1. Do I need to take medication to deal with my mental illness?
  2. There is not an absolute answer to this question. Taking medication is dependent on each individual situation and the best course of treatment for their illness. A therapist can complete an assessment of your particular situation and determine whether or not a referral to a psychiatrist is in your best interest. You can also consult with your primary care physician. Often times, the best course of treatment for mental illness is medication taken in conjunction with psychotherapy, but there are certainly times in which medication is not required.

  3. How does medicine help mental illnesses?
  4. Medication assists in the reduction of symptoms so an individual can function better in their daily lives. Medication can also make talking therapy more effective. Due to their reduction in severity, symptoms are less likely to distract and disrupt an individual, allowing the individual to more fully engage in therapy.

  5. Is medication safe for the treatment of mental illness?
  6. Every medication has its benefits and risks. Working closely with a psychiatrist and/or primary care provider should help you determine the most appropriate medication for your current mental and physical condition. Discuss any medication concerns with your medical provider to ensure that you feel that the benefits of the medication outweigh the risks.

  7. Will I become addicted to or dependent on the medication that is treating my mental illness?
  8. Most medications prescribed for mental illness are not habit-forming, and those taking them most often do not become addicted or dependent. Nevertheless, there are some medications that have the potential for dependence. These medications should be monitored closely by a prescriber and only prescribed for a limited period of time. If you have questions or concerns, ask your prescriber about your medication's potential for dependence.

  9. When can I stop taking my mental health medication?
  10. After you have consulted with your physician or psychiatrist, and they have determined that it is in your best interest to do so, you can stop taking your mental health medication. Your doctors will help you slowly discontinue medication. It is almost never a good idea to quit a medication "cold turkey," as the effects of doing so can be very negative, even fatal in some cases. One of the most common causes for a relapse back into a serious mental illness is stopping medication. In many cases, individuals respond well to the medication, and then no longer feel it is necessary to continue taking the medication. Unfortunately, they do not realize that they are feeling well because of the medication. Studies have shown that preemptively discontinuing medication often results in a more significant relapse for a greater duration of time. The bottom line: it is perfectly acceptable to want to stop taking your medication. But before you do, consult with your prescriber as to whether or not it would be beneficial in your situation, and how exactly to go about doing it.

  11. Are there any side effects in taking medications for mental illness?
  12. Medications for mental illness can have side effects. No two individuals' chemical makeup is exactly the same, so each medication can potentially impact people in different ways. You may have side effects from one medication but not the other. Some side effects will decrease or discontinue after taking the medication for a short period of time, and some of them may not, and you may have to seek out alternative medication. After being prescribed a medication, pay attention to the positive and negative effects it is having on your body. Don't be afraid to contact your provider to ask questions or request an alternative medication if the negative effects are greater than the benefits of the medication.

  13. I've heard it takes a long time for medication to begin working on mental illness. Why is that, and how long is "a long time"?
  14. It depends on the medication and what is being treated. There are 2 classes of medications. The first is a fast-acting medication that treats the issue and leaves the body quickly. This type of medication is a "short-term fix," often prescribed for crisis situations like a panic attack or severe mood dysregulation. The other type of medication is a more long-term form of treatment. This type of medication may take weeks before you begin to feel a difference. The medication is making slow, subtle changes to the chemistry in your brain, providing you with the most lasting and effective treatment for your illness.