Mental Health Medication

If you have been diagnosed with a mental health issue, then one of the prevailing treatments will include some type of medication.

Combined with other treatments, medication can help to improve symptoms or get rid of them all together.

However, you are probably aware that medications can cause side effects, so you need to know about the potential risks before you begin taking the medicine. You should also be aware that what works for one person does not always work for another.

Several types of medication and different dosage amounts may have to be tried before you find the right medication for you.

Your doctor, or another health care professional, will prescribe the medication for your condition, but it is up to you to monitor how your body reacts to it.

Be sure to raise any concerns you may have and ask questions if you do not understand everything.

It is vital you know about the substance you are putting into your body and to make changes as quickly as possible when needed. The following information can help you decide when that might be and what types of medications are commonly prescribed to those dealing with a mental health concern.

What is mental health medication?

There are two main ways of treating most mental health conditions: psychotherapy and medication. Sometimes, therapy alone can be the best treatment, but other times a combination of therapy and medication is the best course of action.

When your doctor gives you a course of treatment, he or she will choose the right treatment plan for you, based on your specific needs.

There are several categories of mental health conditions you could receive treatment for. The following are some of the most common ones:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Eating disorders

Several health care professionals can prescribe you medication for mental health conditions. These include physicians, psychiatrists, physicians’ assistants and mental health nurse practitioners.

When you are prescribed medicine for your mental health disorder, there are several things to remember before you begin taking the medication. These include:

  • Understanding exactly how you need to take your medication and how often.
  • Informing your doctor about which medications and vitamin supplements you are taking already.
  • Reminding your doctor about allergies you have or other problems you have experienced with taking prescribed medication in the past.

The four main types of medication for mental health that can be administered are anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizers.

If you prefer to take a generic equivalent but do not know the name of the medication, then the government provides the Orange Book, which is a digital compilation of all legal medications and their generic equivalents. To use the tool go to

Anti-Anxiety Medications

If you have anxiety symptoms such as extreme worry or panic attacks, then anti-anxiety medication could help. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Benzodiazepines are the most common anti-anxiety medications. Although, for social anxiety disorder and panic disorder, benzodiazepines are usually only used after other medicines like antidepressants.

Common benzodiazepine medications include Alprazolam, Clonazepam and Lorazepam. Beta-blockers are also commonly used to treat short-term anxiety issues by helping to reduce symptoms like rapid heartbeat, phobias, trembling and sweating.

All medications come with potential side effects, so it is important you are aware of these before you begin taking the medication. For benzodiazepines, the most common side effects are dizziness and drowsiness.

Other side effects can include headaches, blurred vision, nausea, nightmares and confusion. For beta-blockers, common side effects include dizziness, fatigue, weakness and cold hands.

If you experience specific new symptoms after beginning a course of medication, then you should inform your doctor. If any of the following symptoms are serious and last for a long time, then you should make an appointment with your doctor straight away:

  • Swollen face, eyes, tongue, lips or throat
  • Rashes
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty in breathing


As you might expect, antidepressants are usually used to treat depression, but they can also be used for anxiety, insomnia and pain. Antidepressants can improve depression symptoms and even stop symptoms returning.

However, people respond differently to medications, so whether the medications work well depends on the individual taking them. Likewise, substance abuse can influence the effectiveness of the prescription medication.

The most common antidepressant medications are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medications include Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Escitalopram and Sertraline.

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are also commonly used. These medications include Duloxetine and Venlafaxine. These types of antidepressants are popular because people do not experience as many side effects as with other antidepressants.

When antidepressants work, some people may decide to come off of them by themselves. However, it is not wise to do so before you have talked to your existing mental health professional or consulted a new doctor.

It is much better to gradually decrease the dosage and come off the medication slowly than to suddenly stop taking the antidepressant. You need to give your body time to adjust.

Although side effects for more recent antidepressants are much less than older medicines, there are still risks of potential side effects. These include the gaining weight, sleepiness, sexual problems, nausea and diarrhea.

There are also other side effects that could be more dangerous. If you experience any of the following symptoms, then be sure to see your doctor as soon as you can.

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Worsening depression
  • Worsening anxiety
  • Worsening irritability
  • Acting aggressively


Antipsychotics are used for psychotic disorders. These are disorders that severely affect a person’s personality. People suffering from these disorders will be seriously confused and they will have lost touch with reality.

Types of psychotic disorders include schizophrenia, delusional disorder, schizoaffective disorder and paraphrenia.

Antipsychotic medications are also used in conjunction with other medicines for the treatment of dementia, delirium, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and others.

Antipsychotic medicine helps to relieve symptoms of those conditions but they do not cure. However, antipsychotics often help people with psychotic disorders improve the quality of their lives.

Older antipsychotics are also known as typical antipsychotics, which include medications such as Haloperidol, Fluphenazine, Chlorpromazine and Perphenazine.

Newer antipsychotic medicines are also known as atypical antipsychotics. These include medications like Olanzapine, Risperidone, Ziprasidone and Lurasidone.

Symptoms such as hallucinations typically disappear after a few days of using the medications, whereas symptoms like delusions can take a few weeks to go away. Full effects of antipsychotic medicines may not be noticeable until six weeks have passed, but every person responds differently.

You will also often have to try out different antipsychotic medication and different dosages to find the right treatment for you. Similarly, some patients may be hospitalized until they respond to medication.

As with other mental health medications, there is the risk of experiencing side effects. Common side effects from antipsychotic medications include the following:

  • Dizziness.
  • Having a dry mouth.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Nausea.
  • Constipation.
  • Gaining weight.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Seizures.

Mood Stabilizers

This medication is primarily used to treat mood swings associated with several mood disorders and conditions, such as bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and depression, as well as particular mental health conditions in children.

Mood stabilizers work by reducing abnormal brain activity. Mood stabilizers include Lithium, Lamotrigine, Carbamazepine and Oxcarbazepine. The potential side effects of mood stabilizers include the following:

  • Rashes.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Nausea.
  • Blackouts.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Tremors.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Seizures.

If you are using Lithium as a treatment for bipolar disorder, then it is particularly important you have regular check-ups with your doctor. This is because Lithium can cause problems with your thyroid and kidneys.

Whether you take Lithium or other mood stabilizers, be sure to consult your doctor if you experience any serious side effects.

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