The treatments for mental illness conditions vary from person to person, which doesn’t make things any easier. People with the same diagnosis can have vastly different experiences with treatments and medications.
Of course, your loved one’s mental health provider is the best source for information about treatment. Getting a HIPPA release so you can discuss the situation with them is very useful. The articles in this series, based on information from NAMI and my experience, are general information to help you understand the treatment options when they are discussed.
Psychotropic, or psychiatric, medications influence the chemicals in the brain that regulate thinking and emotions. While they can be more effective when combined with therapy, often a person needs the medication first to reduce symptoms to allow them to participate in the therapy.
Predicting what works is a challenge. One field of research called pharmacogenetics does genetic testing to help determine how medications will interact with a person’s genes. Some people I know have taken these tests, so it’s worth discussing it with the doctor. It’s also helpful to tell the doctor if a medication has worked well for someone else in the immediate family.
Another major challenge is that the medications rarely work instantly. A person may need to take medication for as long as a few months to see a difference, which becomes even more irritating if side effects are causing issues.
To try to stop that, physicians usually start with small doses and build up to get to the point where the symptoms are better. It’s important that your loved one does not stop medicine at once. Usually, it’s better to taper off to avoid unpleasant effects.
The main categories of psychotropic medicine are:
- Anti-anxiety medicine
- Mood stabilizers
We will look at each in this series.