Starting Psychiatric Medication

If you are considering medication treatment or have just begun to take a prescribed medication, the way you approach your treatment can have a big effect on how successful it is for you. Here are some important considerations to promote a successful medication treatment.

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Treating any medical condition with medication is a process that requires your active involvement and an ongoing commitment.

When taking psychiatric medications, it is best to think of treatment as a long-term investment rather than a cure or a quick fix. Medical treatment can alleviate the severity of your symptoms and can help you manage your condition, but medications are not a complete solution. In conjunction with medication management, some form of ongoing psychological treatment in addition to medication education and management is usually necessary to make sure that symptoms remain in check.

Don’t Stop Just When You’re Getting Ahead

You may be tempted to stop taking your medication once your symptoms get better and your treatment is successful. Do you know how you are always told to finish taking all of your antibiotics even after you start feeling OK again? Staying the course is especially important when taking psychiatric medications.

If you stop your treatment prematurely, or if you have an ongoing mental health problem such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, your symptoms will typically return once you stop taking your medication. Always consult your mental health provider or pharmacist before making any adjustments to your medication, even if you are feeling better.

Follow-Up Appointments

Once you have started taking medications, your treatment provider will plan follow up appointments with you at regular intervals to make sure that your treatment is working and that you are not experiencing any unexpected side effects.

It is especially important when you first begin treatment to keep your follow up appointments so that you and your care provider can monitor your response to treatment, track your progress, and make adjustments as necessary. As your symptoms come into control, the frequency of appointments for medication monitoring will typically decrease.

Staying on Track

The brain and nervous system recovers slowly during treatment. When starting medication, you may feel frustrated if you do not begin to feel better right away. It takes time and patience before you start experiencing the full benefits of treatment.

How Medications Work

Psychiatric medications work by influencing chemical processes in your brain. Depending on which medication you have been prescribed and the reasons you are taking them, the rate of recovery can be highly variable. Some medications have fast-acting effects and start improving symptoms almost immediately. However, most medications take weeks or even months before they achieve their full beneficial result. Your psychiatrist, nurse, or pharmacist can help you set realistic expectations about how long it might take for you to start experiencing benefits from your medication.

If you cannot tell if your medications have made a difference, it can be helpful to ask the people around you for their observations. Sometimes, your friends and family may notice improvements long before you do. Not all symptoms respond at the same time to medical treatment. It is quite common to notice improvements in your sleep well before you experience improvement in your mood.

Making Mid-course Adjustments

Prescribing and managing psychiatric medication is sometimes not as straightforward as you or your medication provider would like. It is often necessary to make adjustments to treatment over time. For various reasons, medications that were effective at the start of treatment sometimes become less effective over time. Your provider may recommend you try a different dose, try a new medication, or you include non-medical interventions in your treatment plan.

No two people respond to medication in exactly the same way. A medication can be very effective for one person and not at all as effective for another. It may take time for you and your provider to find the medication (or combination of medications) and dosage that works best for you.

If you experience a side effect from your medication, your care provider may suggest dosage or medication changes to reduce the likelihood of the side effect. Don’t adjust your medications on your own. Always evaluate the effectiveness of your medications, any side effects, and the dosages of your medications in consultation with your treatment provider.