What to Expect When Starting Medication Management for Mental Health

When Should I Consider Medication?

How do I know when it’s time to start taking psychiatric medication? Is my condition severe enough to need medication? Are the side effects of medications worth it?

These are valid questions one may ask when considering seeking psychiatric help or asking their existing provider about medication. 

It’s a good time to consider medication if your mental health disorder symptoms impair your functioning. Function impairment could be not keeping up with personal hygiene, incapability of completing daily tasks, or there are significant disruptions in your work, and/or relationships. If your symptoms are increasing over time and typical interventions aren’t helping, it may be time to start taking medication, especially if therapy once a week is not alleviating your distress. 

Getting Started with Medications

To begin medication management, you must first complete an assessment with a prescriber to see what would be recommended for your specific set of needs. There may be treatments for your condition that you haven’t heard of. These treatments may or may not be medication based (such as TMS, which is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). Before your assessment, try to keep an open mind. 

Before starting treatment, it’s important to identify what your goal is. Your goal should be as specific as possible. “I want to feel like I used to,” is not specific enough. What qualities about how you felt before made you content? A more concrete goal is, “I want to decrease my stress level, increase peaceful feelings, and return to typical daily functioning.” 

Well, How Does Medication Management Work?

If you and your provider decide medication is the best option, they will begin the treatment by starting you on a low dose of medication and work up to larger doses based on your mental, and physical response. If you have a bad reaction to a medication, your provider will switch you over to a different one. This process can take time and you probably won’t experience relief immediately. This can be so frustrating when you’re eager, or even desperate for change. 

Medications can help get your foot in the door to be able to engage in therapeutic intervention. Medication and therapy can help create change in behaviors or thought patterns that may have developed as a result of mental health struggles or emotional dysregulation. We have to unlearn the unhealthy ways we have coped with our dysregulation in the past. Taking medication doesn’t have to be forever. Discuss with your provider when it would be appropriate to consider tapering off of medications. 

Many people have apprehensions about taking medications due to stigma or fear of side effects. While it can be scary to try at first, medicine for your condition could help you change your life.

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