Medication Management – Psychopharmacology
Anyone can develop an emotional or mental illness — you, a family member, a friend, or a neighbor. Some disorders are mild, while others are serious and long-lasting. These conditions can be diagnosed and treated. Most people can live better lives after treatment. And psychotherapeutic medications are an increasingly important element in the successful treatment of emotional or mental illness.
Medications for emotional illnesses were first introduced in the early 1950s with the antipsychotic chlorpromazine. Other medications have followed including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, cognitive enhancers, and anti-anxiety and anti-panic agents. These medications 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 clients, 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 emotional and 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.
Just as aspirin can reduce a fever without curing the infection that causes it, psychotherapeutic medications act by controlling symptoms and restoring function. 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 Seroquel 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 of time — 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 individuals 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 dosages than others. Some have side effects, and 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.
We are living in a time of exciting and revolutionary understanding of how stress affects brain function. Psychiatry has recently documented that numerous environmental stresses can alter the way that genes behave and express themselves in brain cells, which in turn affect brain cell energy levels and metabolism, and ultimately determine how brain circuits that regulate mood, thought, and anxiety are negatively affected.
Potomac Psychiatry’s physicians are highly trained and familiar with the different medication options available, and typically we use the lowest doses of medication possible to restore balanced functioning. We partner with you to deliver a mutually agreed-upon treatment program, whereby some clients are treated with medication management alone, and others with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
At Potomac Psychiatry our psychiatrists specialize in psychiatric medication management issues. Call (301) 984-9791 to contact us, discuss your needs and schedule an appointment. Our experienced professionals look forward to meeting you.
Read more about medication management practices for children & adolescents and medication management for seniors.