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My child is on Zoloft: Am I a bad parent?

ZoloftLast month Caroline Marie’s 12-year-old daughter started taking Zoloft. Despite an improvement in her daughter’s moods, she’s still asking the question: Is it right to pour chemicals with known side effects into a child’s system to change their behaviour?

13 March 2011

When it comes to psychotropic drugs, I have major concerns, particulary around dependency to drugs. It's a billion-dollar industry. This industry controls how doctoral students are taught in med schools. It controls the research of the effects of their own products. It bombards doctors with samples, kickbacks, marketing.

Not to say that I myself never benefitted from the use of these drugs, but still I have concerns.

Children using psychotropic drugs? My concerns quadruple. Nobody knows how they interact with the changing hormone levels of adolescence. There are "black box warnings" about children committing suicide. And how does saying, "Here, take this pill. Your mood will lift" influence later urges to try street drugs?

Last month, my 12-year-old starting taking Zoloft. I have resisted this route for years. My daughter has PTSD, anxiety and attachment issues. But she does great in school, other kids seem to really like her, and she's very active in sports. Her biggest problem is that she drives me mad – so maybe I should be the one taking the pill, right? I resisted med suggestions by her therapist for years.

Then last November, tragedy re-entered my daughter's world and our home life became unbearable. For me.

A crisis therapist joined the team of experts helping us, and this therapist quickly started nudging me down the road to medication. "I'll just make the appointment for now since there is a three-month wait, but you can always change your mind and cancel later."

"Her appointment was moved up to next week, but you can always tell the doctor you're not comfortable medicating her."

"Just try the medication for a month, and if you don't like how it affects her, you can always stop."

So now my daughter is taking Zoloft.

Even though the doctor said absolutely nothing to ease my concerns, I submitted and I have no idea why. Issues with male authority figures? Weakness? Bad mothering? Selfishness? The Life Blood has been sucked out of me and now I have become nothing but a walking zombie with no personal convictions?

Not only did the doctor not say anything to ease my concerns , but he said that thing people say about psychotropic drugs that really pisses me off: "Well if your daughter was diabetic, you would make sure she was given insulin, wouldn't you? Mental illness is a disease too, blah blah blah."

What I thought in response was:

No! Diabetes is a measurable problem, asshole! There is a test to measure sugar levels! Depression and anxiety are subjective. There is no test to measure deficiencies in my daughter's blood. There is merely me saying that she is getting on my nerves, and now we're going to try putting various drugs into her system until we find one that makes her more pleasant to be around!

What I said was:

"Sure. Let's try it for a month."

Throughout the doctor's visit my daughter was polite and responsive. The moment we got into the car afterwards she pitched a gigantic fit. Shrieking, screaming, crying, "I'm not taking anything! It will change me! I don't want to change!" She threatened to jump out of the car and run away. She was completely hysterical – gasping for breath between shrieks and sobs – and I thought, "Hmm. Perhaps she could use a little help managing her emotions."

Ironically, her fit about taking the drugs was exactly what convinced me that she in fact needed them. Am I a terrible person or what?

Now we are at the one-month mark and my daughter is a completely different kid. She has become a typical 12-year-old. She acts silly and giggles. She spends time with friends outside of school without my having to cajole her to do so. She tells stupid jokes. When I say something displeasing to her, she merely stomps away to her room.

So. Is this right?

Making my child just like everyone else? Pouring chemicals into her system that may or may not be interacting with her hormones just as her breasts are starting to develop? Chemicals with known sexual side effects at the exact age when she is starting to have sexual feelings?

Making her silly and happy when deep inside her lurks unfathomable rage and grief?

I have no idea.

Caroline Marie adopted her beautiful 12-year-old daughter five years ago. This article is from her blog which contains adoptive parenting woes, fairy tales and the meaning of (mid)life. She is based in the US.


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Register for self-service experience -1 #25 J 2013-05-27 03:27
first, I have a now 13 year old with ADD/ADHD, use to be on meds. So I am not against medication, she did great, until puberty. As soon as I saw changes, her saying she didn't like how it made her feel and even a lower dose making her not her anymore, she went off. My step daughter, 11, her mother put her on celexa, increased twice and8 months into it, attempted suicide! She wasn't suicidal before. Then switched her t zoloft, increased twice in 5 weeks so far. We didn't know about the celexa for several months and never knew about the increase because it was hidden. She had "anger and aggressive" issues at moms, which we NEVER saw and why her mom had her perscribed meds. The issues were never addressed and she became increasing worse. On zoloft, she became imediately angry and agitated. We are fighting in court to get her and this stopped, I just pray she doesn't attemp suicide again. For all the research I have done, I do believe some hildren, SOME, may benefit, but its used as a crutch to often. My adhd 13 year old is frsterating and hard to handle, but I gave birth to her, I'm her mom and I wouldn't ever trade thefrusteration for her not being herself.
To many children have attempted or completed suicide on this, the side effects do not outweigh the benefits in a lot of cases. This is just my opinion and experience thus far. No one knows their bodys and feelings like them. They are not mature enough to fully understand to be concious of how it makes them feel and be able to express it in the same way we as adults are.
+3 #24 Oedgar 2013-05-23 17:51
The jury is still out on this drug for my 12 yr old son. He has always been 'high needs' since birth, from being overly sensitive to noise/stimuli to getting into a difficult cycle of nervous stomach. We did occupational therapy for the sensory stuff, which helped a lot. Then in 2nd grade, he started puking in the mornings before school. It went on for several weeks. Then, we had Hurricane Ike, which disrupted everything. When we got back to school a few weeks later, it was like starting all over again. We fought the nervous before-school stomach every school year; it would usually take a month or so for it to abate... with the occasional random bad day. And no, he was not being bullied, no real troubles at school.

Then, this past summer, the problem cropped up while on vacation. From there on, he would start feeling sick leaving the house... just from worrying about being sick. School began (6th grade) and it was just the worst ever year. I decided he needed medication (we'd already tried homeopathic remedies and a round of therapy in 2nd grade). I was at the end of my rope. He was actually very compliant in agreeing to go; but was so sick, even puking in the car on many occasions. (thankful for Walmart bags!) It took two months to get him in as a new patient to the only psych MD in town that takes kids. In the meantime, we began with a new LPC counselor, who pondered a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety and also Asperger's. Later the Asperger's was dropped.

We finally got to see the psychiatrist, who gave Zoloft for Generalized Anxiety. I told them I was afraid, given his having trouble leaving the house, that I thought this is how people become agorophobic. They agreed with my assessment. Scary times.

We have very gradually increased the Zoloft dose. I was so fearful of it. He just reached the minimum therapeutic dose in late March... 50 mg. About 3 weeks after that he started doing better. He did just have another mild issue with the morning nervous stomach but it passed. I wonder, he'd gained 8 desperately-nee ded pounds... and maybe the 50 mg isn't quite enough. We go see the psych MD next week.

He is due to change schools next year... to junior high. I dread the change. He also is in orchestra and loves it, and I seriously doubt he will be able to go on the bus to competitions next year without a problem. He has such a fear of getting sick out in public that he makes himself sick. The bus has been a huge problem for him this year. Hope like mad we will get on the right dose of Zoloft.

He is otherwise a wonderful kid. Loves animals, science, and a great student. I get compliments from school staff on how polite he is.
+9 #23 Lisa H. 2013-04-16 06:45
I could have almost written your post, except that I have a son who's 10, going on 11. Bless his heart, he has some quirks, and it seems to me that they make life harder (for him and for me) than it needs to be. We saw our doctor yesterday, and he prescribed Zoloft. Yet I hesitate to get it started. I question, is this really the right thing? We've tried counseling, and he liked going, but he couldn't/wouldn 't apply anything in real life that he'd learned in therapy. He's my high-strung, sensitive child, he freaks out over things that don't seem to merit a freak-out, and once he gets ramped up, it's very hard to bring him back down. But I second-guess myself and ask, does he really need medication to help with that? Aargh.
+4 #22 sherri 2013-04-01 14:23
My 8yr old daughter has been on adderall 15mg since this past january for adhd.I also thought that she had some ocd and anxiety issues as well.On top of all that she has a nervous tick and licks her lips and has them practically raw all around her mouth.At her last appt last week her doctor suggested zoloft for the anxiety and ocd issues and I was reluctant but feel I need to try as maybe it will help her.She is practically driving me and everyone in our house crazy.I know she cant help it and I hope this new medication will help.
+4 #21 sheri 2013-03-25 12:17
I was put on antidepressants when I was 14 due to suicidal thoughts and an attempt. It was the worse thing that ever happend to me. I was an abuse victim and needed to talk and feel safe. Instead I was put on mind altering, yes, mind altering medications. Where has the human compassion gone? The drugs only helped those that were around me because I was numb and no longer wanted to die. They didn't have to hear about the horror I went through or the nightmares I got because of the abuse. Each of our journey's in this life our different and the way we react to them will be also. To drug someone up to make you feel better about the situation is never ok. I ended up on more and more medications, the depression became worse and now I am a 32yr old woman now dealing with learning to forgive my parents for not being there for me but instead drugging me up. Kids are learning to deal with life, as a parent it is your job to teach them, hug them and make them feel safe. I feel it is my duty to speak for the children who have no voice, because I am no longer a child and know what if feels like to be drugged instead of understood.
+74 #20 Mom of Faith 2013-03-15 11:22
Finally making the decision to place my 9 year old daughter on Zoloft has so far been the best decision I have ever made in my life. The change for her is remarkable. With her anxiety not terrorizing her every thought, she is experiencing a life she has only experienced while watching her friends. We tried exercise, deep breathing, diet changes, couseling for over 2 years and did our best to hang on. Zoloft (or any medication) may not work for every child. It may not be a decision others agree with.

I am so glad I finally made it. This is a child I have never known. This is the life my child deserves! Good luck to anyone wrestling with a child in need of help. Watching your child and knowing the are miserable is horrible! Good luck in wrestling with the decision. Good luck in listening to everyone tell you how bad you are... or how your child just needs to play sports. Don't let anybody (including me) tell you what you should or should not do for your child! Make your own decision. I did. I now know I made the right decision.

If this helps, my daugher described the change as this... "I was a baby foal locked in a dark barn with spikes on the walls, but now I'm a foal frolicking in a field full of spring flowers." Yes, she loves horses. Yes, this was all I needed to hear. This was the right decision for my daughter. Good luck to everyone else. It is a hard, lonely road to travel when trying to help a child. Don't give up.
+5 #19 bellasmom007 2013-02-24 07:33
My daughter is 6. She is taking ritalin. I had to push for the Ritalin. Adhd runs in my family. As does depression, suicide and anxiety. My daughter was in a special school because she couldn't walk correctly and received pt, ot and speech from the age of 2. Now she is in a self contained kindergarten class.

Last spring I finally got the prescription for Ritalin. My daughter was 5. She went from 1 or 2 word sentances in the morning she left for school and had her first dose, to believe it or not, she came home and was saying full sentances with at least 4 words and the words were clear! The docs didn't want to do it, but when I told them that day, the dramatic change, we were onto something.

My daughter has pdd/nos, adhd and odd. I had to push for a diagnosis. I had to push for something to help my daughter. Starting kindergarten we tried the ritalin once in the morning. By the afternoon when it wore off, there was a huge change in her behavior. She couldn't learn! So now she takes it twice a day. As we stayed on the ritalin, her school skills improved greatly. The issue with my daughter is that she has the information in her brain, but has a hard time expressing or putting it to words or on paper.

So after the ritalin was given to her for a two month period when we got the right dosages, her speach improved so much they had to retest her. Normally they do certain tests every three years, but the change was so dramatic they had to do it now. She is close to the low end of normal for speach. I was told by docs that if this keeps up, perhaps after first grade she made not require speach therapy any longer. The ritalin slows down her mind enough so she can articulate.

I never had a child run around singing, and talking non stop and my daughter is six. Now in the past 2 months we have a chatterbox who walks around singing. We have finally found the right combination of school, therapy and medicine.

So now with all the improvements she made, something had to regress as does happen with special needs children. Three steps forward, two steps back. Now my daughter who has been taking the bus since she was two, refuses to go to school and has fits so bad she is throwing herself around injuring herself.

So I ran back to the doc. Anxiety. Again this occurs naturally in my family and my mother has the same history of stuff as my daugther (my aunt is 8 years older and relatives are older than my mom and witnessed her shenanigans). So they suggested zoloft.

I spoke to someone on my daughters special needs cheer, her teen daughter is on zoloft. Along with spectrum disorders comes anxiety. And sometimes I was told, kids need something to help calm their nerves where love and therapy cannot only go so far.

I'm not thrilled about medicating my child, but rather I need her to be able to learn, so she can have a better educational outcome than myself and other family members. The ritalin is helping her socially because she can finally have conversations with regular kids and socialize with them, without the "how come she doesn't talk" factor.

Ritalin played such a huge part in my daughters life that her cousins are saying "she is all better now". Coming out of the mouths of children. So if family members are noticing she is better, I'm thinking about the zoloft.

Physical safety is a huge concern for me for my daughter. If my child needs zoloft to take the anxiety away so she can participate in activities (cheer team, after school cheer, tumbling, soccer, baseball) maybe it's the way to go.

But i'm very concerned and would like input.
-131 #18 Liz 2013-01-12 21:58
I. Am. Horrified and distressed to find out three of my adult friends are on anti- depressants. All three have had thoughts about killing their own children. My kids have friends on anti depressants. I researched these psychotropic drugs derived from heroin and cocaine or amphetamines and put into time release capsules and HEAVILY marketed to women and children as cure alla...and I am no longer associating , nor allowing my children to closely associate with these poor addicts. The risks are known, and they are terrifying. Columbine. Sandy hook. The assassination attempt on Reagan. Numerous, numerous suicides of children by hanging and mutilation. The murder of family members. These drugs are killers and are meant to destroy the family. Just say no.
+17 #17 Doug 2012-12-06 14:17
This drug was just perscribed for my 10 year old son. I do not believe in popping pills for whatever ails you, but he has had problems for a number of years and has had counciling for at least 3 years with liitle improvement. The posts here are worth consideration, but I also believe every person is different, every issue is different, and every reaction to treatment and medication is diifferent. For this reason, I don't feel it is fair for people to say "don't use this drug" Or "this drug is wonderful", I think we need to be observant of our childrens reactions and make our decisions accordingly. We may not know how this drug affects other aspects of our child, but we have to decide if the possible benefit is worth the risk. Suffering from depression myself, I know that life isn't much fun in that condition, for me or trhe people around me. If my son can have the opportunity to thrive, I guess we can give it a shot.
-1 #16 Amy 2012-12-04 19:25
Than you so much for posting this!!! My son has recently been diagnosed with anxiety, and a tic disorder also triggered by anxiety. It breaks my heart to watch him uncontrollably, and without even knowing, moving his mouth and "ticking". He is 8!! Our pediatrician has fought me for a year that there is anything wrong with him, and even told me that every child has tics and I just needed to ignore them. There is a pattern... He starts his tics, and within a matter of a fewmdays he starts random vomiting, also related to his anxiety. I was at my wits end today when, for the second day in a row, I had to go pick him up from school because he was puking. We went to the pediatrician and I had already told myself I was not backing down. I'm sure our ped thinks I am the biggest biznitch now, but I know my child!! He prescribed Zoloft. I was shocked at first, wondering why in the world he was prescribing THAT!! So of course I came home and googled it and am so glad I stumbled across this thread. I feel a lot better about what the dr gave him!!

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