- While it’s understandable to feel uncertain about taking medication to treat your mental health condition, it’s important to consider doing so as a viable treatment option.
- Be open with your doctor about your symptoms, so they can help you weigh your treatment options and ultimately decide whether medication is the right approach to treatment for you.
- If you’re worried about addiction, there are certain medications (SSRI’s) that are less likely to be addictive that you can opt for.
- If you’re worried about other consequences of these medications, remember cost-benefit analysis—generally speaking, the benefits of antidepressants or similar medications typically outweigh the costs.
- If your hesitance boils down to feeling embarrassed, know that you have nothing to be ashamed of; it is not your fault if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression and need medication.
*Laura Manderino-Martins, LPC, is a psychotherapist and owner of a private practice group, May You Find Peace LLC. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety and depression.*
Cause for Concern?
It is understandable that when people are experiencing mental health conditions, they may be wary when it comes to the idea of taking medication for their symptoms. It is important to be honest with your doctor about your symptoms—when you experience them, how they feel for you, and how much they are affecting your daily life.
Your doctor will help you to make a decision in regards to medication based on how much your symptoms are influencing your daily life, as well as your medical and mental health history. While all medications have a risk for side effects, an important thing to remember is how your body might react if you continue to experience how you are feeling. For example, if your anxiety results in you having difficulty eating, or in overindulging in food, are there long-term effects to that versus taking medication to assist with the symptoms?
It is very natural to be concerned about taking a medication. Ask your doctor about this medication, what the side effects are, and if there is a risk for addiction. For the most part, addiction is more common and more likely with benzodiazepines, which are short-acting medications used for panic, anxiety, and in some cases, severe insomnia. SSRI’s are less likely to cause addiction, as they are slower to build in the body. If you are prescribed a benzodiazepine, remember your doctor has given you this medication because they feel it will help you medically—for example, it might help you eat and sleep while going through a severe period of grief. Take this medication exactly as prescribed, and notify your doctor of any changes you feel. You will likely check in with your doctor a few weeks after beginning medication so they can assess how you are feeling and if the medication is benefitting you based on your report of symptoms.
The most common side effects of SSRI’s and SNRI’s are upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, and headache. These side effects tend to fade within a few weeks. If they are very disruptive, contact your doctor. There are several different SSRI’s and SNRI’s and sometimes it takes a bit of time to find the right match. Sometimes, these medications can increase or bring on suicidal thoughts. This does not happen often, but since it can happen, be sure to be aware of your thoughts and if these feelings creep up on you, reach out to your doctor right away. Understandably, that is a risk people are concerned about. However, many people find they do not experience severe side effects and end up experiencing a better quality of life, in particular with a combination of therapy and medication.
If you ever want to stop your medication, make sure you speak with your doctor so you can taper down and give your body time to adjust. Sometimes, people are afraid that if they start a mediation, they will always need it. This is not true. Many people start a medication during a crucial time in their life, and with time and therapy, are able to safely and successfully taper off of their medication with their doctor’s guidance.
No Judgment, No Shame
If you feel you need medication, please do not be ashamed. Depression and anxiety can be a chemical issue, where your brain is lacking in certain essential chemicals, such as serotonin, and SSRI’s and SNRI’s make this chemical, that is already occurring in your brain, more available. It is not your fault if you need medication—life stress can add up and can deplete us of our natural chemicals. With time, coping skills learned in psychotherapy, and open communication with your medical providers, you can find yourself feeling better.
*This article serves educational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice. If you’re suffering from a mental illness like depression or anxiety and you want to know more about how medication can help treat your symptoms, meet with a doctor or mental health professional.*