On this week’s episode of Mind Over Motherhood, I am busting some of the most common myths about mood medications that I hear from my patients and clients.
There is SO much information online and that we hear from others when it comes to anything related to mental health (or health in general.) While some of this information is accurate and helpful, a bunch of it isn’t.
My goal with this post is to help you better understand mood medications in general.
I want to bust common myths about medication so that these misconceptions are not the reason you avoid medications in your treatment plan. I want to help you make empowering choices for your mental health.
If you are unsure of whether mood medications might be the right choice for you, you should check out last week’s blog post on the 7 Signs You Might Need Medication for Your Mood. Although each situation is unique, I outline some of the most common signs I see in patients who get benefits from medication for their mood disorders.
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As an MD Psychotherapist + Women’s Mental Health Expert, I see a lot of women with symptoms related to their mood and mental health.
For many of these women, the question of medications comes up when we discuss treating their symptoms.
Often, they have some assumptions or misconceptions about medications that prevent them from considering medications as a treatment option.
Are medications required for everyone to treat their mood disorder? Definitely not.
Do they make a world of difference for some women? Absolutely.
Therefore, I feel it my responsibility to clear up some common confusions and bust some common myths about medications, so that those women who could benefit are not disuaded with information that is not accurate.
*Disclaimer: Although I am a practising physician who specializes in mental health and anxiety, the advice I am providing here is not intended to be nor is it a substitute for assessment, diagnosis and treatment. The information provided here is intended to be educational and informational. It is not a substitute for assessment and treatment by a medical professional.
Myth #1: Medications Will Completely Solve The Problem
One of the biggest myths I hear from people who are looking to start medications for their mood disorder is that the medication will completely fix “the problem.”
Mental illnesses are very complex and are impacted by many different factors in a person’s life.
Perhaps you have a stressful job or your relationship is strained.
Maybe you have no down time or are feeling a lot of stress from your finances.
Or perhaps you’re dealing with a physical health issue that is unmanaged.
The truth is: SO many things impact our mental health.
So it follows then that mood medications cannot possibly solve the “whole problem” when it comes to our mental health.
In my virtual mental health clinic, I often talk about “skills and pills,” meaning you cannot simply take a pill without learning some valuable mental health skills as well.
So, if you’re considering a medication for your mood but are hoping it will completely take away your symptoms on it’s own, unfortunately you may be disappointed. It’s important always to consider your mood medication as one tool in your toolbox.
You will need to learn and use some other tools as well (like self-care time, assertiveness skills, thought management skills, etc.). My free guide provides you with 3 natural strategies to improve your mood. Download it here!
Myth #2: Medications Will Change Your Personality.
Explaining why this is a myth requires a bit of understanding about how mood medications work in our brains.
The most common category of mood medications (and the one I am usually referring to in my work) are the selective-sertonin-reuptake-inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine-reuptake-inhibitors (SNRIs.) Serotonin and norepinephrine are two neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that help regulate our mood.
Your mood is a fluctuating overall state of happiness, sadness, anger, etc. that you feel throughout your day. When your mood is persistently low or very variable (up and down), it may be due to a mood disorder.
In contrast, your personality is an enduring combination of characteristics and qualities that form your individual distinctive character. This is persistent and does not change from day to day.
Mood medications do not change your personality. In fact, they may help you feel more like yourself and help your personality shine through more often as you will not be so anxious or sad.
Myth #3: You Will Become Dependent On Mood Medications.
When I work with women in Eunoia Medical (my virtual mental health clinic for women), this is a very common concern for them before we begin a trial of mood medications.
“If I start mood medications and they make me feel better, will I become dependent on them and need them to feel happy?”
Let’s Use An Analogy
To bust this myth, I’d like you to think about your mood disorder like a broken arm. When your arm is first broken, you likely need a lot of support to feel better and be functional. You might need to have a cast and take a variety of pain medications to keep the pain away. As your bone heals, you will need less and less medication and support as your bone will be strong again on it’s own with enough time and healing.
This is very similar to a mood disorder. When you’re very unwell, it can be as painful and as impactful on your function as a broken bone (except no one can see it.)
While you’re unwell, you likely will need lots of support (therapy) and maybe medications to feel well. However, as you work hard to fix the issues that caused the mood disorder (perhaps a stressful job, unhealed trauma, or chemical imbalance), you will need less of your mood medications and support to feel well.
Eventually, if you learn skills and feel well enough, you may be able to taper off your medications entirely (if that’s your choice.)
“But One Time I Tried To Stop Them And Felt Worse”
Sometimes if you stop your medications too soon, your illness may not be completely healed, and you may have return of your symptoms. This does not mean you’ve become dependent on your medications. Instead, it likely means that you need treatment and support for a bit longer to feel well.
Similarly, if you stop your medications too quickly (depending on the medication), you may feel withdrawal symptoms as your brain is used to a certain level of support with it’s chemicals. When tapered slowly and supported with consistent followup, withdrawal symptoms can largely be mitigated as your brain rebalances it’s levels without medications.
Myth #4: You Need To Stay On Your Medication Forever
Similar to the previous myth, many times women believe that once you start a medication for your mood, you need to stay on it forever.
As I stated earlier, this is not true.
While there are some women who stay on their mood medications lifelong as a choice, many others don’t. I would say on average, most women stay on their medications for 3-9 months before tapering off. Of course each woman’s situation is unique.
It is not uncommon to have a few periods of time in your life where you might need medication support for your mood.
Sometimes when life gets really hairy, we can need some support to pull us through. There is absolutely no shame in that.
In the case of more severe mood disorders, lifelong medication is occasionally necessary. This is less due to a dependence on medication than it is the severity of a person’s mental illnesses and their previous life experiences.
Whether you go on medication for a brief period of time or remain on them lifelong really doesn’t matter. What is most important is that the choice you make about your medication is your own, and that the medication is actually doing what it’s supposed to do.
As always, it’s important to have a conversation with a health provider you trust when it comes to consider medications for any illnesses, but especially mental illness.
Common Myths About Mood Medications
In this post, we have reviewed common myths about mood medications that sometimes keep women from considering them as a treatment option.
It’s important to get your information about treatment options from a knowledgable mental health professional so you can learn about both the benefits and risks of all treatment options and make an informed choice.
While these are not the only misconceptions about medications, these are some of the most common ones.
What questions do you have about mood medications? Do you have any other doubts regarding common myths about mood medications?
HAVE A LISTEN + SHARE YOUR TAKEAWAYS!
This episode digs into:
The most common misconceptions and myths about mood medications that I hear from women who are coming to me at Eunoia Medical to discuss their mood
Why this conversation is important, especially since there is already a ton of stigma, opinions and misunderstanding about medications that aren’t entirely accurate
Insights around medications and the role of medications in mood disorders
How to approach mood medications as a part of your treatment plan, and not as the whole plan.
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