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Taking Medication for your Mental Health

It’s okay if you need to be on medication for your mental health, just as other people need to be on medication for their physical health. It can, however, be a difficult process at times, so these tips about psychiatric medication aim to help you through it.

If you've been feeling off, the best step is likely to visit your family doctor. Read here for some help to prepare for your doctor's appointment.

Try to plan ahead for your doctor's appointment. Write down any questions you may have, and ask about the pros and cons of any potential prescriptions. Prepare to write notes, or maybe even bring someone who can help you take notes and catch important points.

Talking to your doctor can be intimidating, and sometimes you might not get the outcome you were hoping for. If that's the case, you might need to practice advocating for yourself. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Tell your doctor about any vitamins or medications you take and any drug or alcohol use, as these might interact with the prescription your doctor gives you. Being honest with your doctor will lead to better results.

Even coffee and cigarettes can affect how your body reacts to medication. Let your doctor know how much you smoke per day and how many cups of coffee you normally have, this will ensure your dosage is correct. If this changes, let your doctor know.

If they don’t mention it, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there are any other drug interactions with your med(s) that you should know about. This means your med might react negatively with other meds (even over the counter painkillers) or even certain foods, like grapefruit.

Medications can be expensive. If you aren't covered by insurance or other funding, you can save some money by asking your doctor for the generic version of the med they've prescribed you (rather than the brand-name version).

If you're using the generic version and still struggling to afford your prescription, check out this blog for some helpful info.

Starting medication can be scary and overwhelming. Consider telling someone you trust so that they can support you through the ups and (potential) downs.

Think about what's important to you. What mental health symptoms are currently impacting your life the most? Are you willing to live with side effects if it means your symptoms improve? What types of symptoms or side effects would get in the way the most for you?

Try keeping an updated record of all the medications you've tried. It will be very helpful if you ever need to try something new, as it can be hard to remember what you've already tried and your doctor may not have a record of them all either.

You may also want to keep a separate list of just the medications and doses that you're currently taking. Consider giving a copy of this list to someone you trust/an emergency contact, as this information will come in handy in case of a medical emergency.

If you have more than one prescription, consider getting them filled at the same pharmacy — that way, the pharmacist will know all of the medications you're on and can give you better information or advice.

Some people have a hard time swallowing pills, so sometimes there are alternative options. Ask your pharmacist if you can get your meds cut in half, or even in powder or liquid form instead.

Don't give up if you don't feel better right away. It can take 4-6 weeks (or more) for medications to start working. If you don't notice any difference after the 4-6 week period, follow-up with your doctor if that isn't already planned.

It takes time to find the right medication and the right dose. If the first prescription isn't right for you, that doesn’t mean no medication will be. Your doctor can work with you to find a better option, so be honest about how you're feeling!

If something isn't working or you’re feeling poorly about the care you’re receiving, speak up! You have rights as a patient, learn more here.

It's a good idea to track your mood and sleep patterns when figuring out meds. Download the free mood. app to do exactly that, plus add notes and download a report for your healthcare provider. Having this info will help them help you!

Only use medication prescribed to you and don't share your medication with anyone. Everyone is unique and taking medication that isn't for you can be harmful.

To help you remember to take your medication, try pairing it with an activity. For example, try to take your meds right before you brush your teeth. Once you do it enough times, brushing your teeth will likely become associated with taking your meds and become a natural reminder for you to take them.

If you’re still having a hard time remembering to take your medication, try setting a repeated daily alarm on your phone to remind you.

You might experience side effects when you start a new medication or after a dose increase. These usually disappear after the first couple days to two weeks. If your doctor doesn’t discuss it with you, ask them what side effects are normal and what ones to look out for. 

As long as they aren't too troublesome, there are things you can do to help make temporary side effects more bearable in the meantime. For dry mouth, try sugarless gum or mints. For nausea, try taking the med with a meal or before bed. 

There may be some longer lasting side effects that impact your life like weight gain, tiredness, loss of sex drive or increased blood pressure. If these side effects outweigh the benefits of the medication for you, talk to your doctor.

If you're experiencing worrisome side effects but can't get in touch with your doctor, try calling your pharmacy! They will be able to troubleshoot with you and give professional advice.

If you start to feel better, it can be tempting to stop taking your medication. Don't do this without talking to your doctor. Stopping your medication might lead to relapse or other negative effects.

Misusing prescription meds or substances to try to get relief from unpleasant feelings or symptoms is called self-medicating. Truth is, self-medicating doesn’t treat the underlying issue, can be dangerous and, in the long run, usually worsens the symptoms you were trying to relieve.

Psychotropic meds (and mental illness on its own) can impact appetite and eating habits. It’s so important to make sure you’re eating enough for the meds to work, that you’re fitting in some natural whole foods, and being mindful of the negative effects of a lot of processed food.

Sometimes medication that has helped us suddenly stops working or is less effective. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon and you may need to adjust your dose or try a new medication. Reach out to your doctor to ask about making some changes.

Some people worry they'll have to be on medication forever. This is true for some, but not for everyone. Sometimes people only need medication for a certain period of time until they learn new skills, stabilize, or their life circumstances have changed. 

Medication isn't the be all and end all. Therapy and self care also play a big part in recovery. Make sure to include other supportive elements to your life in addition to the medication.