16 Questions People Wished They Asked Their Doctor About Psychiatric Medication
To say that finding the right psychiatric mediation can be tricky is an understatement. For some, one dose of antidepressants a day is all they need to bring a little color back into their world. More likely, it’s trial and error — and it’s frustrating at first if you don’t see results. It can be even more frustrating, though, when your doctor doesn’t adequately communicate what you need to know. Although psychiatrists are human (not wizards) and can’t predict exactly how every patient will react to each medication, it’s really important they do their best to prepare a patient for what’s to come — even if that means providing uncomfortable truths. And this may take you — the consumer — asking some tough questions.
To get you started, we asked our mental health community to share one question they wished they asked their doctor when they were prescribed medication for a mental illness. If we missed something you think is important to ask, tell us in the comments below.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “‘Should I worry about withdrawal?’ Many doctors will not warn you or acknowledge the reality of psychiatric medication withdrawal. At first my doctor acted like it was in my head, but my medication caused severe withdrawal that makes me afraid to trust medications.” — Manda W.
2. “What’s it like missing a day of medication?” — Polina C.
3. “‘Is it actually necessary to have me on these many meds?’ Did you check their interactions with each other and the interaction results are accurate? Had a doctor who said she checked interactions between meds and there weren’t any, ended up having toxic blood levels. (Luckily I’m weaning off them now.)” — Maggie M.
4. “Will this affect my libido?” — Penn C.
5. “‘How many different meds do your patients typically need to try before finding one that works for them? How long should I wait for side effects to go away before trying something else?’ I just wish I had been prepared for the fact that even if a medication was ‘working,’ the side effects may outweigh the benefits. The anxiety associated with changing meds yet again and not being able to anticipate how my body would react is exhausting. I knew that people each have their own unique response to medications, but I just wasn’t prepared for trying so many different meds before finding a good fit.” — Courtney K.
6. “‘What should I expect?’ Telling me that these meds will ‘help my emotional and mental states’ doesn’t tell me exactly what these meds are going to do to me. It doesn’t give me an idea of what’s going to happen when they finally kick in.” — Bekkah A.
7. “What happens if it doesn’t work?” — Tess T.
8. “What symptoms will I experience if I forget a dose? Will I develop a tolerance to the medicine, and will the dosage have to be increased over time? Will I have to continue to take this medication for the rest of my life?” — Vivian R.
9. “Will things get worse before they get better?” — Rianna J.
10. “‘What are the possible side effects? And please don’t sugarcoat them.’ I went through 20+ medications (mainly antipsychotics) and the side effects were awful with most. Including extreme sedation and weight gain being the most reoccurring.” — Amy W.
11. “‘Does it increase appetite and/or cause weight gain?’ As someone with an eating disorder I should have asked, and the doctor should have said.” — Katie W.
12. “‘How long does it take to kick in?’ Because two weeks in and I was feeling even more hopeless that I felt not even meds could help me.” — Megan H.
13. “What programs exist to help me pay for all of this?” — Arielle R.
14. “How long will it be until we review my progress to see whether the medication is working?” — Emma C.
15. “‘How long has this drug been on the market?’ I don’t want the latest stuff the pharmaceuticals rep is pushing. I want something tried and tested over many years.” — Megan B.
16. “What kind of side effects or allergic reactions are both common and uncommon?” — Brandi H.
What would you add?
Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.