What to Do If Your Medication Isn’t Right for You
Psych meds aren’t one-size-fits-all. Mental health is complicated and everyone’s symptoms, brain chemistry, and needs are different. If you’re taking psychiatric medication, there’s a good chance that at some point, you’ll realize your medication isn’t working for you. When that happens, here’s what to do.
Signs Your Medication Isn’t Right for You
Your Symptoms Aren’t Improving
Psychiatric medications often take several weeks to start working. But if you’ve been taking your medication for a while and it feels like you might as well not be taking anything at all, contact your prescriber. Obviously, you want your medication to help you feel better, not stay the same.
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a medication is working. Consider asking the people you’re closest to or who you spend the most time with if they notice a change in your symptoms. Seeking out an objective opinion can help you figure out what’s going on.
Your Symptoms are Getting Worse, Not Better
Unfortunately, this can happen after starting a new medication. It can also happen if you’ve been on the same medication and dose for a while and suddenly your symptoms come back.
Your Sleep Schedule is Off
Psych meds can affect a lot of aspects of your life, including your sleep. If you’re suddenly struggling with insomnia, oversleeping, fatigue, strange dreams, or if you’re relying on caffeine more than ever before, that’s worth bringing up to your prescriber.
The Side Effects are Driving You Nuts
It’s normal to experience side effects when you start a new medication. A big part of trying a new medication is seeing what side effects you experience, how severe they are, and whether they persist or go away with time.
Sometimes, a medication can work well enough that a few mild side effects are worth working around. But if they’re getting in the way of living your life, that’s a sign the medication probably isn’t right for you.
You Feel Listless or Apathetic
Sometimes (particularly with antidepressants) people can notice their depression lessens, but they also feel less motivated in general. Their emotions become dulled and they have trouble experiencing any emotion – good or bad. Remember, the purpose of psychiatric treatment is to improve your life and help you feel better, not just to get rid of sadness.
How to Tackle the Problem
Don’t Panic – And Keep Taking Your Medication
It can be tempting to stop taking your medication the second you realize it’s not for you, but it’s important to resist that urge. Abruptly stopping some medications can cause withdrawal symptoms. Never stop taking your medication without talking to your prescriber first.
While you wait for a chance to talk to your provider, try not to get discouraged. Just because this medication didn’t work out for you doesn’t mean you’ll never find one that works.
While you’re still taking the medication, write down how you feel and what specifically about the medication isn’t working for you. Are you experiencing side effects? What are they? How severe are they? The more detailed information you can provide when you see your prescriber, the better they’ll be able to help you find alternatives.
Consider Potential Other Causes
Has your lifestyle recently changed? Are you not seeing the progress you hoped for in therapy? Have you recently gotten some bad news? Are you going through a rough patch in your personal life?
Even if you can identify other reasons why you’re not feeling your best, it can still be worth revisiting your medication with your prescriber. They may want to adjust your dosage or talk about alternatives to help you handle the inevitable lows of life.
Meet with Your Prescriber
During your appointment, explain how the medication is affecting you and your overall mental health. They’ll probably ask you questions like:
- Has the severity of your symptoms changed? If so, have they improved or worsened – and by how much?
- Have you experienced any side effects on the medication? If so, how intense were they?
- Have any side effects gone away, or are they continuing to linger?
- Do you feel like this is a good medication for you?
Try to think of your medication experience as an opportunity. Each time you try a new treatment, you learn a little bit more about how your body and brain work. So while the first medication you try may not be the right one for you, the way you respond to that medication can help your prescriber narrow down what options might be effective for you.
Based on what you tell them, they may recommend changing your dosage, adding a new medication, or discontinuing your current medication and trying a different one.
Keep Things in Perspective
Many people can find themselves frustrated when they have to change their medication – and with good reason. Side effects can irritate you or disrupt your routine, tapering medications can feel complicated, and it’s another trip to the pharmacy for you to fit into your schedule.
Even worse, it can feel like you’re not seeing progress. This is often especially true for people who have tried a lot of different medications without seeing the results they want.
Realizing your medication isn’t right for you can be nerve-wracking and frustrating, especially if side effects feel like they’re derailing your life. Try to think of it as part of the process, rather than a total loss. After all, this puts you one step closer to finding the right medication for you! Try to keep that excellent goal in mind.