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Taking Care of Your Mental Health By Taking Prescribed Medications

When I was thinking about what to write for Thursday Thoughts on Mental Illness, I realized how I would be remiss if I did not talk about medication during Mental Health Awareness Month.

When I broach the subject of medication with folks, almost everyone expresses concern. Typically, I hear some combination of the following concerns.

  • You might not consider yourself to be a “medication person,” meaning you also typically avoid basic pain medication including Advil, Aleve, and/or Tylenol.
  • In part, there is a fear of being labeled “crazy.”
  • Finally, is also a fear of dependence.

I don’t like taking medication of any kind.

Taking medication is not something I take lightly. My preference is to work on coping strategies first. We will work together to identify the strategies that could be the most effective for you. These will change depending on the situation and circumstances of the moment. Over the course of therapy, your potential strategies and skills will continue to develop and grow. If I observe the coping strategies are not providing enough relief and/or your symptoms are severe enough to impact daily functioning, I am going to have a conversation with you about the benefits of medication.

Just as medical providers might suggest medication to optimize your physical health, sometimes the most effective treatment for depression is to add medication to your treatment.  My goal is to always help you reach your fullest potential for growth and wellness.

Won’t people think I’m “crazy” if I take medication?

Hopefully not. The reality is, it is more common for people to need antidepressants than to need medication for diabetes or high cholesterol. While many people face situational depression, Major Depression is a serious health issue.

There are five main types of psychotropic medications. They include anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotic medications.

  • Anti-depressants
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Stimulants are typically prescribed if you who have ADHD. Stimulants have also been found to work for some sleep disorders.
  • Mood stabilizers are prescribed if you have experienced an episode of hypomania, mania, or a severe episode of depression.
  • And, Anti-psychotic medications are prescribed if you have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness including schizophrenia, or if you have experienced a psychotic episode in conjunction with your Bipolar Disorder. Anti-psychotics have also been known to help folks with Alzheimer’s.

Interestingly, I have found that when you are vulnerable with others and share you are taking a psychotropic medication, most find people come out of the woodwork and disclose they are also taking a psychotropic medication. You will likely end up comparing medications and your experiences!

What if I don’t like taking medication or am afraid of becoming dependent?

If you have a mental illness, or a mental health condition, you might benefit from psychotropic medication.

While I have not done the additional schooling it would take to become a prescribing psychologist (available in some states, including Illinois), by reviewing your medication(s) with you, I can help you determine if they are working effectively. Over the years, I have seen a sizable portion of folks who do not realize they are not receiving maximum benefit from their medication. This typically occurs because a person might have been experiencing their symptoms for so long that they have not had experienced feeling their best and/or they have forgotten how it feels to be in their best place. In these situations, it often requires trust in me and a willingness to try medication.

Usually, the idea of dependence you are typically thinking about is connected to alcohol or substance use dependence.  In those situations, dependence usually means that the alcohol or substance controls a persons’ life.  They are often thinking about their substance, figuring out ways to get their substance (potentially including stealing from loved ones), or using their substance. 

Yes, there is the matter of your body becoming “addicted” if you mean that your body needs the medication to reach optimal functioning.  Psychotropic medication is effective because it either providers neurotransmitters and/or improves the rate with which they communicate to your brain.  Medication helps “even things out” in a way your brain (specifically, the limbic system) cannot do on your own.  There is a part of your mental health experience that is out of your control.  What is in your control is if you choose to help improve functioning by taking medication.

I hope this helps you understand the use and importance of medication when it comes to managing and improving your mental health.  If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment below or send me a message.  You can also call 630.912.2908 to schedule an appointment.

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Dr. Irgang
Dr. Lisa Irgang is a Clinical Psychologist and the Owner of Relationship Solutions Center. She provides a variety of services to meet her clients needs. Dr. Lisa has worked with people throughout Chicagoland, helping with adjusting to significant life changes, ADHD, Alternative Sexualities, Anxiety Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Dealing with Chronic Illness, Depression, Low self-esteem, Parenting special needs children, Relationship concerns, and Trauma. She's a graduate of Argosy University Chicago and a Fellow at CLII - Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois.

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