The decision to take medication for your mental health can be a very scary decision. Questions like, “will it make me feel weird?”, “how long will I have to be on medication?”, and “how will I know it’s working?” can transform a willing mind to a halted mind. By the time most people seek professional help to manage their psychiatric condition(s), they have likely already tossed these questions around in their heads or even with family and friends who may or may not be supportive of the idea of being on medication. As a Nationally Board Certified Physician Assistant specializing in psychiatry, I have treated countless patients with psychotropic medications and the first step to successful treatment starts with answering their questions:
Will this medication make me feel weird?
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 having a range of potential side effects, from fatigue to restlessness, drowsiness to insomnia, or weight gain to weight loss. Even th
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 feel a little “off” initially as they are getting used 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. They will also want to have 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 can be tried 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 having to wait another 3-6 months to find the right medication “recipe” is a drop in the bucket and is definitely worth the wait 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)