Are Prescription Medications Needed to Heal From a Mental Health Disorder?

Individuals that are seeking healing from a mental health disorder can benefit from learning about the wide range of therapeutic approaches available for recovery. To some, the thought of using prescription medication for symptom management is intimidating. However, medication can be profoundly effective, depending on the type and severity of a person’s disorder. While pharmacotherapy is not the only route available for the treatment of a mental health disorder, it is necessary to understand its place and importance in mental health treatment. 

Understanding Prescription Medications

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that medications often play a key role in the treatment of mental health disorders. This is because mental illnesses often occur from chemical imbalances in the brain. According to a publication by the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

As scientists continue to investigate the brains of people who have mental illnesses, they are learning that mental illness is associated with changes in the brain’s structure, chemistry, and function and that mental illness does indeed have a biological basis.

Thus, prescription medications work to balance and regulate these internal imbalances. As a result, they help to reduce the severity and presence of mental health symptoms. 

Of course, every type of prescription medication does this in a different way. There are different categories of medication that are used to treat specific mental health disorders. For example, as stimulant medications work to improve alertness and focus, they are often prescribed for individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

The main categories of mental health medications include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Stimulants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Mood stabilizers

Common Concerns of Prescription Medications

Within each aforementioned category, there are several different types of medications that an individual may be prescribed for a mental health disorder. As NIMH explains, “Medications can affect people in different ways, and it may take several tries to find the medication that is most effective with the fewest side effects.” In addition to understanding potential side effects, it is necessary to address other common concerns of prescription medications. 

The Potential of Becoming Addicted

For instance, using any substance can serve as a risk factor for developing substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction; this is no different for prescription medications. Although most mental health medications have a low to extremely low addictive potential, prescription drug use can still fuel curiosity and urges for experimentation with other drugs. To limit any potential for prescription drug misuse or abuse, individuals must take their medication exactly as prescribed by a doctor. 

Duration of Medication Use

Another concern many individuals have about prescription medications is how long they will take their medication. While this varies from person to person, it is important to recognize that most prescription medications are used on a short-term basis. Yes, there are some diagnoses, such as schizophrenia, that may require long-term or lifelong medication use. However, this is often not the case for other mental health disorders. Individuals can work with their care team to dispel additional concerns as well as establish a treatment plan that incorporates a shorter duration of medication use. 

Meanwhile, it may also help to know that medication is most effective when used in tandem with traditional therapeutic approaches, such as psychotherapy. Often, an individual will be prescribed medications to reduce their mental health symptoms so they can effectively participate in therapeutic sessions. Once an individual begins to reap the benefits of therapy, they can work with their therapist to safely wean off their medication. 

It is always encouraged to talk through concerns and fears about treatment, including prescription medication, with a mental health professional. Additionally, to avoid any potential consequences of prescription medication, it is necessary to work closely with a mental health professional. 

Alternatives to Prescription Medications

In some cases, prescription medication may be necessary for an individual in the early stages of treatment. However, there are plenty of additional treatment options that individuals can use if they choose not to utilize prescription medication. At Alter Behavioral Health, we strongly rely on the opinions and values of our clients when crafting a treatment plan. 

Psychotherapy is a broad example of an effective therapeutic modality. Within the realm of psychotherapy, a therapist can utilize a variety of approaches with a client, working to address their unique needs. Some psychotherapeutic modalities and approaches we utilize at Alter Behavioral Health include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Equine therapy

In addition, we also are passionate about incorporating holistic healing modalities into treatment. In therapy, we can help individuals develop emotional regulation skills using techniques such as:

  • Mindfulness exercises
  • Mediation
  • Journaling
  • Artistic expression

These examples only scratch the surface of the modalities we offer at our facility. Still, they offer a valuable framework for individuals to recognize that there is more to mental health treatment than solely prescription medication. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health disorder, it is important for you to learn about the different routes available for treatment and recovery. While prescription medications are often necessary to help regulate brain imbalances caused by mental illness, there are other treatment options available. At Alter Behavioral Health, we are dedicated to honoring the unique needs of our clients in treatment. We offer a wide range of therapeutic modalities and approaches to ensure that we can secure lasting healing and symptom management for each person. If you have concerns about prescription medication, we can address them and work through them together. To learn more, give us a call at (866) 691-4386.