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Taking Olanzapine and Sertraline: Elizabeth's story

Elizabeth shares how starting medication was initially daunting, but how much it helped her recovery when she was a hospital inpatient for anorexia.

When I started taking Olanzapine I was 16 and I was a hospital inpatient for anorexia.

I took it even though I felt like there were negative connotations surrounding the drug because it an 'anti-psychotic' medication. I was terrified by the idea that it would cause an increase in appetite leading to possible weight gain, as well as the sedative effects.

I was prescribed Olanzapine because of the distress I was enduring due to being fed against my will. I was told that it would help my thought processes and calm me down.

The difference I felt only hours after taking it was immense - it certainly calmed me down in a sense. Every day - even after a full night of undisturbed sleep - I slept from around 9am until 5pm, only waking for meal times. I began to feel that I was only taking it so I would not be as much of a burden to those around me, and I was easier to manage as I lacked the energy to cause as much of a problem.

I began to feel that I was only taking it so I would not be as much of a burden to those around me

I soon realised that my anxiety around meal times and being fed was significantly lower and my ability to accept my nutritional requirements was much better. It made the process of gaining weight far less stressful as it had been previously.

The time I spent awake was spent engaging in different therapies which also played a big role in my recovery. Eventually I had progressed to a state where I was no longer detained, nearing a safe weight (which had not sky rocketed like the side effects say could potentially happen) and I was managing my diet both on the ward and at home.

I was also prescribed Sertraline around this time, which helped a lot with my low mood and social-related anxiety. I felt a lot less pressure in taking this and I fully embraced why it was needed. I feel that the two medications worked together with each other to make managing my diet and social life less anxiety provoking than it seemed in my head.

I feel that the two medications worked together with each other to make managing my diet and social life less anxiety provoking

When I was taken off Olanzapine, I felt that I no longer needed it because it was very rare that I would need the responsibility of managing my diet taken out of my hands. And the turmoil which I did suffer around food and body image could be managed myself and was at a normal level in terms of someone with an on-going eating disorder.

Upon stopping Olanzapine, I did struggle to sleep, whereas I had been sleeping far more than the average person. But after a couple of weeks my sleeping patterns regulated to how they had been before I began the medication.

Overall, I had both a positive and negative experience with Olanzapine, but at the time, I acknowledge its side effects may have been necessary. Sertraline, however, I feel keeps my mood regulated, but perhaps not so much my anxiety – although that could differ from person to person.

Questions about mental health medication?

Our guide on medication covers the different types of mental health medication you could be prescribed, how they help and what the side-effects could be. 

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