According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 57 million American adults have a mental health condition that requires treatment. A key component of treating mental health conditions is the use of psychiatric medication. However, there is often a stigma surrounding taking medication for mental health conditions. Many people feel embarrassed, ashamed, or even weak for needing pills to help manage their symptoms. This stigma is especially prevalent among women. In this blog post, we will discuss the stigma surrounding psychiatric medication, why it exists, and how to break it down.
The Stigma Around Medication
The stigma around psychiatric medication has been prevalent for decades, and many women are hesitant to take prescriptions because doing so feels like admitting defeat. The notion that individuals with mental health issues are “crazy” or weak because they need medicine is a harmful and unfounded stereotype. Additionally, there is a pervasive cultural belief that mental illness equates to a personal failure or weakness, something to be ashamed of. This shame can be intensified when antiderpessant use is involved, leading many individuals to feel like they are “cheating” or “not really fixing the problem.” Psychiatric medication is a valid form of treatment, and it can help individuals with mental health conditions live healthy and fulfilling lives.
The Effectiveness of Psychiatric Medication
While many people believe that psychiatric medication is a temporary fix, it has been proven to be a highly effective and evidence-based treatment option. Medicine combined with therapy can often provide the best treatment outcomes for those with mental health conditions. With medicine, individuals can experience relief from debilitating symptoms and improve their quality of life. Many women need medication to help them be well enough to institute lifestyle changes that will help them. Medicine can also make therapy more effective.
Stigma Around Antidepressants
Antidepressants are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for mental health conditions, yet they have been unfairly stigmatized. Many believe that antidepressants are addictive or cause personality changes, but this is not true. Antidepressants work by normalizing the balance of chemicals in the brain, and they are not habit-forming. It is essential to keep an open mind towards medication options, as it can be the first step in the healing process for some women struggling with mental health issues.
You Can Take Medication While Pregnant
The most stigmatized area of taking psychiatric medication is during pregnancy. However, untreated mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and bipolar can be harmful to the developing baby. Furthermore, if mom is not well, other children in the family may suffer. We have a lot of data on antidepressants during pregnancy. It is crucial to talk to a qualified mental health provider about this. Don’t ever just stop medication because you are pregnant.
The Importance of Communication
It is crucial for individuals to communicate with healthcare professionals to get the help they need. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners and Psychiatrists can provide accurate information on medication and help manage any side effects or concerns. They can determine the most effective medication for each individual. It is important to let your provider know of side effects.
Education and Awareness
It remains essential that we continue to educate and raise awareness about the realities of mental health conditions and treatment options. The more that women understand the misconceptions surrounding psychiatric medication, the more they can feel empowered to seek out the treatments that would benefit them and their mental health. Sharing stories of women who have experienced success with medication or other forms of treatment can help combat stigma and encourage healing.
The stigma surrounding psychiatric medication often prevents women from seeking out the care they need. Knowing the facts about mental health conditions and treatment options can reduce the shame associated with taking medication and encourage those who are struggling to take the necessary steps towards wellness. Remember that taking care of one’s mental health is a valid and responsible choice, and seeking treatment through medication is just one of the many tools available to help women regain control over their lives.
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About the author: Sharon P. Fisher, PMHNP-BC, PMH-C is a board certified psychiatric nurse practitioner.