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Medication does not usually cure mental illness. But there are lots of different medications that are designed to help reduce symptoms. Here are the main ones.
There are four main types of medication.
If you have different symptoms, you may need to take more than one type of medication.
Medication usually comes as a tablet, a liquid, or a slow release injection called a depot injection.
Some people take medication for a short period of time. Others might have to take medication for several years, or even longer.
Not all medications are suitable for people under 18. You should talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
Medication can be very effective – but you might experience some unwanted side effects too. It can take some time to find the right balance. Rethink has some information on managing side effects.
You might find that medication reduces your symptoms, which in turn helps you to get the most out of talking therapy. Or it might be helpful to take while you are waiting for more support.
Not everyone wants to take medication. It’s up to each of us to decide whether the benefits of medication outweigh the side effects.
Here are some common side effects of different types of medication. The patient information leaflet you get with your medication should tell you all the known side effects.
Different types of antidepressant medication may cause different side effects. The NHS website lists more possible side effects of antidepressant medication.
Different types of antipsychotic medication may cause different side effects. Rethink lists more possible side effects of antipsychotic medication.
Rethink also lists rare side effects of benzodiazepines.
Different types of mood stabilisers may cause different side effects. Rethink has more detail about the different side effects caused by different mood stabilisers.
Most psychiatric medication is not addictive. This means you do not have to take more and more to get the same effect.
But you may get withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking medication. These might be physical symptoms like aching muscles and nausea. They might be difficulties with mood like agitation, irritability and anxiety. For some of us these will be quite mild. For others they will be difficult to live with, sometimes for a long time.
Many withdrawal symptoms are similar to symptoms of mental illness. You might find it hard to work out whether you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms or a relapse. Mind has some more information that might help.
It can be dangerous to stop medication suddenly. You are less likely to experience difficult withdrawal symptoms or relapse if you cut down very slowly. Always discuss stopping medication with your doctor.
Some medication can take a while to start working or even make us feel worse before it starts to help us feel better. For example, some antidepressants and antipsychotics can increase suicidal feelings when we first start taking them.
If medication is making us feel a lot worse, or these feelings go on a long time, we should talk to the person who prescribed it to us.
Talking therapies are treatments that involve talking to a professional about our thoughts, behaviours, experiences, feelings and the ways we cope with our symptoms. There are lots of different types.
Complementary therapies can be used alongside talking therapy or medication. They include things like mindfulness, massage, yoga and some types of art or eco therapy.
Many of us find that taking medication at the same time as talking therapy or other treatments is most effective.