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10 Things You Should Consider When Starting Psychiatric Medication


Editor's Note

Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication.

Over the last decade, I have tried multiple different medications, and it took years to finally find the right combination to treat my mental illness. Like so many people, I fought taking medication and thought I could white-knuckle it and get better without medication. I also went off my medication after I had stabilized and went into another nervous breakdown a few months later. In my life, I have seen multiple examples of people fight the need to take medication and the downside of that decision. Although medication is not necessary for everyone who is dealing with depression and anxiety, I do believe there are certain mental illnesses that can’t be managed without medication, and mine is one.

Below is a list of ten things to consider while starting a new medication:

1. Be patient.

Many medications used to treat mental illnesses take time to provide a benefit. You will not see immediate improvement and, many times, it will take three to four weeks to see the benefits.

2. Work with a psychiatrist.

I strongly urge that anyone dealing with a mental illness work specifically with a psychiatrist rather than a general practitioner. A psychiatrist is much more knowledgeable when it comes to mental illnesses. You would not go see a general doctor to do brain surgery on you, so take your mental illness seriously and go see a specialist who can give you the best care you need.

3. Know that you will experience side effects.

Most people who take medications for mental illness will experience side effects. This was very true for me and it was not a pleasant process, dealing with the side effects. However, most of my side effects disappeared after about a month and today, I can’t even tell I am on medication. I am receiving all the benefits and none of the bad side effects.

4. Keep track of the medications and how you are feeling on them.

Your doctor is going to want to discuss how the medications are affecting you and it is important for you to write down your experience on the medication and your questions so that, when you have time with your doctor, you can discuss them.

5. Let friends and family monitor you.

Mental illness means the patient does not have the ability to rationally monitor themselves at times. The part of you that is able to rationalize and reason is sick, which is why it is so important to have a strong support group with you who will be honest with you and watch out for a decline in your mental and physical health. I strongly urge you to open up to a trusted friend or family member when starting a new medication so they can help monitor you while you are adjusting to the new medication.

6. Go to the hospital if you need a fast adjustment.

Sometimes the doctor needs to adjust your medication very quickly in a time of crisis. I had to be hospitalized for this reason and my doctor did not feel comfortable adjusting my medication so drastically without me being monitored by medical staff.

7. Take your medication as prescribed.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to take your medication and it is important you follow those guidelines to receive maximum benefit. You want to keep the levels of medication in your system stable and this requires you to take the medication as prescribed. Do your best to take it at the same time and do not skip doses.

8. Be cautious with addictive medications.

Some medications can be addictive and you need to be honest with your doctor if you have problems with addiction. There are many medications available so your doctor can likely find an alternative that is less likely to lead to an addiction.

9. Know you will likely want to stop taking medication when you feel better.

So many people who finally level off eventually want to stop taking their medication. I too have done this. I felt better and didn’t give credit to the medication. This is so common, so I want you to realize it is likely that once the medication has leveled you out, you will feel better and think that you do not need the medication, but the medication is a large part of what is making you feel better.

10. Do not go off cold turkey.

It is so important to not go off your medication cold turkey because it is very likely that it will cause your symptoms to worsen. If you are not happy with the medication, you can have your doctor taper you off safely, discontinue the medication and try an alternative.

It is important to note I am not a doctor and it is is very important to seek medical advice from a doctor, but these are a few things that have helped me in my journey to finding the right combination of medications for my illness. I hope these things will help you on your journey to finding the right medication to treat your mental illness.

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