When is Medication an Appropriate Option for Managing my Mental Health?
I don’t want to get addicted.
I don’t want to have to depend on something.
I want to remain all natural.
I wanted to speak on this topic today because of the enormous amount of fear I hear from my clients on a daily basis versus the actual reality of what I have observed in nearly 20 years of mental health practice.
I am often amazed how many people suffer through extreme symptoms without an openness to trying researched solutions. Many others choose to self-medicate with unresearched options or substances that lead to addiction or worsen symptoms in the long run, yet the idea of exploring prescribed medications under the provision of their doctors somehow appears more frightening.
In my experience, the fear is far too great for what is actually warranted when it comes to medication management for mental health symptoms.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong advocate for doing what we can outside of medication, I mean, THAT is my job…I am a therapist who focuses on the tools outside of medication that can help manage mental health. I am not an MD and do not prescribe meds myself. However, I have also come to recognize there are absolutely times medication is a necessary step that helps people tremendously.
How Will I Know When Talking to My Doctor is an Appropriate Step in Managing my Mental Health?
- Intolerability – People know when they hit their point of no return or a level of distress that becomes unbearable. If your wondering what that is, you haven’t hit it yet. Intolerability can also be recognized once your symptoms begin to affect your ability to function, causing secondary problems in your job, relationships or household.
- Inability to use your coping skills – Symptoms such as fatigue, lack of motivation or difficulty focusing can interfere or prevent you from being able to engage in the coping skills that used to help.
- Coping skills not having any effect on symptoms – Another sign is when you find yourself using coping skills (such as deep breathing or meditation, for example) but find no matter how much you engage these efforts, they don’t seem to bring you any relief.
- Decrease in function – Your symptoms contribute to missing work, decreased work performance, relationship conflict, or inability to keep up on responsibilities like chores, parenting, or grooming/hygiene.
There are risks associated with taking medications, however, being fearful, paranoid and paralyzed is not a necessity. In fact, simply talking to your doctor and discussing options, risks and benefits and asking questions requires no risk at all! At the very least, know your options and be clear about the facts before you rule out solutions due to your own fear. You might just be surprised at what medication is able to accomplish. Worst case scenario, you try and decide it is not a fit or option based on actual experience or side effects rather than worries that never come to pass.
Don’t be paralyzed by fear but instead, exercise caution. There are several other things you can do to manage your concerns:
- Advocate for a mental health specialist – Seek out a specialist such as a psychiatrist or mental health nurse practitioner rather than your general primary care physician. They trained with specificity, have seen thousands of patients and outcomes, and many times are able to help people find solutions more quickly and with less trial and error than your general doctors because of their understanding and experience.
- Be sure you are working with a therapist – When trying a new medication or making changes to an existing one, it is wise to engage the help of a therapist to help you monitor any mental or behavioral changes between your follow up appointments with your doctor or specialist. There have been times my clients and I have been able to circumvent trying the wrong type of medication or prevented symptoms from worsening when it was not the right fit. Without that connection, I find people may just wait things out too long or needlessly suffer while waiting for their next doctor visit, just because they don’t know any better and are trying to simply follow doctors orders or don’t want to bother their doctor in between visits.
- Ask for team collaboration – Be sure your therapist and doctor are able to have communication by signing a release of information for both parties. This ensures more accurate information for diagnosis and treatment options, setting yourself up for success and less trial and error.
- Include your safe family members and/or closest friends – Inform those you trust or are around often that you are beginning a medication or making a medication change. This can ensure quick feedback if something seems to be going haywire.
Ensuring the right professionals and creating a collaborative support team is crucial when managing mental health for multiple reasons. These are all things you can do to help mitigate risk and manage your worries while aiding yourself in finding solutions!
Be sure to follow Fulfillment Family Therapy on FB or Instagram for more tips, tools and videos!