What to know about mental health medications


Oftentimes, when a patient is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, they will undergo a treatment plan which includes both therapy and medication. Whereas a psychologist will meet with a patient to assist them with cognitive and behavioral therapies and other coping skills, the role of the psychiatrist differs. A psychiatrist is licensed to prescribe medication and will determine the specific type, along with the amount, that is right for them. It is important to note that medications are not intended to be a cure for sufferers, but they will help treat symptoms so that they are able to better function in their lives.

In some cases, the patient may only need medication for a short period of time before they will eventually recover. In other cases, medication may be needed for a much longer period of time, as in more serious or long term illnesses. A number of considerations will determine how a prescription works, including the condition that has been diagnosed, the gender of the patient, their age and their body size. Other factors will include the patient’s diet, their genetic makeup and whether they smoke or drink. Of course, all medications should always be taken as prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Medications prescribed for schizophrenia

Antipsychotic medications will be used to treat schizophrenia. Medications like Haldol and Thorazine have been used for years in order to help treat this disease. There has been further exploration into the treatment of schizophrenia with the developed of other medications that include Clozaril; though this drug has the side effect of lowering a person’s white blood cell count. Because of this, white blood cell counts will need to be monitored regularly, and tests are expensive. However, this still may be the best option for a patient if they do not respond well to other antipsychotics. Other options may include Zyprexa, Resperdal, Abilify, Latuda and more.

Patients should be made aware of side effects of the prescription, most of which can be properly managed and should no longer occur within a few days. These may include dizziness during movement, drowsiness, increased heart rate, skin rashes, blurry vision and more. Certain medications such as Resperdal and Zyprexa may lead to weight gain and metabolic changes. Therefore, a doctor should monitor the patient’s weight while they are taking such medication.

Medications prescribed for depression

Depression is most often treated with antidepressant medications. These medications assist with a better balance of natural chemicals in the brain. These chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, play a role in our emotional responses and mood. They affect dopamine and serotonin levels. The most prevalent antidepressants are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. They include Lexapro, Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac. Other types of antidepressants include selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. These include medications such as Cymbalta and Effexor. The reason they are popular is because they have fewer side effects than the other options.

The most common side effects of such antidepressants may include nausea or headaches, though this often subsides within a few days. Agitation may also occur, along with drowsiness or insomnia, though this also often stops within the first few weeks. The full effects of such medication should begin to be seen in three to four weeks. When it is decided that antidepressant medication is no longer needed, the doctor will assist the patient in slowly and safely lowering the dose as a precaution.

Medications prescribed for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is often treated with mood stabilizers. Lithium was the first such mood stabilizing drug prescribed for such patients. Anticonvulsant medications may also be prescribed as well. These drugs include Depakote, Lamictal and more. Though treatment for bipolar disorder has improved, even in the last decade, each patient may respond differently to medications.

Lithium may cause side effects including greater thirst, poor coordination, slurred speech, blackouts, hallucinations and more. Some side effects of bipolar medication are rare, but serious, and therefore should be watched closely. A patient should never stop taking such medication without first consulting with their doctor.

Medications prescribed for anxiety disorders

Antidepressants may also be used to treat anxiety disorders. Therefore, medications such as Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil have often been proven to be effective. Benzodiazepines may also be prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. This may include medications such as Ativan, Xanax and Klonopin. Beta blockers may be another option to help treat physical symptoms of anxiety.

Side effects of benzodiazepines may include confusion, headaches, grogginess, upset stomach and more. Beta blockers may bring about side effects such as clammy hands, fatigue, weakness and dizziness. Benzodiazepines have the potential to lead to dependence and therefore are usually prescribed for short periods of time. Their use should be stopped gradually because of this as well.

Medications prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is often treated with stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. Side effects may include a decrease in appetite, such as during lunchtime, though appetite will often increase around dinnertime as the medication wears off. The medication may also cause sleeplessness and may be taken earlier in the day to help prevent this. Headaches may occur as well.

Such medications will assist in the learning process, as well as focusing on work. The patient may also notice improvements in their coordination as well. As is common, reactions to certain medications may vary depending on the patient. Some may be concerned that the patient will develop drug dependence, but this is actually less common than in those who do not take these medications.

Knowing what drugs to take and when will often mean the difference between a stable life and a rough road. Having an experienced doctor be able to tell you what to take and why will not only help in getting any mental issues sorted out, but also allow you to have a life with fewer complications.

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