Is medication right for me? – Steps you can take to find out.
Often when we talk about medication it seems rather obvious. You have an infection therefore you take antibiotics. You have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or even just a cold. It is easy to decide to take medication for these types of conditions. When it comes to our mental health maybe we should be asking “Is medication right for me?”
The decision to take medication related to your mental health is often not as easy. There is a large stigma that still surrounds mental health, therapy and related medications. This stigma can place a lot of shame on an individual and make it hard for them to ask for help. Or maybe they have asked for help in the form of therapy, however they don’t know if taking medication is right for them. They may think they aren’t strugglingenough to need medication. Or maybe outside forces are telling them they don’t need it.
Medication is a big step and it’s not for everyone but it can be very useful for people both in the short term or in the long term.
Why might you need medication?
Many disorders are life long. When you have Type 1 diabetes you don’t simply wake up one day and not have diabetes anymore. When you have Bipolar Disorder, DID, or Schizophrenia they also do not simply go away one day. Some days may be better than others, but medication is often used in addition to therapy to help.
Your body may not be making enough neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) and this can lead to mental health challenges such as depression. Your body might need help to combat the imbalance and medication can do this.
If you recently went through a trauma or are having a high level of stress in a particular season of life, medication may be needed in the short(er) term while you learn the coping mechanisms and tools to aid in your recovery. This doesn’t make you weak, this makes you human, with a mental health challenge that needs treatment.
Medications can be used in the short term, intermittently, or long term. Every person is different, every story is different. Every reason for needing medication is valid.
Be it a few months to get you through a time of crisis, or continual treatment for the rest of your life, and everything in between, your reason is valid, because it is yours.
How do I get on medication?
In order to prescribe medication you need to be a medical doctor.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors specializing in mental health and related disorders. They are capable of prescribing medication related to these mental health challenges.
Your General Practitioner, or Family Doctor, can also prescribe medication, however upon first diagnosis they will often refer you to a specialist for prescribed medication. This is not a hard and fast rule but it is a possibility.
Your therapist (Psychologist, Psychotherapist or Social Worker) CANNOT prescribe you medication. They are NOT a medical doctor, they may however have a PhD so just because you may call them doctor, does not a prescription make.
Your therapist, however, is a valuable resource and can help you pinpoint why you are feeling the way you are and help you put to words what is happening in your life. If you are contemplating medication they can help guide you to your family doctor for a prescription or a referral. If your doctor and you decide to move forward with medication your therapist will still be a valuable resource in helping you put to words how you are feeling while on medication and continuing to learn skills to cope with your mental health challenges.
The decision to go on medication is often not an easy one, there can be big emotions that go along with starting a medication regime, and your therapist can help you work through the rollercoaster of emotions that can go along with deciding to start a new medication.
How do I decide?
This can be a deeply personal decision. As with any medical decision you should gather all the facts to make an informed decision about your health. Have open and honest conversations with all of your healthcare providers. This will help you come to the right decision for whatever stage you are in.
Don’t be afraid to try again
It may take a few tries to get the dosage right, or you may need to try a few different medications before you get the right one. Unfortunately you can’t always know how a medication will affect you until you start taking it. This can be discouraging and scary at times and it can feel like you are getting worse before it gets better. This is why having open communication with your providers is so important.
Don’t be afraid to try again, and ask, “Is medication right for me?”
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