If the idea of taking medication for your mental health seems scary or overwhelming, you are not alone. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about mental health medication, how it can help people, and its potential side effects. To understand how mental health medication works and whether it can be helpful for you, it’s essential to understand the science behind it. 

Several types of mental health medication do different things. Some may be more effective in mitigating the effects of certain illnesses like anxiety and depression, while others can treat specific symptoms like hallucinations or psychosis. In addition, it’s essential to understand how the medication works as part of a larger treatment plan. 

What does mental health medication do?

In general, mental health medications help reduce the symptoms of mental disorders. They are the first line of treatment for some conditions, especially illnesses with severe symptoms like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

It’s important to note that mental health medication cannot “fix” a mental disorder. It generally is not a treatment on its own and will not change your thought and behavioral patterns in the long run. What it does do, though, is reduce the effects of severe symptoms to make other treatments possible. It can be beneficial for people whose symptoms significantly affect their ability to function in everyday life. 

How do I know if I need it?

The only way to know for sure if mental health medication can be helpful for you is to consult a professional. There are multiple types of professionals who can help with mental health treatment. Seeing a counselor or a psychologist can help you understand what is going on and what types of treatments may be helpful. 

While multiple types of professionals can help you in your healing journey, a psychiatrist is the only type of professional that can prescribe medication. A therapist or counselor can help you envision an overall treatment plan and whether medication might be helpful. They will then refer you to a psychiatrist to work with you to diagnose your condition and find the proper medications for you. 

Finding the Right Medication

Finding the proper medication can be a complex process. There is much that scientists still don’t understand about the human brain, so it can be challenging to know precisely how a particular medication will affect each person. The effects of a prescription may be different based on your body’s unique characteristics and the symptoms you are facing. 

Generally, a psychiatrist will ask you about your symptoms and use that information to diagnose your condition. Once they have diagnosed your situation, they will identify the likely best choice for medication. They will often start with a smaller dose to see how the medicine impacts you and changes your symptoms. Then, depending on the effect of the first medication, your psychiatrist may adjust your amount or try different remedies to find one that works for you. 

Medication and Other Treatments

No matter how effective it may be, medication is not a treatment plan on its own. Many people use medication to supplement, therapy, counseling, or other treatments. Medication may also be used in hospitals or outpatient treatments. By bringing the most severe symptoms down, medication can help to make these different treatment methods more effective. 

Depending on your treatment plan, you may also change or go off your medication as time goes on. While some people may need a prescription long-term, others may only need it as a short-term measure. It can depend on your condition, how your treatment progresses, and whether your symptoms may fade in the long run.

Recovery is a Process

If the idea of seeking mental health medication still feels overwhelming, it’s ok. Recovery can be a complex process that changes over time. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to take things to step by step. Start by consulting a therapist or counselor. This can give you a resource to cope with your symptoms and guidance through seeking treatment. 

Taking things one day at a time can be helpful even if you are in the middle of a treatment process. Recovery is not always linear, but there is always some way to move towards a better quality of life. Taking the initiative to seek out the resources you need and try new things is essential to gaining agency over your life.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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