Young woman holding white pill sitting on couch

Medications can be used in various ways to assist in correcting the brain’s functioning due to mental health problems. The challenge is that it can often take several different attempts to find the medication or combination of medications that will be the most useful to you.

Why? Most medications used to treat mental health symptoms are not “single application” medications.

For example, according to Fundamentals of Complementary and Integrative Medicine:

  • Co- occurring symptoms can overlap in causes and cover up other symptoms that may not surface initially.
  • Not all people react the same way to the same medications.
  • Not all medications are created equal; they often achieve the same end result in the majority of people, but they are sent through different message pathways.

Your doctor can be on target with your medication needs, but in order to achieve the desired effect in your brain you may need to try several different medications individually or even a combination of medications. Also, over time you may develop tolerance to some medications. Although they might have been initially effective, they need to be changed or increased as your body becomes adjusted to the medication.

Trust Your Treatment Team

Behavioral treatments can help you engage and take an active role in the treatment process. Change can often occur with active engagement and participation, rather than with passive treatment or medication only. Your healthier life skills can enhance the effectiveness of medications.

You may find yourself having thoughts like, “If one made me feel better, then two will fix this,” “Just take the pill and it will all be fine,” “I feel okay, so I don’t need to take that today.”

It’s natural to have these thoughts pop into your head, but it’s also important for you to question them. Does this decision support your recovery? If something you’re considering goes against the recommendation of your treatment team, you need to think twice. And always ask for support and guidance throughout the recovery process.

Educate Yourself

It can be frustrating to know you need medication to maintain mental health and it can be hard to accept a diagnosis that requires a long-term prescription regimen. But you can change how you view this by taking control of your health and educating yourself about your treatment. (If you’re minor, make sure to do this alongside your parents.)

Anytime you are prescribed medication (or treatment of any kind), you can increase your confidence and understanding by asking your prescriber a few specific questions. Note the medication name and brand then ask your healthcare provider for additional information.

Try the following questions:

  • How does this medication work?
  • What symptoms led you to prescribe this particular medication?
  • What are you expecting it to do for me?
  • How long before I should notice the effects?
  • How will I know if it’s not working?
  • What are the expected side effects?
  • Will they lessen over time?
  • Are there other alternative treatments available?
  • What are the dosing instructions?
  • What if I miss a dose?

If you actively participate with your treatment providers, you can have a better outcome simply by communicating. Your provider needs your input to best care for you. You are also more likely to stay committed to a treatment plan that you participated in, rather than one handed to you without your involvement or understanding.