FAQs About Psychiatric Medication
- What is a "chemical imbalance"?
- How long after beginning medication will I start to feel better?
- What are the most common side effects of medications for depression and anxiety?
- Will the medication change my personality or make me feel numb?
- Can medication make me feel worse?
- Are these medications addictive?
- What happens if I stop my medication?
- Will these medications interact with other medications I'm taking?
- Will psychiatric medication affect my birth control or pregnancy?
- Will I need to take medication for the rest of my life?
- Where do I get my medication filled?
- Are the medications expensive?
- I need a last-minute prescription refill. What can I do?
"Chemical imbalance" describes the concept that mental illnesses result from deficiencies in certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, are thought to play a role in regulating a person's mood. Psychiatric medications restore the body's natural chemical balance.
Medications take time to work. Most people notice some improvement in symptoms within two to three weeks, but a full response can take four to six weeks or longer.
Not everyone will have side effects, but the most common include headache, nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, feeling jittery and sexual problems. Most of these side effects are temporary.
Medications don't change who you are as a person. Feeling numb would indicate an unusual side effect and your prescriber would adjust your medication.
Any medication can have undesirable effects, including worsening of your symptoms. If this occurs, discuss it with your prescriber immediately.
Most psychiatric medications, including those commonly used to treat depression and anxiety, are not addictive. However, others used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders and ADHD may be. Your doctor will discuss this with you when planning your treatment.
Certain medications can have adverse effects if stopped abruptly. Possible symptoms include dizziness, nausea, headaches, sweating and insomnia. These can usually be avoided if you work with your prescriber to discontinue the medications appropriately. Abruptly discontinuing benzodiazepines and mood stabilizers that are anticonvulsants can trigger seizures. Keep in mind that your previous symptoms may return if you stop your medications.
Drug interactions can occur with any medication. Always let the prescriber know about any medications, herbal or nutritional supplements you're taking.
Certain psychiatric medications may interfere with the effectiveness of your birth control. It's important to discuss this with your doctor. If you're considering pregnancy, or become pregnant, talk to your doctor, as some medications may be harmful to the fetus.
Continuing psychiatric medications is an individual decision. Your prescriber will consider the type and severity of the illness, and your personal and family history, in making recommendations. You'll meet regularly with the prescriber to evaluate how the medication is working for you and to discuss any concerns you may have.
You can fill your prescription at the University Health Services pharmacy or another pharmacy of your choice.
Costs vary depending on your insurance coverage, the pharmacy you choose and the prescription. Many medications are available in generic form, and some pharmacies' discount programs include commonly prescribed psychiatric medications. Review your insurance plan, compare pharmacies and discuss cost concerns with your prescriber.
If your prescription was written by a CCPH prescriber, call us. We understand that people sometimes forget about refills and will do our best to submit your prescription as quickly as possible. However, certain medications can't be filled without an appointment. If it's after hours, you'll need to wait until the next business day.
If your prescription was written by a prescriber at home, call that office. To transfer your care to CCPH, call us and schedule a triage appointment. You and the triage clinician can discuss the best way to meet your needs.