The majority of clients who come into my office do not want to take psychiatric medication. I always leave the decision up to them, but as part of my assessment, I always explore with my clients where the resistance is.
Typically, the clients have picked up erroneous information, or had irresponsible doctors prescribing their meds before, resulting in a negative experience. I try to dispel some of the myths that come along with psychiatric medication, as many of them are either outright wrong or not true in all cases.
It is absolutely true that medication is not always necessary or appropriate to treat mental illness, and obtaining prescriptions from a doctor who is not adequately educated and/or does not actively listen and respond to your partner’s needs is dangerous. But if your partner won’t even consider medication at all, is it because of one of the following thoughts?
All of the following myths have elements of truth to them, which is why they have survived as myths. But they have solutions, too.
- If I go an an antidepressant, my risk of suicide increases. The truth behind this myth is that when people first begin antidepressants, their mood may lift just enough so that they have the energy to act on the suicidal thoughts they had been having all along. The other side effect that often occurs early in treatment is increased agitation, which can increase anxiety, thus leading to rash decisions. If your partner is just starting an antidepressant, it is important that you monitor their mood. Statistically speaking, the risk of your partner committing suicide solely because of taking antidepressant medication is low.
- Psychiatric medications will make me fat. Some people do notice weight gain while taking certain medications. If this happens, your partner’s doctor can make a prescription change. But something else to take into consideration is your partner’s dietary choices and exercise regimen, both of which may not be as good as they were when your partner was well. This New York Times article goes more in depth: Women, Weight Gain, and Antidepressants
- Once I get on meds, I’ll have to take them forever. Some people with particular mental illnesses–such as schizophrenia–will in fact need meds forever. Many, however, will not. There is increasing amounts of evidence that show medication combined with psychotherapy is an excellent treatment option, and helps people to reduce the amount and duration of medication needed.
- Psychiatric medications are addictive. Again, there is some truth to this. Benzodiazepines (used for reducing anxiety) in particular can be addictive, but that’s where a knowledgeable doctor comes in, because s/he will monitor how much medication your partner is taking and how long s/he will prescribe refills.
- My personality will change if I take psychiatric medication. If your partner’s personality changes while on the medication, it’s likely because your partner is feeling better, not because the medication is “making” anything happen. However, if your partner’s mood significantly worsens or they become violent, homicidal, or suicidal, that is an emergency, and your partner needs medical attention immediately.
- My sex life will be ruined while I am on meds. Another common complaint among those who take psychiatric medications, but also another very easy fix: the doctor can try a different medication, as some are known to have less of an effect on libido, or the doctor can reduce the dosage of the current one.
What other common excuses have you heard for not taking psychiatric medication?