Mental health

Ugly Truth 024: Medication May Make Things Worse

“The beginning of an attack I always experienced as a swell lurching up from unseen depths, similar to the physical sensation of standing waist-high in the sea when there are no waves but all of a sudden the great body of water heaves itself up as if the planet has shifted a fraction on its axis. That was the signal for me that the nature of reality was about to terrifyingly change.” Glenn Haybittle, The Tree House

Dear Readers,

I have had two panic attacks in three days. This is very unusual, even for me. I suppose if I take into account all the changes in my life recently (or the incredible stress), it makes sense. Still, wisdom is completely useless in the face of clinical grade fear.

Panic Attacks are characterized by severe physical symptoms which may include anxiety. However, Anxiety Attacks and Panic Attacks are not the same.

After doing some digging I realized I was having an adverse reaction to the Trazodone I was taking. Often times I believe the symptoms I experience stem from the natural course of my mental illness, however, it is important to remember that there are many contributing factors that can influence or change your psychology. Choosing pharmaceuticals as a course of intervention is never easy. Aside from the stigma attached to medication, there is the expense, the inconvenience, and the side effects. I was treating my insomnia and depression, but at what cost? I soon found myself increasingly anxious, agitated and angry. If you know me at all you know my demeanor is quite pleasant and bittersweet, so to appear angry and discontent in front of my friends and family was a pretty big indicator that something was off. I didn’t want to believe it because I was experiencing relief, but I had to acknowledge that I was also trembling with a depression-rage so profound that few understand it. While teetering on the edge of full blown panic attacks and heartbreaking impulses, you tend to find yourself faced with a pretty obvious decision. To be sure, I researched the side effects of this medication. It wasn’t until I scrolled to the bottom to the less likely slash call-your-doctor-right-away-if list of side effects that a light bulb turned on. Suddenly there it was, everything I had been feeling, laid out right in front of me. Black Box Label Warnings for Trazodone include:

  • Worsening depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • A severe rash or hives
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A painful erection that will not go away (priapism)
  • Panic attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Seizure

So, mystery solved. Fortunately, Trazodone has a decent elimination half life so it took only 2-3 days to detox safely from this medication. My insomnia returned, but at least I didn’t want to scratch the face off of everyone I saw or leap from a tall building. The truth is, your diagnosis may not always provide an obvious explanation for your psychological experience. If you or a loved one has a rapid noticeable change in demeanor related to behavior or mental heath, it may be time for a med check.

As always, thank you for reading.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!