead of medication, if the idea of being on pills is not a good one for you. If you are nervous about the visit, bring someone close to you with you for moral support.  My sister came with me to my first ever anxiety-related appointment.

2. Pay close attention to how your doctor treats you. I had problems with my first doctor; she didn't seem to be listening to me as attentively as she should have. Now, the office was very busy at the time and they had a lot of patients, so time was limited. My new doctor has less patients than the previous one and therefore has more time to really listen and ask questions about how I am feeling. If you feel that your doctor isn't listening properly, seek out a better one.

3. Don't get offended about questions regarding your appearance, particularly if you have never seen this doctor before. Doctors are trained to look for differences in behavior related to metal illness, so be prepared to have a question like mine. However, if your doctor assumes or insinuates that being a Goth is the cause of your depression, go find another one with some common sense.

4. Take your meds. I know that seems like a stupid thing to point out, but an antidepressant or anti anxiety medication is not something you can skip doses on. Think of it as like a medication for seizures, don't miss it.

5. Be very aware of how your meds are making you feel. Finding a proper medication for your specific need is a process, not all medications work the same way with everyone. What might have worked for a friend or relative isn't necessarily going to be right for you. Be conscious of your moods and reactions, and if any thoughts of suicide come up - however brief - stop taking the meds and go to your doctor immediately! If your doctor isn't available, go to the nearest ER, they have counselors available for just such a thing. 

If you suffer form depression, anxiety, or any other emotional disorder, and you also happen to be a Goth, the two are not intertwined. Being a Goth has nothing to do with being depressed, so don't feel as though you are a bad stereotype. It is more important to take care of yourself than worry about what other people may think.


  1. This is a really good post. When I was in my late teens, before I finally escaped the nest, my mother's friend (supposedly a mental health professional) saw the way I dressed and told my mum being goth lead to depression and drug use. There are no words for how many problems this caused for me with my parents. Actually, I was a bit depressed, but just in the way that I felt sad my parents could not accept me and gave me crap all day. Something that a woman like this would probably not get, and just say I should stop being gothic.

    The medication thing is a scary issue, I read this whole book, Dying for a Cure, about a woman who dealt with this for years, turned out she should have never been given antidepressants. I'm glad it worked out for you. I think it is important people know that they should shop around for doctors and find one that fits who they are, not just try to do whatever the doctor says to fit what they want.

    1. Wow, I'm sorry that happened to you. It's things like that though that might lead someone who really has these sorts of issues to not seek help because of fear of that sort of reaction.

      Thanks for the comment and welcome to my blog!

  2. I agree that if doctors or other health professionals start off with judgmental statements about Goth causing depression, they are likely not someone you'd want treating you. Beginning with misinformation is not a sign of competency.

    I'm glad that you got things worked out to your satisfaction, Sarah. It's also nice to see you posting again.

    1. Thanks Nightwind, I've just been crazy busy, but I'm trying to get everything back in routine.

  3. I love, love, love this post. It is exceedingly well written and has a lot of pointers I wish I had when I was searching for doctors. Especially the ones about ditching doctors who discount you on how you look and paying attention to your meds. I am so glad things worked out for you and that you could post this.

    I was put on Luvox once which, while I am sure it helps some people, made me feel like I was in a very poor acid trip the whole time. It got to the point where I would go to the bathroom, and have to claw at myself to convince myself I was really there, I hadn't just sat at my desk and THOUGHT I went to the loo. My doctor wouldn't talk to me over the phone without charging me $200 and her nurses's suggestion was to "go to the ER if you think you have a problem, but you were given that medication for a reason." I thought that was normal, until my family and friends told me how effed up it was.

    My coworker convinced me to go to his shrink who IMMEDIATELY took me off all the drugs I was on (I was on four, two of which were generally for multiple personality disorder) and correctly diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder while doing his professional best to say my doctor had REALLY messed up without saying it exactly that way. It was actually kind of funny to watch his face as I described what I was on, how many milligrams, and why I had been told to take them. Well, funny NOW anyway.

    I am on better (and fewer) happy pills and have not yet had to talk about my cultural leanings, beliefs, or sexual habits (first doc was REALLY interested in the last for some reason). I have had to talk about what I am feeling and my symptoms. It has been heaven.

    1. just.....WOW. I can't believe some of the things I've been hearing about how doctors mistreat and misdiagnose their patients, but I've very glad you've found a real doctor. Honestly, I don't see how some of these people even have licenses.

      Thank you so much for you comment, many positive thoughts go your way.