Mental disorders Medicine

August 27, 2020
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Taking medication is one of the most decisive things you can do to fight back against the effects of mental illness

Many mental illnesses are associated with changes in the natural chemistry of the brain. Certain medications help the brain to restore its usual chemical balance – reducing symptoms so that the person feels better. These include antidepressants (for Depression), antipsychotic medications (for psychotic illnesses such as Schizophrenia) and mood stabilizers (for Bipolar disorder).

It is usually helpful to combine medication with psychological ‘talking’ therapies, ongoing support in the community, and finding ways for you to help yourself.

How medication is taken

Medications are usually taken as tablets, sometimes by injection, in a syrup or wafer. The size of dose is not necessarily an indication of how severe symptoms are.

Some people have depot injections. This means that the medication releases slowly from a muscle over a period of time, usually between a week and a month. Some people prefer injections because they are not good at remembering to take tablets, or just because it makes life simpler.

What if there are side-effects?

We all react differently to medications, and body mass and rate of metabolism can affect the amounts needed to be helpful. Age, gender, whether we smoke, and other factors may also mean that we react differently to the same dosage. If you have any concerns about the unwanted side-effects of medication, make sure you discuss them with your doctor.

Doctors have a responsibility to prescribe the most effective medication at the lowest effective dose, so that any unwanted side-effects are kept to a minimum. They can only do this, though, if told as clearly as possible how well you feel the current medication is working. This is an important contribution that you and family and other carers can make to the effectiveness of the treatment.

How long does it take for medication to work?

It can be some weeks before the medication starts to take effect and reduce symptoms.

Once the best medication and dosage have been established, a maintenance dose will be determined from then onward, to help avoid a return of symptoms. This may be needed for some months or longer, depending on need.

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