When to Try Medication for Mental Health Issues

When to Try Medication for Mental Health Issues

About 26% of Americans struggle with mental health issues each year. So while mental illness might continue to be stigmatized, it's both common and treatable. Research consistently shows that medication combined with therapy is the single most effective mental health treatment, as long as you get the right medication. Neglect therapy and focus on medication, though, and you won't get the most out of your mental health treatment.

Many people facing mental illness are reluctant to try medication, citing fears of side effects, dangerous long-term health effects, and prohibitive costs. In many cases, you can find a cheap generic drug, and by consulting with your doctor, you can ensure the drug you take has minimal side effects. If you're unsure whether it's time to try medication, consider these pointers.

1. Therapy isn't working

If you've gone to therapy longer than three months and haven't seen an improvement in your symptoms, it's time to evaluate whether therapy is working. Sometimes, the problem is that you have the wrong therapist or that you're not following up on the homework assignments your therapist gives you. If you're giving it your all and your therapist seems competent, though, a chemical imbalance could be the reason life's not getting any better.

2. Nothing else is causing your mental health symptoms

It's easy to understand why a divorce might cause depression or an attack by a stranger might make you anxious. If your symptoms are unrelated to anything going in your life, though, you may need medication to get better. Sometimes brain chemistry gets out of whack, and a brief stint on medication fixes it. In other cases, your symptoms signal a long-term chemical imbalance that will necessitate a lifetime of treatment. In either scenario, medication can safely help you get back on track.

3. Your mental health symptoms have gotten worse

Mental illness is often progressive in nature, but the right treatment can stop symptoms from getting worse. If you find you're feeling worse in spite of therapy or helpful lifestyle changes, medication might be the key to feeling healthier and happier.

4. Your health is in danger

Mental and physical health are inextricably linked. Over time, anxiety can erode cardiovascular health and depress immunity. Depression can tempt you to kill yourself while delusional disorders may lead you to make decisions that endanger your health. If your health has taken a turn for the worse, you're experiencing thoughts of suicide, or you struggle with chronic pain, you don't deserve to suffer any longer. Medication can offer rapid relief as you work through the root causes of your suffering in therapy. 

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