The symptoms of mental illness have significant severity based on chemical imbalances in a person’s brain. Medications work on these imbalances to reduce symptoms, or sometimes, to relieve them completely. Psychiatric medications influence the brain chemicals that regulate emotions and thought patterns. However, predicting who will respond to what medication can be difficult because different medications may work better for one person than for another. Our providers will conduct a thorough clinical assessment to see if evidence exists for recommending one medicine over another. They also consider family history and side effects when prescribing medication. As you consider your options, it may help to know some basic facts about medication.
Medications are not cures. Medications only treat symptoms, so if you stop taking them, your symptoms can return. Ask your health care provider how long you might expect to take medication. You may need to take a medication for several weeks or months before you see improvement. If you feel as though a medication isn’t working, or you’re having side effects, consult with your provider to discuss possible adjustments. Many people won’t experience side effects, or they will go away within a few weeks, but if they continue, changing medications or dosage will often help.
Every medicine has its benefits and its risks. Deciding to take medication is all about balancing possible benefits against possible side effects. Sometimes, it’s hard to know how a medicine will affect you until you try it. Your provider will likely start at a low dose and slowly increase dosage to achieve a level that improves symptoms. Following your provider’s instructions will reduce side effects and discomfort when possible.
Medications often help the most when they’re part of an overall treatment program. In some cases, medicines can reduce symptoms so other methods of a treatment plan can be more effective. For example, a medication can ease symptoms of depression like loss of energy and lack of concentration, allowing an individual to engage more in talk therapy. Your plan may include psychotherapy, group therapy or family counseling to help with problems that medication alone can’t treat.
It can take time to feel better. Some medications take a few weeks to work. And sometimes a medication’s side effects may start before its benefits. In some cases, psychiatric medication may be a short-term aid taken only for a few months. In others, medication may be long-term, or even lifelong. Some people are afraid that taking a medication will change their personality, but most find that medication allows them to take charge of their lives. You also may have to try more than one medication before you get the right fit, but many people find it’s worth the wait.
It is also important to include your loved ones in your mental health treatment. If a spouse has concerns, allow us to include him or her in the educational process.