Is There A "Happy Pill" That Can Change My Mood?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated November 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Free support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

You may have heard of a "happy pill" or a "magic cure" to change your mood or get rid of struggles instantly, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac. These concepts may feel comforting for those who feel that there is no hope for their symptoms. Although many mental health treatments are available, including medication, there may not be a one-time "cure-all" treatment method for every condition or symptom. Talking to your doctor or mental health practitioner can be valuable in these cases, as not everyone responds to antidepressants in the same way, and other treatments may be more suitable.

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Do You Want To Improve Your Mood?

Determining The Cause Of Your Mood

Understanding the cause of your underlying symptoms can be beneficial in finding a treatment. Many individuals who find themselves struggling to feel happy may be experiencing a condition called depression, which accompanies long-term sadness, energy shifts, and difficulty feeling enjoyment from previously enjoyed activities. At times, depression accompanies irritability or feelings of anger.

However, depression is not the only condition that impacts mood and mental health. If you're dealing with high levels of stress or fear, you might also struggle to feel happy. Some individuals experience a long-term mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or stress-related condition. You might feel consumed by worrying thoughts or stressful physical sensations.

Physical health symptoms may also be a common cause of stress or feeling unhappy. Chronic health conditions can include anxiety, stress, or depression as symptoms or side effects. In some cases, prolonged stress can lead to physical illness. If you are preoccupied with health struggles, you might find it challenging to maintain a positive outlook or feel a positive mood. You might want to feel happy but aren't sure how. 

In some cases, unhappiness may be caused by life stress, transitions, or change. You might not be experiencing a mental health condition in every case. Speaking to a mental health practitioner or primary care physician who can refer you to the proper testing, if necessary, can be beneficial. 

Medication For Mental Health Concerns 

Although there may not be one "happy pill" to fix everything, many individuals take medications like an antidepressant to manage symptoms of mental health conditions, such as depression. Before starting, stopping, or changing medication, consult a medical doctor, such as a psychiatrist or a general practitioner.

Antidepressants, commonly used to treat depression, may improve mood for some individuals by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain. Many individuals with depression may have imbalances in neurotransmitters, affecting their emotional health.

Patients diagnosed with depression are often prescribed FDA approved antidepressants by physicians. For those experiencing another mental health condition, such as anxiety, other medications, such as anti-psychotics or anti-anxiety medications, may be discussed. Some medications may reduce nightmares, improve libido, improve energy levels, or help individuals fall asleep.

While drugs do not work for everyone and carry some risk, medications can benefit many. They may not work immediately or reduce every symptom, however. Talk to your doctor to find out if prescription medication would benefit you.

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Are There Risks When Taking Medications? 

In some cases, anti-depressants do not work for everyone. Some individuals may try several medications before finding a drug that helps. Additionally, if there was a misdiagnosis, anti-depressants may not work at all. You may wait four to six weeks to find out if a medication benefits you, which means medications are often not an immediate treatment for mood concerns and may be best used alongside other treatment options. 

Often, medications, including those marketed for mental illness, come with a list of side effects that may be harmful. Although anti-depressants and other common mental health medications are often safe, side effects could vary between individuals and medications. Common mild anti-depressant side effects can include dizziness, headache, insomnia, diarrhea, and weight gain. 

In rare cases, individuals might experience extreme side effects, such as panic or suicidal ideation. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.

Talk with your doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist if you experience distressing side effects after starting or changing a medication. Many physicians may also have you sign a release for your counselor and prescribing doctor to communicate about your treatment plan. 

Other Forms Of Treatment

Although medications like “happy pills” can be effective, they may be best utilized alongside other forms of treatment, such as therapy. For example, studies show that combined treatment methods can be most effective for conditions such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, medications may not benefit everyone, and more serotonin may not always be the answer. In these cases, other forms of treatment may benefit you.

There are many types of treatment you could try, including the following:

  • Mental health counseling 
  • Physical therapy and exercise 
  • Meditation and mindfulness 
  • Lifestyle changes 
  • Electroconvulsive therapy 
  • Ketamine treatments 
  • Spiritual or energetic healing, such as Reiki 
  • Equine or animal therapy
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture 
  • Massage therapy 

If you're unsure about the effectiveness of a particular method, talk to your doctors before starting, as some methods may have risks.

Therapy

Therapy is often the most indicated treatment for common mental health conditions like depression. Therapy may be effective in helping you determine the cause of a low mood and what you can do to improve your situation. A therapist may also provide homework, helpful resources, and therapeutic coping mechanisms to use at home alongside any medical treatments. It's important to consider therapy as an alternative or supplement to medications, especially for individuals with a history of substance abuse, addiction, or alcohol dependency, as a controlled substance might not be the best option in such cases.

Meditation And Mindfulness 

Studies show that mindfulness and meditation can improve your mood. They help you learn how to control your thoughts, focus on your present moment, and reduce stress. Additionally, research indicates that ten minutes of meditation or mindfulness practice daily can increase mood long-term. 

Journaling can also be a form of meditation. It can be used to relieve stress safely. Studies show that journaling and expressive writing can reduce emotional distress and allow you to release pent-up emotions.

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Do You Want To Improve Your Mood?

Counseling Options 

Within the therapy sphere, there are many counseling options. Online counseling could be rewarding if you are busy, do not have insurance, or want to find a flexible treatment form. Online therapy allows you to attend sessions from home and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions.  

A report in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry thoroughly outlines the case for the efficacy of internet-based counseling. The study cited several trials in which online platforms were found to be beneficial, noting that the benefits include decreased cost and increased availability. The overarching advantage of online therapy, as opposed to face-to-face counseling, was determined to be availability. 

Consider contacting an online therapist if you are living with a mood disorder or experiencing distressing symptoms. Several platforms are available, including BetterHelp. You can peruse a vast database of counselors specializing in various subjects and conditions. 

Counselor Reviews

“Dria is a brightness in my life who offers guidance and hope. She has so many unique and interesting tactics to help me manage my anxiety and sadness. I am excited to see how more time with Dria as my counselor will improve my life.”

“Christine has been exactly what I needed during this time. I've had a lot of traumatic events occur in my life for someone so young and it's been difficult finding a counselor/therapist who will be patient and listen. Sometimes I just need to express my emotions and sadness when there isn't much to be done from the counselor's end, other than helping me create healthier patterns and talking me through the worst feelings. Christine is encouraging and so kind. I am thankful to be paired with her.”

Takeaway

Although there is no immediate "cure" or "happy pill" for every condition, there are treatment options for most. Taking the immediate step to reach out for help can be a brave first step. You may decide to talk to your doctor about medication or find a counselor to talk to about your symptoms. 

Finding a combination of treatments may be most beneficial for many individuals. They might choose to attend weekly therapy sessions, foster healthy self-care habits, and take medication simultaneously. If you're interested in getting started with therapy, consider reaching out to a counselor for further guidance.

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