There are so many myths and distortions surrounding psychiatric medication. Let’s tear them apart, shall we?
- Myth: Psychiatric medications will turn me into a zombie.
Some medications can make you feel fatigued, decrease your appetite, or even lower libido. This doesn’t make you a zombie, these are just regular side effects of a lot of medications. However, everyone is different, so if your medication makes you feel uncomfortable, worse, or are experiencing new challenges, talk to your doctor about it and see if you can find a better fit.
Fact: Medications have side effects and are not all suited to everyone.
- Myth: Psychiatric medications will alter my personality/change me as a person.
A lot of people fear that taking medication for mental illness will change their personality. In actuality, medication to treat mental illness can help your brain manage its chemicals like dopamine and serotonin to keep you stable and help you use that wonderful personality.
Fact: Psychiatric medicine will not change your personality, but it can help with mood related difficulties.
- Myth: Antidepressants are “uppers” and create artificial happiness.
Antidepressant medications and stimulants (uppers) are absolutely not the same.
Most antidepressants are SSRI’s or Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors.
They take effect on the brain in remarkably different ways. SSRI’s stop the brain from reabsorbing serotonin therefore making it more available or in a way, increasing levels of it.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters carry messages between cells in the brain. It generally carries chemical messages related to joy, well-being, appetite, and memory.
How is this class of drug different from uppers?
Stimulants act in a very different way in the human brain. Generally, they increase activity in the central nervous system, delivering an accelerated sense of invigoration or energy.
Stimulants are not generally used for treating depression or anxiety where as SSRI’s are. SSRI’s are effective in treating mood disorders by making serotonin more available to brain cells therefore increasing appetite and the ability to experience joy.
Fact: Psychiatric medications are not the same as drugs used to achieve a high and are crucial in the recovery of many people.
- Psychiatric medication is only effective in short term or as a “band-aid” solution.
Many mental health difficulties can be chronic and have far-reaching affects. People tend to think that psychiatric medicine is only supposed to be used in a pinch to make the bad feelings go away, but in reality, lots of people take psychiatric medication for most of their lives. Mental health medicines are like any other medication; if your illness is chronic, you take medication for a long time, maybe forever. If your illness is not chronic, you may have to take medication for a bit, but possibly not forever.
Fact: Lots of people take psychiatric medication long-term, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Psychiatric medications are addictive.
If you aren’t weaned off of it, some psychiatric drugs can have unpleasant withdrawal-like symptoms. Does that mean they’re addictive?
Why not? Lots of people rely on their medication.
Relying on your medication to help you manage your symptoms is a lot different than being both mentally and physically dependent on the substance. Take it from an addict (me).
Yes, psychiatric medication helps you get through your day.
No, I don’t wake up in the morning craving it.
No, I don’t risk my life to get it.
No, I don’t suffer severe physical effects if I stop taking it.
Some psychiatric drugs have the potential for abuse, but used responsibly and as prescribed, it’s very rare to become dependent on psychiatric medicines.
Fact: It is very rare to become dependent on most psychiatric medication, and there is always the potential for abuse of a substances.
- Psychiatric medications are a “synthetic” cure and harmful. Patients would do better to take a walk in the woods than take medication.
I always see that spliced photograph of the trees on the top and pills on the bottom generally with text that holds the sentiment of “trees are medicine, pills are garbage.”
And you know what?
That might be true for some people. Some individuals may find more stability in hanging out in nature, if that’s you then wonderful! That’s is truly lovely and I’m happy for you. Some of us do need a little assistance from meds and that’s wonderful too. For example, if yoga and physiotherapy helps your sore back, that’s great! If you need to pop a Robax and slather yourself in Voltaren to help your back, that’s also great! It’s important to recognize that everyone is different and we’re dealing with the most complex organ in the body.
Fact: Medications for mental health concerns are sometimes life saving and provide stability for some people.
- People who take psychiatric medications are “weak”.
Here’s a big one. In my experience, taking medication to aid in depression, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties is seen as taking an “easy road”. People who take psychiatric medication get painted as not confronting the real issues, or leaning on meds as a crutch. This is so false I can’t even express the falseness of it.
People who take medication for mental illness are people who are confronting their problems. In fact, they’ve confronted it so much that they are taking necessary steps to help themselves get better. We are so strong. We are strong enough to say “I need help” and we are strong enough to be ready for change.
Fact: Psychiatric medications do not cure mental illness; the strength within your heart to reach out for help and use that help is what makes the real difference.