Mental Health Medication: The Basics and Things to Look Out For

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Medication is a common method for treating many mental disorders. Different medications can help people experiencing various illnesses, from ADHD to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, negative perceptions and stigma can often lead to confusion about what these medications do and how they can be used in a treatment plan.

When learning about mental health medication, it’s essential to keep an open mind. If you notice fears or negative feelings coming up, take a moment to examine the unconscious beliefs you may be responding to. By addressing any negative feelings or biases you may have, you will open yourself to learning about medications, their effects, and how they can help.

Types of Mental Health Medication

There are several different types of medications used in treating different mental disorders. When learning about mental health medications, it’s important to remember that the human brain is an extremely complex organ, and many of its functions are not well understood. Thus, scientists are not always sure which medications will help specific symptoms, and treatments often involve some element of trial and error.

  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat depression and other mental health disorders. Antidepressants increase the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, which has been shown to help lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications: These medications help reduce symptoms like panic attacks and extreme fears. Anti-anxiety medications can also help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat and sweating. There are many different anti-anxiety medications that may work differently based on a person’s condition and symptoms.
  • Stimulants: Stimulants increase alertness and energy and often treat ADHD. They can also be used to treat other health conditions such as narcolepsy. Stimulants can have a calming effect that helps people to focus and relieves some of the more severe symptoms of a mental disorder, allowing the person to engage in long-term treatment. 
  • Antipsychotics: These medications are generally used to treat psychosis or conditions that cause people to lose touch with reality. This can include disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or even severe depression. These medications help to address symptoms of psychosis, including agitation and hallucinations and can be paired with other treatment methods for long-term recovery. 
  • Mood Stabilizers: Mood stabilizers are often used to treat bipolar disorder. They can also be used to address mood swings associated with other disorders or in a treatment plan with other medications. These medications decrease abnormal activity in the brain, helping to relieve the symptoms of certain mental disorders and prevent more severe symptoms from developing. 
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Effects of Medication

The effect that mental health medications will have depends entirely on the person. Since the neurological bases of most mental disorders are not well understood, it is difficult for doctors to predict exactly what the effects of a medication will be. It can also take an extended period of time for medications to take effect, and the effects can change over time.

It’s important to note that many medications can come with side effects. Depending on the medication, side effects can be anything from changes in vision to weight gain or even cognitive effects. Because of this, it’s essential to be mindful when trying new medications, take time to notice how they affect your body, and remain open to changes in treatment.

Can Medication Help Me?

The effectiveness of mental health medication depends entirely on each person and situation. For some people, mental health medications are a necessity. For some, they may not be necessary at all, and for others, they may serve as short-term treatments that ease symptoms to allow other treatment methods to work.

If you are wondering whether you may need mental health medication, seek professional help. Therapy or counseling is often an excellent first step for people experiencing mental disorders. A counselor can help you understand what you may be experiencing and coping strategies to deal with it. However, a therapist or counselor cannot diagnose you or prescribe you medication. In order to receive a mental health prescription, you will need to visit a psychiatrist.

Getting a Prescription

There are several different routes through which a person can receive a mental health prescription. Many people start to address mental health conditions through therapy, which can lead them to visit a psychiatrist and receive a diagnosis for their disorder. Others may be referred to a psychiatrist after consulting their doctor about mental health symptoms. In extreme or crisis situations, a person may be referred to a psychiatrist after hospitalization.

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A psychiatrist will work with you to understand the symptoms you face and prescribe the best medication for treatment. However, it’s essential to remember that prescriptions will often require adjustments and changes over time. Some people will need to try multiple medications before finding one that works for them. It can be a long process, but in the end, recovery is always worthwhile.

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