It has taken about 2 centuries for medication to become main stream for treatment of physical illnesses. In the second half of the 19th century, Lithium was first discovered to have an effect on the nervous system and its mood stabilizing properties. This made lithium the first psychotropic created along with Thorazine. Much like the case with the first medications for physical illness, there is a lot of fear and shame that is attached currently to psychotropic drugs.
Stigma of Medication
When I first shared with someone that I was on mood stabilizing medication, I was met with fearful looks. I was often told that these medicines change your personality permanently and they lead to rapid weight gain. I think the time is right for me to share something I haven’t before. When I heard all these things, I was scared.
I have always dreaded being fat and this made me very wary of taking those meds I was on. I didn’t take them for some time. I‘d say that I had but I didn’t. It was miserable and I was afraid and I lied to everyone close to me to avoid taking those medicines. There is no way that could have helped me. If I had taken those medicines when I was at a mild stage, things might not have gotten to how bad they were, but we won’t know that ever.
There are many people like I was; who are afraid of these medications. They are afraid of the side-effects, addiction or the whole concept of medicating an issue of the mind.
An Issue of the Doctors
Another important aspect is that psychiatrists don’t really acknowledge the fact that psychotropic drugs have a different objective from the pharmaceuticals. When it comes to medication of a mental disorder, it is important that the views of the patient are taken into account as well. This doesn’t work like physical illnesses wherein patient input is not necessary when prescribing medicines.
If the sufferer feels that a particular medicine is not making them feel better but is causing extreme side effects, it is better to take them off it. Just because a medicine worked on most of your previous patients doesn’t mean it is a universal cure. Psychiatrists need to build an environment where the sufferer and the doctor are comfortable in sharing what they feel and have a discussion about the right course of action instead of a monologue.
In recent times the awareness about mild or moderate forms of mental illnesses has increased considerably. This has made people more conscious of the fact that mental illnesses are real and need some kind of intervention. The unfortunate thing that has come out of it though is that people don’t necessarily understand the intensity of a severe disorder as much. This might make people underestimate the level of assistance and use of medication necessary to treat a severe or enduring mental disorder.
People who have been prescribed the medicines don’t always follow the schedule they need to. They may end up going for a herbal medicine or worst of all, homeopathy. We people also end up acting like psychiatrists and prescribe medicines to people who we think have similar symptoms.
There is not a lot of accurate understanding of psychotropic drugs in the society today. It is human nature to be afraid of something we don’t understand. We need to understand that psychotropic drugs take time to have an effect (around 6 weeks). They need your inputs when being prescribed as well. This is different from traditional medicine and the fear attached is understandable as well. We need to seek knowledge rather than spread fear in order to build a more healthy and intelligent society.