Medication for Mental Health
Here are some frequently asked questions that clients ask about mental health or psychotropic medications.
Is medication right for me?
Medication is a tool, nothing less, nothing more. Like fire, when used properly it can heat your home or used improperly, it can burn the home to the ground. For some, medication is all that is required to regain proper functioning. For others, medication in conjunction with therapy, works best. There are infinite studies that appear to support the notion that psychotherapy in combination with medication management, produces the best overall results, but that may be better determined between client and practitioner.
What about the stories that says I should not need to use medication?
If I were a cardiologist and indicated that a patient had heart issues, would one think that medication is optional? Why do we still treat the brain as less than the other organs? It is time to stop shaming the brain and start treating mental illness as real as heart, liver, lung or any other organ problem. When we shame those who seek treatment, whether it be psychotropic medication, psychotherapy, or the combination of the two, we reinforce the old fashioned notion that we should be able to do it alone and if we can’t, that there is something wrong with us. The only one who can make that determination is the client and the professionals they choose to support their return to good mental well-being.
Do I have to take medication or can I just do therapy?
There is no one size fits all answer to this question. For some clients with mild to moderate depression, therapy or counseling alone is sufficient. For others the combination of therapy and medication works best. Some ADHD clients find that medication alone is all they need while others prefer ADHD medication in conjunction with counseling and therapy. If the presenting symptoms are more organic in nature, medication may prove highly effective. I recommend a thorough examination of all the options before making an informed decision with an understanding that no decision needs to be set in stone. Periodic re-examination to see how well things are progressing, allows for adjustments to enhance a return to wellness.
If I do decide to take medication, how much do I need to take?
All medication is different and each client and their situation is unique. For some, it may be a short course (a few weeks or months) while for others their symptoms may require a longer stay with medication. The best course of action is one that is discussed in detail between practitioner and client so that both have a clear understanding of what is planned.
Do I have to take medication for the rest of my life?
This is perhaps one of the most common questions that I hear in my practice. Perhaps this question is raised from the stance of if I need to take something to feel better, then I am not as good as someone who can function well without medication. I offer another perspective to consider. Aren’t we glad that there is medication that can assist me to function better on my road back to optimal health? How long that takes is very much an individual decision.
What about side effects? Benefits? Risks? Alternatives?
Almost every medication one puts into the body can have side effects. Something as simple as table salt can be harmful if taken in extremes. It is best if clients ask the questions about any potential medication they are considering as to risks, benefits, side effects and possible alternatives. Always weigh those answers against the symptoms before making a decision. Of course it is wise to take the medication as prescribed and keep your practitioner up to date on any concurrent medications and over the counter items that you are taking including herbs, vitamins and other supplements.
Can I stop taking the medication whenever I want to?
While clients always have the last word in making that decision, abruptly discontinuing some medication could have detrimental side effects. It is always best practice, to consult with your prescriber about your intentions to discontinue the medicine and make an informed decision about when and how to do that.
Is medication helpful for ADHD? What about depression and anxiety?
There is no definitive way to guarantee that medication is right for everyone in all circumstances. While there are countless studies that have shown medicine is very effective for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)/ADD, depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD and other mental health issues, I believe it best for clients to make informed decisions and have all their concerns addressed before making a plan of action.
If you have any other questions or concerns, I invite you to contact me at (503) 492-2200 to discuss your thoughts.