Medication and its Role in Mental Health

In treating patients the past six years patients always vary on their opinion of medications as being part of their treatment plan. Psychiatry is medicine and the diagnoses that are given by mental health professionals oftentimes require pharmacological treatment. Some patients believe that since they are not diagnosed with a more typical physical disease or illness such as influenza or arthritis they do not need medication and can do without it. Some patients take their medication and start feeling better and then stop taking because they believe their better on their own when it is truly the medication that is making a significant difference in their reduced symptoms. These patients will often have symptoms come back like a roaring lion.  
Medications typically used in psychiatric diagnoses include anti-depressants, SSRI's, benzodiazepenes, mood stabilizers, and anti-psychotics. Some medications are meant for a short duration while others such as mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics are required for most of a patient's life.
Schizophrenia and Bipolar are two diagnoses in which medication is required for treatment as these diagnoses are highly biological in nature and are due to chemical imbalances of the brain.  Patients can function very well when they are compliant with their medication regiment, but usually need a good support system to ensure they do.  Patients usually have false beliefs they can make it without medication and while they can survive they cannot function in day-to-day activities when they have psychotic symptoms or manic symptoms.  Mental health professionals are usually required to take classes such as psychopharmacology during their graduate programs to help them when working with a patient's primary care physician or psychiatrist.  Some patients diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders only need prescribed medications for a short time but they must include therapy for the best proven results.  Patients suffering from anxiety it has been proven that medication and therapy have the same effect on a patient's reduced symptoms, but the combination of both has been proven to bring about reduced symptoms and stabilization than either alone.  The decision to take medication ultimately comes down to the patient and their medical provider, but patients seem to understand that if they were diagnosed with cancer medication seems "normal" vs a diagnosis in the mental health field.  
The side effects of some medications can sometimes worsen the symptoms of the disorder and scares the patient from trying a different one.  There are new medication arising with the objective of having the least side effects for patients with psychiatric disorders.  A good practice for patients is to become experts of their diagnosis, read everything there is on the diagnosis and own it and do not become the diagnosis, which is very common.  Group counseling with other patients who suffer from the same or similar diagnoses normalizes the experience for patients and they learn from one another the benefits and drawbacks of pharmacological treatment.  
A mental health professional is also an expert in various medications and the benefits they have seen in patients, but ultimately it should be a team decision including the patient, therapist, family doctor or psychiatrist, family and/or friends.  Patients think marijuana and alcohol help them when the opposite is very true.  Alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can worsen a patient's condition and patients rationalize their using of these substitutes due to the stigma associated with psychiatric medications.  Education is key in understanding the benefits and risks associated with taking medications for psychiatric diagnoses especially when a patient might have other physical diagnoses such as migraines, fibromyalgia, cancer, etc. 

Patients have always wanted the "magic pill" and want instant symptom relief but they fail to see medication as being part of their treatment or sometimes required to function. There are several presenting problems which do not require medication. Patients with moderate depressive or anxiety symptoms can get significantly better with therapy alone. Prescribed medication is like anything in this world, it can be overly used or under used. Talking to your therapist about their opinion of medications is a good start but the ultimate decision lies with the patient unless they are in psychosis and a medical provider can force them to take medications if in a hospital setting for the patient's safety and the safety of others.

There are resources both online and offline to help patients familiarize themselves with the various medications available today. The cost of medications has been improved by the $4.00 list at their local Walmart and other pharmacies for patients whom do not have insurance. This article provides a brief overview of the use of pharmacological treatment as part of the treatment of mental disorders. Patients are always encouraged to be the one to own their diagnoses, learn what medications are available, and in the end ask every question you want. It is your health and your right to know every avenue to better health that is out there.