Should you choose medication to help you with anxiety or depression?

Choosing to take medication for psychiatric health can be a difficult decision to make for many individuals. When they are effective, psychiatric medications provide immense benefits to those suffering from anxiety and depression. However, this subject comes with some taboos and uncertainties attached so It is understandable that you may feel hesitant or have questions before getting started.

How do medications for anxiety and depression work?

Psychiatric medications work by affecting the chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain that influence mood, perception, thought processes, and behaviour. Some neurotransmitters you may have heard of are: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. There are many different types of medications for anxiety and depression, consulting with your healthcare provider can help you get a better picture of which medication could be right for you.

How do I know if I need medication?

Not everyone with anxiety or depression requires medication, this decision is both yours and your health care provider’s. Similar to a physical illness, your provider may take assessments to narrow down and better understand the intensity of your anxiety or depression. They can make a recommendation based on their findings, and with your consent may prescribe you with a medication.

Will medication actually help my mental health?

The effectiveness of psychiatric medications depends on the specific needs of the patient and the type of medication being prescribed. Not all patients respond to medications in the same way, some psychiatric medications take a few weeks to take full effect, and some cause side effects that can be distressing.This makes it difficult to find the right type or dose, so your healthcare provider may trial you on different medications until you find one that has a therapeutic effect.

What if I become addicted or have to take medication forever?

There are some medications that can be addictive and doctors typically monitor the client and prescribe them on an as-needed basis. However, there are a number of psychiatric medications that are not addictive and can be used for prolonged periods of time. Your healthcare provider can determine what length of time would best fit your specific needs.

Is it okay if I don’t take medication for mental health?

The voluntary decision against taking medication is yours; however, it is important to consider your healthcare provider’s professional opinion. Studies show that the efficacy of pairing medication with therapy outweighs the efficacy of just using medication or therapy alone. Your healthcare provider can explore alternative options with you if applicable. These alternatives can include professional therapy, making healthy lifestyle changes, utilizing healthy supports, and referral to other types of treatment.

While psychiatric medications are not a cure, they can significantly improve the quality of life for many individuals suffering from anxiety or depression by alleviating symptoms and enabling better functioning. The decision to use medication should be based on a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional, considering the potential benefits and risks and non-pharmacological alternatives.

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Learn more about therapy for anxiety & depression here.