The decision to take medication for your mental health can be very intimidating. Questions like, “will it make me feel weird?”, “how long will I have to be on meds?”, and “how will I know it’s working?” can transform a willing mind to a worried mind. By the time most people seek professional psychiatric help, they have likely considered these questions, both internally and with (potentially unsupportive) family and friends. As a Nationally Board Certified Physician Assistant specializing in psychiatry, I have treated countless patients with psychotropic medications. By and large, the first step to successful treatment starts with answering a patient's questions.
"Will this medication make me feel weird/different/not like myself?"
This is the main concern I face with patients considering psychiatric medications.
As with any medication (even over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen), taking psychiatric medications can lead to adverse side effects. Most medications used to treat psychiatric disorders are grouped into categories, with each category linked to a range of potential side effects, from fatigue or restlessness, to drowsiness or insomnia, or weight gain/loss.
Psychotropic medications target chemicals in your brain in an attempt to improve things like mood, anxiety level, sleep, cognitive functioning and focus, so it is not uncommon for some patients to initially feel a little “off” as they adjust to the medication. As a result, many psychiatric healthcare providers take precautions such as “starting low and slow” with the dosage and titration of medications to reduce the risk of side effects, and to allow your body time to adjust. Your provider will also want to schedule frequent follow-up visits until you have shown significant improvement. However, if a medication makes you feel zombified or emotionless (can’t cry, can’t get excited), zoned-out, or excessively sleepy, don’t be afraid to speak up and let your provider know. There are likely other medications that will help you feel better, but without the excessive side effects.
It is a trial and error process that requires patience. By the time most people are in psychiatric treatment, they have already been dealing with symptoms for months to years (mostly years), so waiting another 3-6 months to find the right medication “recipe” is a drop in the bucket. It's definitely worth it to start experiencing a better quality of life.
Written by: Sherlonda Adkins, PA-C, MPAS, MPA
FB & IG: @psychmyway
Master of Science in Physician Assistant
Studies/Master of Public Administration/
Bachelor of Science Communications/
Business Administration (minor)