This blog post was reviewed and approved for publication by Abena Apraku M.D., a Board-certified psychiatrist at Apraku Psychiatry.
The Verve famously sang: "The drugs don't work, they just make you worse".
It's a cool song - grab a lisen below. But we're flipping the script on their lyrics. The drugs do work, and they can make you feel way better! Yet only if you take the right drugs (medications!) under the direction of a medical specialist (psychiatrist!).
That's where we come in - our mission at Apraku Psychiatry is to empower you with our psychiatrists' expert knowledge so you can make informed decisions about your mental health. So sit back, relax, and listen to The Verve; we'll do the hard work to explain why the drugs can work - and bust the top five myths around psychiatric medications.
So, have you ever found yourself pushing away a potentially life-altering psychiatric medication based on some widespread myths? If so, you’re far from alone in this struggle. Misconceptions about psychiatric treatments often steer people away from beneficial pathways towards improved mental health.
In this blog, we aim to demystify the world of psychiatric medication. We’ll debunk some of the most common myths that fuel apprehension and misinformation, giving you a clearer perspective.
Busting the Top Five Myths About Psychiatric Medications
Myth 1: Psychiatric Medications are Addictive
A common belief that often causes hesitation is the idea that psychiatric medications are highly addictive. Let’s demystify this.
While it’s true that some medications, like benzodiazepines (often used for anxiety and insomnia) can lead to dependency if misused, this isn’t a universal truth.
Many other forms of psychiatric medications such as antidepressants (commonly prescribed for conditions like depression and anxiety disorders), antipsychotics (used for conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder), and mood stabilizers (often used in the treatment of bipolar disorder) don’t have the same potential for addiction as substances like stimulants (often prescribed for ADHD) or opioids (typically used for severe pain management).
Understanding this differentiation is crucial for anyone considering psychiatric treatment. Don’t let the fear of addiction overshadow the potential benefits of these treatments. With the right information, you can make an informed decision, opening up the possibility of exploring beneficial treatments like antidepressants or mood stabilizers, and ultimately enhancing your mental health.
Myth 2: Psychiatric Medications Change Your Personality
The notion that psychiatric medications can completely transform your personality is another widespread myth that we need to address. Perhaps you may worry that these medications could somehow morph you into a different person. However, this is far from the truth.
Psychiatric medications function by balancing neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby correcting chemical imbalances that may be impacting your mental health. Their goal isn’t to overhaul your personality, but to alleviate distressing symptoms and enhance your overall well-being.
That’s not to say starting a new medication won’t involve any changes. It’s quite possible you might notice differences in your moods, thoughts, or behavior. But these aren’t changes to the core of who you are; rather, they’re improvements in the symptoms that have been holding you back.
To ensure that any psychiatric medications are a good fit for you, it’s vital to have open discussions with your psychiatrist. Together, you can develop a personalized treatment plan that best addresses your unique needs. This way, you are actively participating in your own mental health journey, one step at a time.
Myth 3: You Only Need Medications if You’re ‘Crazy’
A harmful stereotype that lingers around mental health is the idea that only ‘crazy’ people require psychiatric medications. The term ‘crazy’ is nothing more than a stigmatizing label, a relic of misunderstanding and fear that has long surrounded mental health and psychiatric treatment.
Mental health conditions deserve just as much attention and care as physical health conditions. They are not indicators of weakness or insanity, but are simply challenges that many people face. So, labeling someone as ‘crazy’ for seeking help only fuels the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental disorders.
Psychiatric medications are not reserved for an exclusive group of individuals. They are designed to aid a wide range of mental health conditions, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Taking the brave step to seek help and to consider using medications should be viewed as a testament to your strength and resilience. It’s not an indicator of ‘craziness’, but a courageous step towards improving your mental well-being.
Myth 4: Medications Are a Quick Fix and Therapy isn’t Necessary
If you’re contemplating psychiatric medications for the first time, it’s not unusual to believe that once you start taking these, everything will instantly get better. The idea of medication as a ‘quick fix’ is a prevalent misconception. However, the truth is, patience and persistence are key when it comes to psychiatric treatment.
It’s important to understand that psychiatric medications can take a considerable amount of time — from weeks to months — for their benefits to become evident. And sometimes, you might discover that a particular medication isn’t delivering the expected results. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. It simply means a different medication may be more effective, and your psychiatrist will guide you in this process.
The journey with psychiatric medication is often a trial and error process, but with perseverance, it can become an integral part of a successful treatment plan.
Alongside medication, therapy sessions are also a crucial component of comprehensive mental health treatment. Therapy can help you better understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and provide tools to cope with life’s challenges. Combining therapy and medication can lead to a synergistic effect, enhancing overall well-being. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychotherapy, for instance, can bolster your journey towards better mental health, facilitating sustainable, long-term improvements.
Myth 5: Once You Start Taking Psychiatric Medications, You Can Never Stop
Here’s another misconception that can cause undue anxiety: the belief that once you start taking psychiatric medications, you’re locked into a lifetime commitment. It’s understandable why this could worry you or your loved ones; long-term medication use can sometimes lead to other health concerns. However, this fear isn’t completely justified.
The reality is, treatment duration varies considerably from person to person. Some individuals might need to stay on medication longer to manage chronic conditions, while others might only need it for a shorter period. This variability is part of the personalized nature of psychiatric treatment.
When it comes to adjusting or discontinuing medication, this decision is never unilateral. It should always be made in collaboration with your psychiatrist, based on your progress, needs, and the balance of benefits and potential side effects. Remember, you’re an active participant in your mental health journey, and your input matters.
Conclusion: Shattering the Myths About Psychiatric Medications
Now that we’ve debunked some of the common myths about psychiatric medications, we hope you feel better equipped with reliable, factual information that allows you to make more informed decisions about your mental health. Understanding that these medications are not universally addictive, don’t change your inherent personality, aren’t merely for the ‘crazy’, and require a complementary therapeutic approach can foster a healthier perspective towards mental health treatment.
Information is power. By enhancing your understanding of this topic, we can collectively combat the stigma and misconceptions around psychiatric medications. This empowers you and others to take proactive steps for your mental health, opening doors for a healthier lifestyle and better mental well-being.
So let’s continue to break down these myths, because understanding and acceptance are the keys to mental health progress.
This blog post is brought to you by Apraku Psychiatry.
Apraku Psychiatry is a private practice offering video appointments with Board-certified psychiatrists licensed in multiple states. More blog articles can be found here. To schedule an appointment with one of our psychiatrists, patients can complete the online booking form.