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Medication Myths

posted Feb 24, 2014, 6:30 AM by AndrewandSarah Witzel
Mental illness and its treatment is widely misunderstood, and medications for mood disorders are no exceptions. There are many misconceptions regarding their use, safety, and effectiveness, and these barriers can prevent or delay women and their families from seeking help and starting necessary treatment. The following are just a few inaccurate viewpoints.

Myth: Medication should be a last resort for treatment

Reality: Even though not every woman suffering from a perinatal mental illness requires medication, many do benefit from it greatly. For mild postpartum depression or anxiety, some women will only need counseling or other non-drug interventions, but other situations necessitate medication use. Your healthcare provider will help you decide what is right in your individual circumstances.

Myth: Antidepressants and other psychiatric medication have too many side effects

Reality: Although side effects can occur while using these medications (nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness are some possibilities), the effects tend to go away within a few weeks of starting treatment. One serious but very rare side effect of antidepressants that has been hyped in the media is worsening mental state and  suicidal ideation. If this side effect does occur, seek medical attention, but bear in mind that for the vast majority of people the benefits of treatment outweigh the risk of any side effects.

Myth: Psychiatric medication is addictive

Reality: While a  few types of psychiatric medication (e.g. sleeping pills, certain anti-anxiety drugs) can be addictive or habit-forming, most (including all antidepressants) are not. It is important to never stop using them abruptly without your doctor’s advice, however, because you may experience what is called ‘discontinuation syndrome’. This produces effects such as headache and flu-like symptoms. Instead, your doctor will advise you to gradually taper the medication if you are to stop using it.

Myth: I can’t use medications if I’m breastfeeding

Reality: Most medications are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Some antidepressants have more research backing their safety in this area than others, so speak to your health care professional about which one is the best choice if you are nursing. You do not need to choose between breastfeeding and using antidepressants.

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