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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Can venlafaxine effect social skills?

    I have struggled with depression for some years. I have put on to venlafaxine about 6 months ago. It is significantly helping the depression. However, it seems to be affecting my social interactions. If it's true that we're all on the autism scale, it seems that these have pushed me further up the scale. I have been more argumentative, and less aware of other people's feelings and needs. Usually, I am VERY aware of these things. I also seem to sometimes find it difficult to tell sarcasm or to not get upset even when I know someone is joking. Please help! My psychologist said I don't have Aspergers but another said I might. I would rather be very emotional and sensitive than irritating and literal. I am really struggling to like myself.
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  • 2

    Thanks

    Bree Somer

    Social Worker

    Hi - I’m Bree Somer. I'm a qualified, registered Social Worker with extensive experience and specialised training. I provide individual counselling or coaching sessions to ... View Profile

    Hello Annabelle. Pleased to hear you are finding relief from your depressive symptoms, and good on you for reaching out regarding these other thoughts / behaviours you are finding challenging at the moment.

    It is possible for medications to have side-affects.  This is best discussed with your treating doctor and pharmacist.  You may need to alter your dosage or try an alternative treatment if you and your doctor feel this medication is having negative effects on your day to day functioning.

    1) I encourage you to discuss your current concerns with your doctor / pharmacist.  Ask them for information about your medication and be sure to discuss any past medical history, as this can be relevant to how medication performs (past physical and mental health issues can mean medications perform differently).

    Here is some consumer information about Venlafaxine - but please do discuss this further with your treating doctor - http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/brain-and-nervous-system/antidepressant-medicines/venlafaxine/for-individuals/side-effects-of-venlafaxine 

    I'm pleased to read you are engaged with a Psychologist.  Well done!  I note you have also seen a second psychologist.  I wonder if you were seeking a second opinion or some other reason caused you to see a different psychologist.  Whatever the reason...

    2) It will be helpful if you can find one therapist you feel comfortable with so you can work consistently with them over a period of time.  This will allow you to develop a good working relationship and get the most from your therapy across the long-term.

    In relation to your concerns about autism or Aspergers...

    3) I encourage you to try and focus less on labels or diagnostic terms just for now.  Instead focus your attention on observing the specific thoughts and behaviours that are concerning you - first discuss these with your doctor (in relation to these being possible medication side-effects) - and then with your therapist.

    Some of the thoughts you have identified in your question would be great places to start further discussions with your therapist, for example...

    • "I would rather be emotional and sensitive than irritating and literal"
    • "I find it difficult to tell sarcasm or to not get upset even when I know someone is joking"
    • "I have been more argumentative, and less aware of other people's feelings and needs"
    • "I am really struggling to like myself"

    These statements may be an indication of self-critical thinking, low self-esteem or confidence, or perhaps some anxiety (anxiety is indicated as a possible medication side-affect for venlafaxine, but there may also be other underlying experiences and beliefs you hold which could be causing you to experience these things – this is why talking to both your doctor and therapist will be helpful).

    You describe feeling unsettled at the moment and your thoughts / behaviours are causing you concern.  Your current state of awareness and concern may be contributing to you feeling more internally focused and defensive than you might normally be – “Usually, I am VERY aware of these things”.  Go easy on yourself – practice self-compassion – despite how you feel at the moment, you sound to be making good progress.

    Rather than trying to label your thoughts / behaviours and fitting them to a diagnosis, for now just practice observing them without judgement and with curiousity.  This will help you to notice patterns and triggers you can then discuss with your therapist.

    You have identified some great places to start a conversation with your therapist and dig a little deeper into what’s at play for you here.

    Until you get to your conversations with your doctor and therapist, I suggest trying some breathing meditation or mindfulness activities to help ground you when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings.  There’s a great free app called Smiling Minds here - https://smilingmind.com.au/smiling-mind-app/ -  it has some easy activities to help you get started.  And Healthshare has some great fact sheets too - this is one on mindfulness - https://www.healthshare.com.au/factsheets/11957-mindfulness-everyday-life/ 

    Changing our thoughts and behaviours takes time and practice, but the first step is being aware of what thoughts we are having and how they are in turn making us feel and behave. So it is a positive thing that you are observing these thoughts and behaviours - it shows insight and reflection - which means potential for personal growth and change.

    Keep up the good work Annabelle. I wish you all the best!

  • Annabelle Walker

    HealthShare Member

    Thank you so much! I think that is a really good idea to not label and "judge" myself. I think it was pretty insensitive for a familly member to say I might have asperges when I was in such a vulnerable and low place. I don't think it has been helpful at all but has made things harder. I don't think that is true but agree that maybe now is a good time to just observe non-judgementaly. 

    Thank you so much! This has been really helpful. Maybe one day I'll take a test for something like asperges but I'm 95% sure I don't have it. 

  • Bree Somer

    Social Worker

    Hi - I’m Bree Somer. I'm a qualified, registered Social Worker with extensive experience and specialised training. I provide individual counselling or coaching sessions to ... View Profile

    You're welcome Annabelle!  It's great you have found something useful in my reply. 

    Trust your instincts - take the opinions of others lightly - and go forward with mindful curiousity. You will go far :)

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