Pitfalls of Discontinuing Medication

Medication needs to be taken consistently to work properly.

Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer for treating mental illness.  One of the most crucial factors in successful treatment of mental illness is the patient’s ability to take their own medication as prescribed, which for many is not a big deal.  However, regardless of the affliction or time in treatment, there is always a lure to discontinuing medication without consulting a physician first.

There are many reasons why people may discontinue medication on their own, most notably, unpleasant side effects, weight gain, and feeling like symptoms can be handled without the help of medication.  At times, it may feel like the medication isn’t really helping that much.

Other reasons for noncompliance with taking medications may include substance abuse or when a patient does not believe that they actually have a mental illness.

Educate Yourself About Your Medication

Take the time to educate yourself about your medication.  Sources such as NAMI and NIMH as well as talking to your doctor are great ways to begin learning about how medications work and potential side effects.  Some medications take time to build up so that they have their maximum desired effect, while other situations for severe illnesses such as major depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia may need a longer time to find the right dosage and combination of meds to treat the symptoms.

Medication alone is not a cure for mental illness.  However, it can help reduce symptoms so that coping skills can be built and implemented.  Building these coping skills and finding creative ways to get out in the community help to create healthy habits that are another component of treating mental illness, and those are all things that each person can control.

If you are interested in reducing, switching, or stopping your medication regimen, please consult your doctor first.  Partnering with your treatment team in this way can help ensure that appropriate coping skills and community supports are in place to help alleviate the symptoms of mental illness rather than just rolling the dice and hoping everything goes well.  Having a plan in place will ensure that everyone wins.

At the PTI, we are aware of many of the challenges of living with mental illness, whether it’s depression, Post Traumatic Stress, anxiety, or any other illness.  Do we perfectly know each person’s situation?  Of course not, but we do care.  That’s why we stress building a good relationship with our patients and putting them first.  It helps everybody on our team to deliver so that you can receive more effective and efficient treatment.