Starting medication for depression and anxiety
by Crystal Thomas | December 2021
The decision to start psychotropic medication is deeply personal and complex. Many people have big feelings about medication, and struggle with insecurities that the use of medication to treat depression or anxiety is in some way a moral failing. These feelings can come from a variety of places–the values of our families-of-origin, poor media representation of mental illness, or personal experience with someone who used medication irresponsibly, to name a few. Medication is not for everyone. However, stigma against mental illness that is so pervasive in our world often crops up in our attitudes toward psychiatric treatment.
Because the use of psychotropic medication carries such social weight, the process of accessing medication when you need it can be somewhat mystifying. Here are some things to keep in mind while considering how medication may fit into your mental health journey:
- Medications for anxiety and depression may be harmful if used long-term. Studies show us that SSRIs and benzodiazepines, if used for many years, can negatively impact both physical health and mental health. Be aware that these medications are most effective when the individual is actively planning to discontinue them in the near future.
- It is important to be engaged in therapy to treat anxiety and depression while utilizing medication. Therapy can help you to build coping skills so that you can better manage your depression and anxiety when the time comes to discontinue your medication.
- Routine and regularity are crucial when it comes to medication. For some, regularity in daily life is hard to come by and takes a lot of work. It is important that medication is taken at the recommended dosage at the same time, every day. Healthy use of some medications requires that you eat and sleep regularly. Assume that medications will interact with alcohol and recreational drugs, and talk with your provider in detail about recreational use of substances.
- Once started, medication should only be stopped under the supervision of a prescribing provider. With most medications, you will need to down-titrate, or gradually decrease use in order to prevent adverse effects.
- Consider what type of prescribing provider is best for you. Psychotropic medications can be prescribed by a psychiatrist, general practitioner, or nurse practitioner. No matter the licensure of your provider, it is important that you trust them to talk sensitively with you about your physical and mental health and that they are reliably available and responsive.
- Remember that medication is a tool to be used when needed, rather than a signifier of your personal values, morals, or worth.
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