To Medicate Or Not To Medicate?

In the course of my time treating individuals with mental health issues, I have often been asked whether or not I believe in the benefits of psychotropic medication.  The answer is not a simple one.  Mental health treatment is a mutifaceted endeavor.  I have certainly been part of treatment teams for individuals who need medication in order to live healthy lives. 

Let's first examine medication for the treatment of anxiety or depressive disorders.  There are many factors in a person's life that can contribute to them feeling anxious or depressed.  Eating habits, sleep habits and exercise are factors that are often overlooked.  Poor coping mechanisms, a propensity for negativity, self-destructive behavior patterns and poor social support are also major contributing factors.  None of these factors will be addressed through the use of psychotropic medications.  However, often genetics and biology also play a part in the development of these issues.  If your brain chemistry is a contributing factor in your anxiety or depression it is unlikely that you will be able to combat these problems without the help of medications.

If we are talking about issues such as ADHD, the determination becomes murkier.  A lot of people with this issue are able to be successful in altering undesirable behaviors through the use of structure and behavior planning.  Medication is often warranted in cases where other options have been exhausted.   Sometimes, non-medicated interventions are unsuccessful in helping the individual to overcome behaviors or impulses that lead to unhappiness and a lack of self-confidence in their lives.

My ultimate answer is always that it is important that you weigh all of your options.  Having a good team of helping professionals guiding you to make decisions will often lead to your happiest and healthiest outcomes.  Sometimes medication can be a temporary solution until new coping mechanisms and behavior patterns or healthier lifestyle choices can be learned.  The world is full of many different professionals who proclaim to want to help individuals sort through these issues.  Ask questions and find the one who you feel understands your concerns and can answer your questions fully and appropriately. 

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