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Taking Olanzapine and Sertraline: Elizabeth's story

  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety and phobias
  • Sleep problems
  • Olanzapine
  • Sertraline

Hi, my name is Elizabeth and I’m 17.

When I started taking Olanzapine I was 16 and I was an inpatient for Anorexia. I was also detained, so although I didn't have a choice in taking it, I accepted it despite the negative connotations surrounding the drug, such as 'anti psychotic', the sedative effect and the idea that it would cause an increase in appetite leading to possible weight gain - a terrifying prospect for me.

I was prescribed it 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. Everyday - even after a full night of undisturbed sleep - I slept from around 9am till 5pm, only waking for meal times. I began to feel that I was only taking it so I wouldn't be as much of a burden to those around me, as it meant others who were also struggling were getting the support they deserved, and I was easier to manage as I lacked the energy to cause as much of a problem.

However, 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 and 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 in cognition with each other at a time as it made really managing my diet and social life less anxiety provoking than it seemed in my head.

When I was taken off Olanzapine, I felt that I no longer needed it as 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.