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What are the Pros and Cons of Taking Medication for Mental Illness?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Taking medication for mental illness can have many positive attributes for well-being and day-to-day functioning. These drugs however, can cause a multitude of side effects. In some cases, such as mild-to-moderate depression, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants can help those with mental illness in many ways. Anti-psychotics can help those suffering from schizophrenia function relatively well in society. In many cases, this drug for mental illness can protect a patient from self-harm and from harming others. Mood stabilizers have been shown to be effective for those suffering from bipolar disorder and manic depression. They can reduce the instances of manic episodes and improve a patient's ability to think and function. As a byproduct, a patient's relationship with family and friends often improves dramatically.

Anti-anxiety medications can help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other anxiety disorders by reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety. These symptoms can include sweating, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and extreme agitation. They can also help patients face situations that, without the medication, may be unbearable; the drugs are also typically fast acting, allowing some patients to take the medication only when needed, rather than on a routine basis.

Those suffering from severe depression can often be helped by medication for mental illness. Antidepressants can improve mood as well as increase energy, thus allowing patients to better cope with traumatic events as well as their daily life. When coupled with therapy, those suffering from severe depression can sometimes reach a point where medication is no longer needed. Antidepressants often provide patients with an increased ability to process the cause of their depression, thereby allowing them to learn how to deal with it.

While taking medication for mental illness has plenty of positives, it can have negative aspects. The side effects associated with many of these medications can be excessive. Nausea, headaches, dry mouth, blurry vision, trembling, increased nightmares, and exhaustion are all relatively common when taking drugs for mental illness. These drugs can also cause more serious health issues such as blurred vision, speech issues, hyperglycemia, diabetes, and recurring black-outs. Some antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers can also increase the tendency towards suicidal thoughts and actions. Anti-anxiety medications also pose the risk of dependency issues, making the close monitoring of their usage very important.

Especially when it comes to any type of antidepressant, medications often do not work for those with mild cases of mental illness. A study in 2006 found that those suffering from mild-to-moderate depression only received little more than a placebo effect from taking antidepressants. In fact, the study found that only 50% of these cases actually benefited from taking the drugs.

Other medication for mental illness may also have these drawbacks. For many patients, it can take months or even years to find the correct prescription and dosage for their specific issue. These medications have helped a large number of people improve their mental health, however. When prescribed by an experienced medical professional and monitored closely, these drugs can have a significant effect on a patient's life.

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Discussion Comments

By Grivusangel — On Feb 05, 2014

The side effects are the worst part of so many medications for mental illness. The trouble is, the symptoms of the illness are often so much worse.

It would be nice if doctors could completely "re-format" the brain like one does a computer's hard drive, thereby restoring it to neurotypical settings, but that's not the case. So they treat the symptoms with what medications are available. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's often a frustrating, depressing ordeal for patients and their families. The one most convincing argument in deciding to take meds, is whether the person will be able to function while on the meds, and if he or she is able to function without them.

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