In my previous posts I’ve talked about realising you might have a mental health problem and what to do once you get a diagnosis. This week I’m covering medication for mental health – what, why, when and how.
Firstly, what you need to know is that there are numerous medication’s that are used to treat a variety of mental health disorders. Some can be used to treat more than one mental health disorder.
I don’t want this to just be a fact sheet though. I want to give you my honest experience of using medication too…
The first medication I was prescribed in February 2016 was Sertraline (you can find out more about this medication below). For the most part, I think Sertraline was helpful. I felt calmer, happier and less anxious overall. The main downside for me was that I couldn’t orgasm – no matter how hard I/we tried or how close I got, it literally would not come (excuse the pun)! I would try it again if I felt like I needed medication again but that really did suck.
After taking myself off of Sertraline cold-turkey – the wrong way! – I ended up with depression on top of my anxiety. I’m talking about considering leaving home and never coming back because everyone would be better off without me kind of depression. The type of depression that nearly ended my relationship.
This led to me being prescribed Paroxetine in September 2016 and I will tell you now – I would never try it again. Often referred to as Paxil, I know from conversations that a lot of people stay on Paroxetine because the withdrawal is so hard. Side effects for me with this medication were grinding my teeth, migraines and “mind zaps”. I can’t explain mind zaps more than saying every time you move your head or eyes, there’s a weird zapping sensation in your mind. After 3 months on Paroxetine, I asked to be weaned off. The weaning process I was given was over 2 weeks and I swear to you, that withdrawal is not a joke. I had the worlds worst migraine that lasted days; never ending mind zaps; mood swings… it was horrendous. And obviously, it was right before Christmas.
2017 was a hard year. I can honestly say it took me at least half a year to begin to feel even remotely better. I struggled daily, going from wanting to sleep all day to crying all day because it was just so hard BUT in January 2018 I went back to work. I had survived. I’m still living with anxiety and occasionally when it gets hard I consider medication again but so far, I haven’t gone back onto anything.
This leads me onto the facts…
After a mental health diagnosis, your GP might talk to you about medication and suggest you consider trying medication to begin to manage the symptoms of your mental health illness. This may or may not be something you want to do but it’s worth having as much information as possible before you decide.
Some diagnosis’ can be managed better with medication and others can be managed with alternatives.
The most common types of medication are anti-depressants (used to treat depression and other mood disorders), anti-psychotics (normally used to treat symptoms of psychosis & bipolar), benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety) & mood stabilisers (help if you have mania, depression or unhelpful mood swings).
What medications are commonly used?
Some of the medications you might here about include:
- SSRIs (Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors): SSRIs are likely to have fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. All treat low mood and depression. Some may also treat other conditions, including anxiety, bulimia, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- SNRIs (Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors): SNRIs are similar to SSRIs. They treat depression and chronic pain.
- Tricyclic antidepressants: Tricyclic antidepressants can treat depression, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and migraine. These are older medicines, and generally have more side effects than other antidepressants.
- Typical/First generation anti-psychotics: The first generation of anti-psychotics have been prescribed since the 1950s. There are 13 different typical anti-psychotic medications.
- Atypical/Second generation anti-psychotics: The second generation of anti-psychotics have been used more since the 1990s. There are 7 different atypical anti-psychotic medications.
- Lithium: Lithium is used for the long-term treatment of mania. It can reduce how often you get an episode and how severe they are and it will normally be used if your symptoms are not severe.
- Valproate: Recommended as a first choice to treat episodes of mania and also for long-term treatment in Bipolar Disorder.
- Lamotrigine: Can treat bipolar disorder when depression is the main problem. It is not recommended to treat episodes of mania, or as a first option for long-term treatment of bipolar disorder
- Clozapine: This is an anti-psychotic but is slightly different to the typical and atypical anti-psychotics. It is normally given to people who haven’t responded to other anti-psychotics. It should only be used if 2 or more other anti-psychotics have been tried without success.
- Hypnotics: used for treating sleep problems such as insomnia
- Anxiolytics: used for treating anxiety
How long do they take to work?
This is dependent on the medication. Some medicines can work straight away whilst other’s can take a few weeks to get into your system properly. You should never stop taking your medication without speaking to your GP – your GP can help you to decide if the dose or medication should be changed and how to go about doing this.
Are there any side effects?
All medication has possible side effects from painkillers like paracetamol to anti-psychotics like Promazine.
Some side effects include but are not limited to:
- Feeling tired or sleepy
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking medication
- Upset stomach
Why is medication important in mental health?
Medication can reduce symptoms and prevent relapses of a mental health disorder.
For some people, medication is a short-term solution used to get them over an immediate crisis.
For other people, medication is an ongoing, long-term treatment option that enables them to live with severe mental health problems in a more manageable way.
Many people don’t want to be on medication for years, but it can help some people to lead the kind of lives they want to lead, without relapses or re-admissions to hospital.
Does medication work?
This is widely debated with some saying there isn’t much difference from a placebo for less severe mental health disorders whilst others argue the proof is in the science. Medication will be different for everybody and there is no “one size fits all” so it’s a lot to do with trial and error when finding the right medication for you – if there is one.
Do I have to have medication?
Medication is not the only option when handling some mental health disorders. Talking therapies, self-help and alternative therapies can be useful too. Your doctor will decide which medication they think is best based on the symptoms you present but you do not have to accept it.
Some conditions can be better managed with medication, especially if you are at the point of crisis.
If you are detained under the Mental Health Act, your doctor can give you medication without you agreeing to it.
Sorry for the long post and the long wait for the post but this took a lot of time to get all the information as well as life just getting in the way – I’ll try to do better!
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