Medication Matters: Myths Surrounding Mental Health Medication vs. How It Actually Helps
Posted by Soribel Martinez, LCSW
Despite the many gains made in reducing misunderstandings and stigmas about mental health, some still remain. This includes myths and false information about how medication treats depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other disorders.
Many people hesitate to take medication for their mental health disorders, for a number of reasons. This is truly unfortunate, as prescription medications can make a tremendous difference in treatment success.
As you learn more about these myths and why they are false, however, you may be surprised to learn about the important role of medication.
Medication Only Masks the Issue
If you’ve lived with depression for a long time, you may have lost hope about finding improvement. Perhaps you’ve resisted taking medication because you think it won’t actually help. Rather, you might think it will only mask the root causes, leaving you numb but less sad or anxious.
Antidepressants are not the same as tranquilizers or sedatives, however. The goal is not to take your mind off your troubles.
Rather, antidepressants work by increasing the levels of chemicals in your brain that control your mood. They can be a very helpful tool to help you as you address the issues in your life that may contribute to your depression or anxiety.
Taking Medication Means I’m Weak
The belief that using medication means that you’re weak is truly unfortunate. While many of us like to be independent and show that we can manage life on our own, this attitude can really prevent us from finding complete healing.
It might help to look at your mental illness from a different perspective. Depression, anxiety, and other issues have very real roots in your brain. It can help you acknowledge they are true medical problems (as they are). Just as you would treat diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer with medication, it’s appropriate to do the same with mental health.
Using medication can be empowering and open the doorway to a brighter future.
Medication is for Life
Perhaps you’ve heard rumors that people who use antidepressants or antianxiety medication have to stay on them for life. You worry about becoming an addict and you don’t want to feel trapped or controlled by your need for medication.
Fortunately, medication is often used only for a specific amount of time. You can’t become addicted to these medications as you would with narcotics or street drugs.
While it’s important to not stop taking antidepressants cold turkey, using them to help treat your mental health disorders does not mean you’ll become an addict. Discuss your questions about usage and stopping with your health care provider.
The Side Effects are Too Much
People are often concerned about the side effects of antidepressants and antianxiety medications. You might worry about gaining weight, being too tired, insomnia, and sexual side effects.
The reality is, however, that different medications work differently on different people. You may experience some side effects, but they often improve with time. You can also weigh the benefits of short-term use of medication against the long-term risks of not using it.
Likewise, researchers have developed many new medication options. Newer ones often have fewer side effects and may act differently on the brain than older ones did.
As with any medication, finding the right one for you might be a process of trial and error, but that’s OK. Once you experience the help that medication can bring, you may be pleasantly surprised and glad that you made the decision.
Along with medication, therapy also plays an important role in treating mental health disorders. In fact, seeking therapy while you’re on medication can be very effective.
If you have questions about how therapy and medication can work together, please reach out to my office to learn more.
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Soribel Martinez, LCSW, CEO of SMPsychotherapy