Commonly Prescribed Mental Illness Medications

There is a long list of mental illness medications that help many people from suffering. But in order to treat a mental disorder properly, you need to speak with someone who can give a proper diagnosis first. 

 it’s difficult to find out which mental disorder is causing your symptoms. You might feel that something is just not right, but you can’t quite name it. Talking to a mental health professional is your first step to understanding your symptoms and what they mean.

Your treatment will depend on the type of mental illness you have, it’s severity, and what works best for you. If your mental illness is mild with well-controlled symptoms, treatment from your primary care provider may suffice. 

But, a team approach is suitable to make sure all of your psychiatric, medical, and social needs are being met. This is particularly important for severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.

Treatment Team

Your treatment team might include:

  • Primary care doctor
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physician assistant
  • Psychiatrist (a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats mental illnesses)
  • Psychotherapist (psychologist or licensed counselor)
  • Pharmacist
  • Social worker
  • Family members

Medications for Mental Disorders

There is a list of medications that play a part in treating several mental disorders. Although drugs can’t cure mental illnesses, they can work to control many of the most disturbing symptoms. This often permits people to return to normal functioning. Reducing symptoms through medications also enhances the effectiveness of other treatments, such as psychotherapy.

Antidepressants

What are antidepressants? Antidepressants are medications commonly used to treat depression. They are also used for other conditions such as anxiety, pain, and insomnia. Although antidepressants are not FDA-approved specifically to treat ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), they are sometimes used to treat ADHD in adults.

The most common types of antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some SSRIs are:

  • Fluoxetine
  • Citalopram
  • Sertraline
  • Paroxetine
  • Escitalopram
  • Another type of antidepressant is Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Venlafaxine and Duloxetine.
  • Bupropion is another antidepressant that is also used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and to help people stop smoking.
  • SSRIs and SNRIs are popular because they don’t cause as many side effects as the older classes of antidepressants and appear to help a wider group of depressive and anxiety disorders.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

What are anti-anxiety medications? These medicines reduce the symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks or extreme fear and worry. The most common anti-anxiety medications are benzodiazepines. They are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

  • SSRIs or other antidepressants are typically used to treat panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.
  • Benzodiazepines used to treat anxiety disorders include:
  • Clonazepam
  • Alprazolam
  • Lorazepam
  • Buspirone is sometimes used to treat chronic anxiety.

Stimulants

You might have guessed, stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy. Stimulants also raise blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. They are frequently prescribed to treat children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD.

Stimulants used to treat ADHD include:

  • Methylphenidate
  • Amphetamine
  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate
  • Prescription stimulants have a calming and focusing effect on people with ADHD and are safe when taken with a doctor’s supervision.

Antipsychotics

What are antipsychotics? These medications are mainly used to manage psychosis, a condition that affects the mind, and in which there has been some loss of contact with reality. Psychosis often includes delusions and hallucinations.

Psychosis can be a symptom of: 

  • Drug abuse
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Psychotic depression
  • Antipsychotic medications are commonly used with other medications to treat:
  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • ADHD
  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Antipsychotic medicines do not cure these disorders. They help relieve the symptoms and improve the quality of life. Antipsychotic medications include:
  • Haloperidol
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Aripiprazole
  • Risperidone

Mood Stabilizers

What are mood stabilizers? Mood stabilizers are used mainly to treat bipolar disorder, mood swings associated with other mental disorders, and occasionally to strengthen the effect of medications used to treat depression.

Mood stabilizers work by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain and are sometimes also used to treat:

  • Depression (in combination with an antidepressant)
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Impulse Control Disorders
  • Some mental illnesses in children

Lithium is a mood stabilizer used for the treatment of mania and maintenance treatment of a bipolar disorder.

Anticonvulsant medications are used as mood stabilizers at times. Originally developed to treat seizures, they were found to help control unstable moods as well.

Before You Start Any Medication

Medications for a mental illness can help save your life. But, like any medication, there can be side effects and unexpected reactions. If your doctor prescribes a medication, be sure to:

  • Tell the doctor about any other medications and vitamin supplements you are taking.
  • Remind the doctor about any allergies and any problems you’ve had with medications.
  • Understand how to take the medicine correctly before you start using it and do as instructed.
  • Never take medications prescribed for another person or give yours to anyone else.
  • Call your doctor immediately if you have any problems with your medicine or if you think it is doing you more harm than good. Your doctor may change the dose or switch you to another medication.

Report serious side effects to the FDA MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online at www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch or call 800-332-1088. Either you or your doctor may send a report.

Special Needs Groups

Many different types of people take psychiatric medications, but these groups have special needs:

  • Children and adolescents: It is important to watch children and adolescents who take psychiatric medications on an “off-label” basis. This means the doctor prescribed a medication that is not specifically for the illness being addressed. Children may have different reactions and side effects than adults. There are current FDA warnings about potentially dangerous side effects for young patients.
  • Older adults: People over 65 need to be careful when taking medications. This is especially true if they are taking many different drugs. Older adults have a higher risk of bad drug interactions, missing doses, and overdosing. They also tend to be more sensitive to medications. Lower or less frequent doses may be needed.
  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant: The use of psychiatric medications during pregnancy is limited. The risks vary depending on what point the woman is in the pregnancy. Medications should be chosen based on available research and should be taken at the lowest possible dose.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is obviously not a medication, but when used along with medication, it increases the effectiveness. Also called “talk therapy,” psychotherapy involves talking about your conditions and other issues with a mental health professional. During therapy, you will learn about your condition, moods, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

There are many types of psychotherapy. Depending on your condition, you may want to take part in a combination of therapies. Psychotherapy can usually be completed successfully in a few months, but in some cases, long-term treatment may be necessary.

Brain-Stimulation Treatments

Brain-stimulation treatments are used sometimes for depression and other disorders. They are typically reserved for situations where medications and psychotherapy haven’t worked. 

They include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Vagus nerve stimulation

Make sure you understand all the risks and benefits of any treatment recommendations.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Substance use disorders commonly occur with mental illness. It often interferes with treatment and makes the mental illness worse. If you have a substance use disorder and a mental disorder, it is called a dual diagnosis, and both conditions need to be treated simultaneously. If you can’t stop using drugs or alcohol on your own, you will need a treatment program.

Residential Treatment Programs

When mental illness becomes so serious that the individual can’t care for themselves properly, a psychiatric hospital is recommended. Especially if the person is in danger of self-harm or hurting someone else. Options in this case are:

Individuals with a SUD, are recommended to attend one of these treatment programs to help increase their long-term chances at sobriety. Detoxification from drugs or alcohol is just the beginning of the process of recovery.

Things You Can Do For Yourself

If you try to treat your mental illness on your own, you are laying the foundation for a substance abuse disorder. 

But here are some things you can do for yourself that will strengthen your treatment plan:

  • Stick to your treatment plan. Do not skip therapy sessions. Even if you are feeling better, don’t skip your medications. Symptoms could come back, and you might have withdrawal-like symptoms on top of that if you stop medication too suddenly. If you have troubling side effects, talk to your doctor before making changes yourself.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug use. The use of alcohol and recreational drugs makes it difficult to treat mental illness. If you are addicted, as previously mentioned, you will need treatment for your SUD.
  • Stay active. Exercise can help manage symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety. Physical activity can help counterbalance the effects of some psychiatric medicines that cause weight gain. Even light physical activity can make a difference.
  • Make healthy choices. Keep a regular schedule that includes enough sleep, healthy eating, and regular physical activity. These are all important to mental health.
  • Don’t make important decisions if your symptoms are severe. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, avoid decision-making. You are probably not thinking clearly.
  • Establish priorities. You can reduce the effect of your mental illness by carefully managing your time and energy. Set reasonable goals and cut back on obligations when necessary. Allow yourself to do less when symptoms are more severe. It might be helpful to make a list of daily tasks or use a planner to stay organized.
  • Adopt a positive attitude. Focus on the positive. This can make your life better and may even improve your health. Accept changes as they occur and keep problems in perspective. Use stress management techniques and relaxation methods.

Learn to cope with your mental illness by:

  • Learn about your illness. Your doctor or therapist can give you information and recommend books or websites. Include your family to help them understand what you’re going through.
  • Join a support group. Interacting with others facing similar challenges can help you cope. Support groups are available in many towns and online. A good place to start is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • Stay connected to friends and family. Get together with family or friends regularly. Try to take part in social activities. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be honest with loved ones about how you’re doing.

Keep a journal. Write down brief thoughts or record symptoms on an app or an old-fashioned journal. Keeping track of your life and discussing it with your therapist can help you identify what triggers of improves your symptoms.

Getting Ready to Live Again

There is so much you can do to get yourself well. There are treatments, therapy, medications, and programs. And there are caring people. At Renewal Behavioral Health, we have experienced professionals whose only job is to make sure you are taken care of and on the road to a more fulfilling life.

Before you contact us, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you or people close to you have noticed and for how long.
  • Important personal information, including traumatic events in your past.
  • Medical information, including any other physical or mental health issues.
  • Any medications, vitamins, herbal products and supplements, and the dosages.
  • Any questions you may have.

Don’t wait any longer. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones. Contact Renewal Behavioral Health here.

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