Medications and mental illness
Medications used to manage mental health disorders are often misunderstood or subject to scrutiny, but for many people, they can be a vital part of treatment. Though they may not work for everyone, prescription medications can make living with symptoms that might otherwise interfere with a person’s daily life or safety feel much more possible. These articles talk about the history of psychiatric medication, the potential pros and cons of taking certain medications, and how to talk to your doctor about taking medication for your mental health.
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The information below is not meant to serve as medical advice. Always consult your primary care doctor before starting or stopping any medication.
Medically reviewed by Laura Maddox
Medication can have positive effects on those experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder, but it can also come with potential downsides. The main benefit of medication is often its ability to minimize the severity of a person’s mental health symptoms and help them reach a healthier place of mental stability.
However, because some medications often do very little to address behavioral concerns (the way someone thinks, reacts, and practices habits), medications generally work best when used in conjunction with psychotherapy. Still, for some people, medication can be an excellent treatment option that can make pursuing therapy and other forms of support much easier.
What do psychiatric medications do?
In many cases, psychiatric medications can significantly improve a person’s quality of life by keeping symptoms that can disrupt their daily functionality at bay. It can do this in a myriad of ways; some types may provide the brain with chemicals it lacks, which can reduce the symptoms that can come as a result, while others may inhibit the release of certain hormones or otherwise alter cognitive health.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
SSRIs are often prescribed to treat depression and psychiatric conditions. The Mayo Clinic explains the mechanism of SSRIs as follows: “SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin into neurons. This makes more serotonin available to improve transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs are called selective because they mainly affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.”
SSRIs are some of the most common antidepressant medications, but they may also be prescribed to treat other disorders, such as anxiety disorders. The potential side effects include weight gain or loss, nausea, insomnia, and nervousness. Also, although SSRIs aren’t considered addictive, stopping them abruptly make lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Antipsychotic medications are commonly prescribed for psychosis-related symptoms. According to the Cleveland Clinic, psychosis isn’t considered a condition in and of itself but rather a collection of symptoms. It tends to involve a disconnection from reality, as evidenced by delusions or hallucinations.
The two main types of antispsychotics are first-generation antipsychotics, which aren’t typically used today, and second-generation antipsychotics, which are also known as atypical antipsychotics. The latter type of antipsychotics is what is normally used today, given that there are often fewer side effects.
It can be crucial to always discuss questions about medications with your doctor, and it’s recommended that you never start, stop, or change the way you take mental health medications without first consulting a licensed medical professional.
Medication may not "fix" mental health challenges
It would likely be wonderful if you could take a magical pill that made all your concerns disappear. However, this is seldom how things tend to work when it comes to mental health. Medications can help a person reach a place of healthier mental stability, but that’s often only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to a successful mental health treatment plan.
Seeking help for mental illness
If you believe you may benefit from psychiatric medications, it’s likely best to reach out to a healthcare professional or psychiatrist to learn more. It can be an excellent addition to a treatment plan, but it likely shouldn’t be the only mental health treatment tool. You may also benefit from seeking guidance from a licensed professional.
Online therapy can be an excellent option for getting answers to your questions and receiving mental health support on your own schedule. You can speak to a licensed professional in the privacy of your home. Plus, you can choose the way you talk to your therapist, whether that’s through online chat, video chat, or phone call.
Research suggests that online therapy options can be just as effective and even more cost-effective for clients than traditional therapy, which may make it even easier to find care that fits your needs.
Psychiatric medication can often be prescribed to treat mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression. When combined with therapy, it can be part of a successful treatment plan. If you’re interested in discussing whether medication may be the right choice for you, it can be best to consult a medical doctor or psychiatrist. It may also help to discuss your symptoms with a licensed therapist, whether in person or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience treating your specific concerns. Take the first step toward getting support for a healthier life and reach out to BetterHelp today.