Anyone can develop a mental illness- you, a family member, a friend, or a neighbor. Some disorders are mild; others are serious and long-lasting. These conditions can be diagnosed and treated. Most people can live better lives after treatment and psycho-therapeutic medications are an increasingly important element in the successful treatment of mental illness.
Medication for mental illnesses were first introduced in the early 1950′s with the anti-psychotic chlorpromazine. Other medications have followed and have changed the lives of people with these disorders for the better.
Psychotherapeutic medications also may make other kinds of treatment more effective. Someone who is too depressed to talk, for instance, may have difficulty communicating during psychotherapy or counseling, but the right medication may improve symptoms so the person can respond. For many patients, a combination of psychotherapy and medication can be an effective method of treatment.
Another benefit of these medications is an increased understanding of the causes of mental illness. Scientists have learned much more about the workings of the brain as a result of their investigations into how psychotherapeutic medications relieve the symptoms of disorders such as psychosis, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.
Relief From Symptoms
Just as aspirin can reduce a fever without curing the infection that causes it, psychotherapeutic medications act by controlling symptoms. Psychotherapeutic medications do not cure mental illness, but in many cases, they can help a person function despite some continuing mental pain and difficulty coping with problems. For example, drugs like chlorpromazine can turn off the “voices” heard by some people with psychosis and help them to see reality more clearly. And antidepressants can lift the dark, heavy moods of depression. The degree of response- ranging from a little relief of symptoms to complete relief- depends on a variety of factors related to the individual and the disorder being treated.
How long someone must take a psychotherapeutic medication depends on the individual and the disorder. Many depressed and anxious people may need medication for a single period- perhaps for several months- and then never need it again. People with conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (also known as manic depressive illness), or those whose depression or anxiety is chronic or recurrent, may have to take medication indefinitely.
Like any medication, psychotherapeutic medications do not produce the same effect in everyone. Some people may respond better to one medication than another. Some may need larger doses than others do and some may experiences side effects, while others do not. Age, sex, body size, body chemistry, physical illnesses and their treatments, diet, and habits such as smoking are some of the factors that can influence a medication’s effect.