Updated: Feb 18
In the United States, 45% of people with "clinical level mental health challenges" don't seek help according to research. There are many reasons for this including a lack of confidence in medical health treatments. The more educated we are in treatment options like therapy and medication, the more confident we can feel when seeking help for mental health challenges.
Many people are afraid of taking medication for their mental health. There are many myths floating around society about the use of medication for things like anxiety and depression. Addressing these myths and learning the truth will help people become more comfortable with the idea of including medication in a treatment plan when necessary.
To help you separate fact from fiction, we’re going to address some of the main myths that surround mental health medication.
Myth: Therapists just want to put you on medication.
Some people have this misconception that if they go to therapy, the therapist is just going to put them on an anti-depressant or other medication and leave it at that. This should not be the case and is not the way The NEST Clinic works.
For starters, only certain mental health and medical professionals are able to provide you with prescriptions. While the titles psychologist and psychiatrist are often used interchangeably, they should not be. They are two different titles that come from different training, education, and requirements.
While psychiatrists are medical doctors and are able to provide you with a prescription for medication if necessary, psychologists cannot.
At The NEST Clinic in Stillwater, MN, Brenda Reiter our Certified Nurse Practioner is the one who is able to provide medication management for mood-related and hormonal concerns, as a Certified Menopause Practitioner. She works with women struggling with anxiety, depression, hormone consults, birth control needs, perimenopause & menopause changes.
Having Brenda on staff with the therapists is a benefit because she can work with your therapist to create the right treatment plan specifically for you, but that doesn't mean that medication is always necessary or prescribed. While we are happy to be able to offer medication management to women in the Twin Cities area, it isn't the right solution for everyone. Our team works to find the right solution for each individual that enters our office or meets with us online.
Myth: If I start taking medication for mental health challenges like anxiety or depression, I'll have to keep taking it forever.
The treatment plans we use for clients at The NEST are tailored to the specific needs of each individual. There are no pre-set time requirements or time limits when it comes to medication. While some people remain on medication for a mental health diagnosis long-term, there are many who only need to benefit from it for a short time.
Again, this is why it's a benefit to have the person handling your medication management in-house with your therapist. They will work together to evaluate and re-evaluate what your needs are and what you will benefit from the most. We don't want to have you taking medication if you don't need to and will never encourage someone to continue medication they no longer need.
Myth: I can stop taking it as soon as I feel better.
While there's a good chance you won't need to take medication forever, it's also important that you don't just stop taking it once you feel better. It's important to work with a medical professional if you want to stop taking your medication. If you stop taking it too soon, you could be at higher risk of having a relapse in your symptoms.
Your team of mental health professionals can help you determine when is the right time for you to stop taking it and help you create a plan do to so. Some medication should not be stopped all at once and it's best to have a plan in place to help you during the transition.
Myth: Mental health medication will help me feel better right away.
There are some medications we're used to taking that work quickly such as pain medication or cold medicine. However, medication to help with your mental health doesn't work the same way. It can take up to four to six weeks for you to feel the difference the medication is making.
Because many people are expecting to experience faster relief from medication, they quit on the medication before they have an opportunity to experience the benefits.
This is another reason why it's often beneficial to be working with a therapist instead of solely taking medication to address your mental health symptoms and challenges. A licensed therapist can work with you to develop important coping strategies and healthy habits to lessen your symptoms as well.
Myth: I tried medication for mental health, and it didn't work, so it's not for me.
There are many different types of medication available to address mental health challenges. It's important that you receive the proper diagnosis in order for you to be prescribed a medication that meets your needs.
In addition, there isn't one medication that works for everyone experiencing the same symptoms or receiving the same diagnosis. If the first medication you try doesn't help, it doesn't mean that no medicine will help. Instead, it means you need to continue working with your medical professional to find the medication that will work for you.
It's important to be honest with your doctor, nurse, or therapist about the symptoms you're experiencing. Don't tell them what you think they want to hear. In order for them to help find the right treatment plan for you, it's important that you stay in contact with them.
Myth: Taking medication for anxiety and depression means I'm weak.
The stigma surrounding mental health can be an obstacle to getting help. Some people struggle with feeling like they are weak or have failed if they're unable to feel better on their own. They don't feel like anxiety or depression should be something they should need to ask for help for. So, instead of seeking help from a medical professional, they continue to struggle in silence on their own, or some turn to unhealthy coping behaviors.
It's important to understand that medications for mental health challenges like anxiety and depression are no different than medication you take to address other health concerns. If you have an ear infection that isn't going away on its own, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to help you feel better. We don't feel weak about needing medication for illness like that and we shouldn't feel any differently when needing medication or mental health challenges.
Some mental health diagnoses or challenges are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication can help to balance those chemicals which can reduce the symptoms you're experiencing. Just like medication for other illnesses, it's able to help with something we aren't able to do on our own.
Taking medication to help with symptoms we're experiencing is not weak even though the stigma can make it feel that way. There is much strength in taking the steps you need to feel better.
Myth: Taking a pill is all I need to feel better.
Medications for mental health challenges often work best as part of a complete treatment plan the same way medication does for some other health conditions.
For example, if your doctor finds that you have high blood pressure, they may prescribe you medication to help address it immediately, but that's not all they'll do. They will also help you identify lifestyle changes you can make to help lower your blood pressure naturally. For some people, lifestyle changes will allow them to stop taking the medication in the future. Others will benefit from staying on the medication long-term.
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan for mental health challenges. Some people will benefit from therapy alone, however, there are many who benefit most from a treatment plan including therapy and medication.
For some struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, it can be overwhelming to think about the steps they need to take in their life. This can stop them from making any progress. Medication can be the piece of the treatment puzzle that allows them to feel the motivation they need to take the next steps.
This is why it's such a benefit to have your medication management and therapy offered under one roof like at The NEST. Your team can work together to tailor a treatment plan specifically for your needs and then make the necessary adjustments as you move forward.
How to get the right help
Going back to the research mentioned at the start of this article, one of the main obstacles people shared as to why they did not get help is not knowing what type of help to seek. Should you talk to your doctor? Should you go straight to a therapist? Is this something you can handle on your own?
When it comes to mental health challenges, there is not one simple treatment plan that will work for everyone. The right treatment is dependent on the individual, their challenges, and other aspects of their life. Some people will benefit from learning healthy coping strategies. Others will benefit from different forms of therapy. And some will also benefit from including prescription medication in their treatment plan.
You can begin the conversation with a medical professional or mental health professional and they can help you explore your options. The most important thing is that you start the conversation with someone who is experienced and educated in providing help.
To start the conversation at The NEST Clinic, schedule an appointment today.