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Medication – To Take or Not To Take

When getting help for your mental health needs you may end up considering whether adding medication will be helpful or necessary.

Let’s explore…

There are two significant benefits of medication. The first would be symptom relief and the second would be to make therapy more effective. Some challenging experiences such as insomnia, sad mood and anxiety partially caused by chemical imbalance in our brains. Medication is often an effective tool in repairing the chemical imbalance and as a result, leads to improvement with these challenging experiences. In addition medication helps with sleep, anxiety and concentration. As a result, you may become more able, present and receptive to the discussions and tools offered in your therapy sessions. Similar to your relationship with your therapist, it is crucial to find a psychiatrist that you feel safe around and trust, who spends an ample amount of time with you and in understanding your needs. The goal is for you to make an educated decision with the guidance of a professional.

One of the most challenging aspects of medication management is that most people may have to try multiple medications with varying dosages before they find the right one that works best with their brain chemistry. Unfortunately, due to this trial and error process, most people either become hopeless that medication will never work for them or become too overwhelmed by their ongoing mental health symptoms to keep trying.

There are common questions people have about medication. Such as “is medication right for me” and “when is the right time to take medication?” First of all, no, medication isn’t for everyone and not everyone has to be on medication to see an improvement in his or her mental health. However, it is also important to note that many research studies have found a combination of medication and evidence based treatments such as CBT to be effective in treating anxiety and mood disorders (Bipolar & Major depression).

Other questions that people often contemplate are “will I rely on it too much, like a crutch?” and “will I become addicted?” These are also great questions to ask and discuss with your psychiatrist and your therapist. Utilizing medication can become a barrier only if medication management is the only tool in your toolbox! Therefore, it is important to always incorporate medication management along with other effective coping skills to see the best results. Seeking medication can be a short or long-term treatment option that depends on multiple factors, such as severity of symptoms, other medical conditions and individual circumstances.It is also very common to have fear of taking medication. Some people view medication as a weakness. Therapy sessions can be utilized in addressing the underlying worries and stigma you may have around medication that has become a barrier to you reaching your goals.

In his book, Everyday Mindfulness for OCD, Jon Hershfield, MFT, and Shala Nicely, LPC, outline three tools to live joyfully with medication. The first is to incorporate mindfulness to manage the side effects. The essence of Mindfulness is to be present of one’s experiences and non-judgmental. So according to the authors this would look something like this: “my mouth is dry” instead of “I hate these meds and nothing ever works for me” and “I am frustrated that I am still having symptoms” instead of “my medication was waste of time and money.” Through mindfulness, you can observe your experience without attaching a meaning to it. The second tool is to practice common humanity statements, such as “many people are wary of the idea of taking medication” or “these sensations are common for people on this medication, and nobody enjoys this part of it.” These statements focus on how universal your experience is so that you remember you are not alone. The last tool to practice is self-kindness. The authors define self-kindness as “opening yourself up to the feeling out of control and not having all the answers each step along the way” (pg.180). A self-kindness statement would be “I am doing the best I can, and I’m going to invite myself to stay off of Google, and if I’m still feeling this way tomorrow, I’ll call my psychiatrist” (pg.181).

If you are currently taking medication or may be considering it, therapy can be the right place for you to seek support in your treatment options.

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