Updated: Apr 14
The previous article discussed stigma about mental illness and mental health challenges. However, another related issue involving stigma is the use of medication to improve one’s mental health. People have gathered the idea that there is something wrong with taking medication for depression or anxiety, or other mental illnesses, to the extent that those who would benefit from them are afraid to try them.
This is unfortunate because it leads to unnecessary suffering. Medication is a personal choice and may not be right for some, yet it is not to be feared, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking it if that is one’s decision. We don’t judge people for taking insulin for diabetes or Tylenol for a headache; why so for depression, where the medicine used serves to restore order to a chemical imbalance in the brain?
In fact, some clients who only go for therapy would quickly and painlessly be “cured” and would not deplete their pocketbook if they tried a single medication instead. After waiting about 4-6 weeks for the medication to take effect, their mood and their other symptoms could significantly improve.
Of course, it is widely recognized in the field that the very best outcomes occur when therapy and medication are combined to join forces.
Many people have heard stories, by word of mouth, that psychiatric medication comes with all sorts of side effects, or can ‘numb you out’ until you’re not ‘you’ anymore. While any medication may have side effects, these medication-related issues are a lot less common than people think. In fact, a single anti-depressant or a simple combination of medication does not really have the power to create such effects. And if it does, it’s time to switch. That being said, some anti-depressants (which are also prescribed for anxiety) do cause side effects for a short period of time, and then they subside.
As there are a number of different medications on the market, if one medication is unsuitable, or has a side effect, it’s just a simple matter of asking one’s doctor to find a better fit. An open conversation with a doctor could make a world of difference. No doctor wants their patient to suffer on medication, and if they don’t know, they can’t help.
One special acknowledgment: it should be noted that one class of antidepressants, known as SSRIs, can increase suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents, and should they try a medication from this class it is important that they be monitored closely on it when it is initiated. As always, proper communication with your doctor is key.
If your doctor recommends a medication and you don’t feel comfortable trying it, don’t feel pressured to fill a prescription if it’s not right for you. It is merely important to better understand why and how it can help, and to appreciate that your fears or beliefs about medication may not be entirely justified.