Mental health stigma continues to affect individuals in a number of negative ways. Stigma keeps people from considering treatment, blocks access to treatment, and ultimately serves as a barrier to recovery. Little progress has been made to change not only the stigma of addiction, but also the stigma associated with taking medication for mental health. While treatment for mental illnesses often involves psychotherapy or other therapy treatments, physicians often also prescribe medications to help with uncontrollable or unmanageable symptoms. Most of the time, medications are found to be most effective when combined with traditional therapy. It is crucial that we learn to move beyond these stigmas so that individuals suffering can benefit from the medication that they may need to move beyond their mental distress.
Millions of people fail to get the help that they need because of the stigma surrounding taking medication for mental health. These harmful stigmas include believing that:
- Someone is not fit enough to overcome their condition on their own
- A certain diet or exercise should be enough to cure their condition
- Medication is the easier alternative to therapy or other treatment
- Medication dulls a person’s personality and numbs their emotions
- Medication is a temporary solution
Medications that are taken for mental health disorders and other conditions are commonly referred to as psychotropics. Psychotropic medications adjust the levels of chemicals in the brain, such as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the molecules in your brain that work act as messengers between neurons to allow them to communicate with one another. Oftentimes, mental health conditions are a result of a dysfunction of these neurotransmitters, such as having too few or too many of them. These situations lead to chemical reactions in the brain that produce symptoms associated with mental health conditions.
It is essential to understand that psychotropic drugs directly affect the body’s central nervous system. This alters the brain’s functioning, affecting mood, perception, and other elements of consciousness.
Some examples of psychotropic medications include:
- Anti-anxiety agents
- Mood stabilizers
Medication Can Be a Useful Tool
Medication can be useful, and in some cases necessary, to improve mental and emotional well-being. For example, anti-anxiety medication can be helpful for an individual that suffers from panic attacks. Anti-depressant medication helps to tone down crippling feelings of sadness in cases where it may be nearly impossible for a person to get out of bed. For other more severe conditions such as schizophrenia, medication can help a person reduce symptoms like delusions and hallucinations, allowing them to experience true reality.
Medication can also support the psychotherapy process, as it helps individuals to focus on symptom relief and personal growth. Mental health symptoms can be debilitating, making a person unable to attend therapy sessions or hopeless that their situation could get better. Medication can help stabilize mood and emotions so that individuals like this can progress in treatment. It is common for successful psychotherapy experiences to reduce or eliminate the need for psychotropic medications, which is another benefit of use.
Medication Can Be Unhelpful, Too
Although it is important to break the stigma of taking medication, it is also important to understand that medication is not always helpful nor successful. While it is a necessary part of treatment for some individuals, many medications do come with side effects. Because of this, it is important to note that medication may only be beneficial in specific cases. Potential risks and side effects may include:
- Changes in appetite
- Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Dizziness or nausea
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Emotional numbness
Always discuss with your health professional when deciding if the potential risks of a medicine outweigh its benefits. There are other alternative treatments that may offer greater success than medication, although an individual’s specific diagnosis and the severity of their mental distress should be taken into consideration. Medication may temporarily negatively interfere with emotions as well. Once an individual becomes acclimated to the correct dosage or type of medication, they may no longer be negatively affected.
Before making judgments about using medication for mental clarity or to motivate success in psychotherapy, it is essential to become educated about the many pros and cons of medication in general. Always take into consideration that what is best for you may not work for someone else and that mental health challenges are subjective. Psychotropic medication has helped countless people reestablish their lives, including finding peace in their overall well-being. Bringing these medications to light will help others to recognize their numerous potential benefits, and also help to encourage individuals to get the help that they may need.
While prescription medications are used more commonly now than ever, there is still a large stigma associated with taking medication for mental health. This stigma comes from people that may have had ill experiences with medication, watched their loved ones experience even greater distress from medication, or have limited knowledge of the benefits these medications offer. It is essential to acknowledge that psychotropic medications help to balance chemicals in the brain that may otherwise not be able to level out naturally. Medication can be helpful for individuals experiencing severe mental health conditions and the crippling symptoms associated with them. By bringing mental health medications to light, we can enable and empower individuals to get the help and mental clarity that they may need. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we work with individuals experiencing challenges with addiction and mental health. We want to help you reclaim your life through intentional treatment. Call us at (760 492-6718).