During my time as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen that clients are often apprehensive towards taking psychotropic medication. When they explain why, they often cite reasons that are rooted in myths and stigmas about medication, specifically antidepressants. Antidepressants are medications that are prescribed to boost your mood by changing levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps with mood stability, and norepinephrine, which affect energy and alertness. They come in two types: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which work by changing the brain’s chemical balance of serotonin and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) which interact with norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. I find that people are quicker to take medication for illnesses like high blood pressure or diabetes but when it comes to mental illnesses they reject the idea of being prescribed a medication. Just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses also require care from a doctor and a medication regimen (of your depression symptoms are mild and manageable then of course this doesn’t apply to you). Here’s a few things you need to know if you are uncertain or skeptical about taking antidepressants.
1.We Are Not Trying to “Dope You Up”
If a therapist recommends medication, it is because the client’s symptoms are interfering with their daily functioning and preventing them from basically living their best life. A therapist is not a doctor, so if they notice that the symptoms are not decreasing and the client is not progressing after six months to a year, it is normal for a psychiatric evaluation to be recommended to get medical feedback. Most clients feel that medication will make them feel lethargic (sluggish) and that this is what mental health providers want or isn’t concerned about happening, which isn’t true. If a medication makes a client feel “dopey” it is recommended to meet with the psychiatrist immediately so this can be addressed. Psychotherapists and psychiatrists promote the client having overall wellbeing. If the client isn’t the best version of themselves, we want to help them get there. For certain diagnoses, this includes a medication regimen.
2. You May Go Through A “Trial & Error” Process to Find The Right Medication
Finding the right medication may take some time. Each client’s brain and body chemistry is different so not every medication is going to be a good fit. It’s important to be patient with your psychiatrist as they monitor you and how things are or are not changing as you take a medication. The first medication you try may be the best fit but if it isn’t don’t be alarmed. Going through trial and error when taking medication is normal and necessary.
3. Taking Breaks From Medication Is Unnecessary
Many of the parents of children I’ve worked with who have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) often say they do not give their children their medication on the weekends or during the summers because they want to give them “a break.” I often explain to them that their ADHD symptoms affect their social skills, levels of hyperactivity, focus as well as cognitive functioning (thinking before doing, being impulsive, talkative, etc), and there is no need for a break. This also applies to antidepressants. There is no reason to give yourself brief breaks from something that is helping you. I’ve never seen people stop taking their HIV medication or diabetes medication so they can have a break so why apply this idea to antidepressants or any psychotropic medication?
4. Antidepressants Are Not Addictive
Medications that treat Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and other mood disorders are not addictive. If a client has been taking them for a significant amount of time and abruptly stops without consulting their psychiatrist, they will go through withdrawal symptoms. Some clients confuse this with being addiction. Your body becomes physically dependent on any medication you take so naturally it will have a reaction if it isn’t getting it anymore. When someone is addicted, they crave the drug because they want the euphoric rush it gives them and they are preoccupied with getting the drug. Antidepressants do not have these effects.
5. Being On Medication Isn’t Going To Solve Everything
While being medication is very helpful, the client still has to work on managing their symptoms. This includes going to psychotherapy consistently and engaging in coping skills. These things work in conjunction with medication and if adhered to you will surely see results and feel a difference in your mood and outlook on life.