Please Note: You should discuss any information in this section with your mental health care provider.
Psychiatric medications influence the brain chemicals that regulate emotions and thought patterns. They’re usually more effective when combined with psychotherapy. In some cases, medicines can reduce symptoms so other methods of a treatment plan can be more effective. For example, a medication can ease symptoms of depression like loss of energy and lack of concentration, allowing an individual to engage more in talk therapy.
However, predicting who will respond to what medication can be difficult because different medications may work better for one person than for another. Doctors usually review clinical records to see if evidence exists for recommending one medicine over another. They also consider family history and side effects when prescribing medication.
Be persistent until you find the medication (or combination of medications) that works for you. A few psychiatric medications work quickly, and you will see improvements within days, but most work more slowly. You may need to take a medication for several weeks or months before you see improvement. If you feel as though a medication isn’t working, or you’re having side effects, consult with your provider to discuss possible adjustments. Many people won’t experience side effects, or they will go away within a few weeks, but if they continue, changing medications or dosage will often help.
Treatment typically consists of pills or capsules, taken daily. Some can also be available as liquids, injections, patches or dissolvable tablets. People who have difficulty remembering to take medications daily or people with a history of stopping medication may have better results by taking medication as a shot at the doctor’s office once or twice a month.
Your provider will likely start at a low dose and slowly increase dosage to achieve a level that improves symptoms. Following your provider’s instructions will reduce side effects and discomfort when possible. Understand the role medicines can play for key symptoms.
When stopping a medication, work with your doctor to taper off properly. This allows brain chemicals to adjust to the change. Stopping medication suddenly can result in uncomfortable side effects.
In some cases, psychiatric medication may be a short-term aid taken only for a few months. In others, medication may be long-term, or even lifelong. Some people are afraid that taking a medication will change their personality, but most find that medication allows them to take charge of their lives.
Read about specific medications at nami.org.