I get it, I get why taking psychiatric medication can be really hard for most people. When I ask my patients what their reason is for not taking medications, I hear a variety of answers, most of which are misconceptions.
The truth is that when most people finally consult with a psychiatrist they have tried many other avenues of help: – exercise, natural medications, therapy, and trials of psychiatric medication that haven’t helped. At this stage intervening with correctly prescribed psychiatric medications may be the correct intervention.
The most common misconceptions I hear
1) If I take the medication then, I’m not dealing with the real problem ( i.e. work or relationship stressors). Therefore, I won’t take the medication.
True and False.
False: It depends on what your aims of treatment are. If you are so depressed that you can’t even think of facing your stressors, then I feel that by stabilizing your mood or anxiety, you will be in a better place to deal with your problems. I use medication most commonly with therapy, and in fact generally discourage the use of medication without some form of therapy.
True: No medication will solve relationship/ financial/ work problems, and sometimes patients will abuse their medications ( e.g. benzodiazepines) to get away from their problems.
2) I want to be able to cope by myself, not have any help.
Yes, ideally most stressors should be dealt with using your personal strengths.
But what happens when you develop a mood disorder after a traumatic event or stressful time or have an overwhelming anxiety disorder? What happens if you are genetically predisposed to developing depression?
We know that mood and anxiety disorders have a biochemical basis (and there is vast amount of research are trying to figure out exactly what is going on in your brain).
How can you possibly cope by yourself against illness that has a biochemical basis? It’s similar to saying I will beat severe diabetes or hypertension by myself.
I think this logic partly comes, because most people want control over every aspect of their bodies and by accepting that you may have a mental illness which is not under your control can be very scary.
3) Don’t want medication to be a crutch
Medication will initially help you cope better and used correctly, psychiatric medications are not a crutch. I am very cautious when prescribing medications that could cause this problem. I think this links to my next point with regards addiction.
Ironically many patients who say this to me, have no concern about having a few beers at night ‘to de-stress’ or to smoke a joint at the end of the day to calm down.
6) They are addictive; I wouldn’t want to become addictive to them.
This is one of the most common replies I get, here is a recent blog post I wrote in response to that myth.
5) I will take them until I feel better, then stop.
Nope, that’s not how they work unfortunately. Research has shown that once you are feeling better, it is important to stay on them for a specified amount of time in order to prevent relapse. Some people will need to be on the medication for 1-5 years, others who have had repeated relapses for a much longer time.