In my previous blog, I used the metaphor of a jacket and a walking stick as the support that medication provides as you trek the journey that is your life. In this blog I will be outlining some myths about psychiatric medication.
“Side effects are worse than the illness itself.”
Psychiatric medications can have side effects like any other medication. The aim of the medication is however to alleviate the negative symptoms that you are feeling. Side effects typically are present because your body is adjusting to the medication. Although they might be a discomfort, they should not limit the possibility of alleviating your difficulties.
If however the medications are causing side effects that limit your daily functioning to the point that it outweighs their usefulness, then it is important to discuss this with your doctor to assess the possibility of adjusting your dose or changing medication completely.
“I will feel the effects of the medication right away.”
Not all medications make a difference right away. Some medications take effect within a few hours of being ingested, others can take a few weeks before any visible changes can be seen. Communication with your doctor about what to expect will help you get a better understanding of the effects of the medication and what you should expect once you take them.
“If one medication didn’t work then nothing will.”
We all have different bodies and therefore different biological and chemical compositions. Therefore, it can take some time for a doctor to find the right medication to support you. For this reason, it’s important to explain to your doctor exactly what you are experiencing on the medication (both positive and negative changes you have observed) in order for them to be able to make the most informed decision on what would be best for you and whether the medication needs to be altered or changed completely.
“I can stop taking the medication if I feel better.”
It’s important that medication is taken throughout the prescribed time and that medications are not stopped abruptly. This is because some medications can take time to start showing effects and therefore feeling better could mean that the medication is taking effect and is working. Stopping abruptly can stop the progress, can cause withdrawal and can even reverse the effects, thus resulting in the original symptoms coming back. If you want to stop taking the medication consult with your doctor who will guide you on the best way forward.
“If I take medications then I don’t need therapy.”
Psychiatric medication acts as a crutch to support you, however it’s not meant to be taken in isolation. While medication can alleviate symptoms, it will not change the surrounding environment that could have caused the symptoms to be present in the first place. Therapy will support you to identify the areas of your life that caused your distress and support you to build your support network and your resilience to face the challenges that life can throw at us.
When a therapist recommends seeing a psychiatrist, it would be because they want to create the right supportive environment for you to achieve your goals. It’s because they want the best for you, and they believe that seeking another professional might help you get there. Nonetheless, do share any concerns or fears you might have with them so that together you make a decision on the best course of action for you.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Peisley, T. (2017). Busting myths about psychiatric medication. SANE Australia. https://www.sane.org/information-stories/the-sane-blog/mythbusters/busting-myths-about-psychiatric-medication
Phan, J. (2020). Five myths about psychiatric medications. VA Palo Alto Health Care System. https://www.paloalto.va.gov/PALOALTO/features/fivemyths.asp
Roubal, J., & Krivkova, E. (2013) Combination of Gestalt Therapy and Psychiatric Medication. In Francesetti, G., Gecele, M., & Roubal, J. (2013). Gestalt Therapy in Clinical Practical: From psychopathology to the aesthetics of contact (pp. 161-183). Italy: FrancoAngeli s.r.l.
The Minds Foundation (2018). Of Mental Health and Stigma: 6 myths surrounding psychiatric medication debunked. The Better India. https://www.thebetterindia.com/162770/facts-myths-psychiatric-medication-mental-health/