This is a question often asked, but not easily answered. Today we have so many effective medications to choose from it gets very easy to assume that if you have an ailment, a pain, a sickness or any mental health distress then you probably need medication, right? Well, maybe . . .
Advances in modern medicine are spectacular! We have come so far, and it is important to continue this trend. But with these advancements we have also seen an enormous increase in the number of medications prescribed. According to the CDC in 1988 39% of Americans were taking at least 1 prescription drug, in 2014 it was 46 %.
So what’s the problem with that? Read the list of side affects for a medication and you will immediately find your answer. EVERY medication has potential for side affects, and many medications can increase the very symptoms that you are trying to eliminate. Taking medications CAN also lead to additional concerns, which then may lead to additional medications. In addition, we may become dependent on the medication to fix a problem that requires other changes to happen.
So I shouldn’t take medicine?
Some times medication is absolutely the answer, and other times it’s not the answer at all. MOST often you and your doctor will want to talk about a multi-faceted approach. When it comes to psychotropic medications it is very important to include a host of other tools that can assist in tackling your concerns.
So when I have a client asking about medication, I am all for them consulting a Psychiatrist or APRN. In addition though, we must also be discussing all the other ways they might bring down their distress. Of course, therapy is one of the tools we will discuss, but not just because therapy is good for the soul. Therapy is also a place where your therapist can teach you some great skills in coping with your depression, anxiety, fears, worries, compulsions etc..
Sometimes we need medication to fight what is bothering us, but we should never forget our own abilities to combat the concerns that plague us. Often this begins with some basic concepts that are overlooked. If your schedule is filled with highly stressful events, little downtime, a lack of time to recoup, you are eating poorly, sleep is a “luxury you can’t afford” and your relationships are suffering, is it any surprise you are experiencing depression and/or anxiety? Medication cannot put more time in a day! Identifying what are the causal factors to how you are thinking and feeling is a big first step into alleviating your concerns.
Sometimes, we want to just numb the pain. Just had a huge breakup of a long-term relationship and feeling very down and depressed? Of course you are! Feelings and emotions are normal and to be expected, especially when we are experiencing huge life events. Although medication can help when there is an extended or deep depression, sometimes we also need to let ourselves feel our feelings. Your therapist can show you ways to cope through this with not just talking but also increasing your self care and finding new paths to happiness.
So do you need medication?
MAYBE, but maybe not. If you are wondering, of course talk to your psychiatric prescriber, but also talk to a therapist. Your therapist will help in empower you to find other longterm, healthy alternatives too!
Never underestimate the power of a great sleep hygiene, enriching your life with self care, rich conversation with family and friends, increasing your mindfulness and teaching your body to relax, positive focus, great daily habits that renew the spirit such as practicing gratefulness and the wonder of of physical exercise and the multitude of positive benefits it conveys!