Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Medication for Mental Health Disorders

Table of Contents

When a person is dealing with mental health conditions, the journey can be challenging. Mental health problems affect how we feel, think, and behave. They can change our moods, everyday life, and health. But there’s good news: many people can get better with the right treatment plan. And one essential part of many treatment plans is medication.

There are many different types of mental health medications. These include drugs for depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Each type of medication works in its way to help manage the symptoms of these mental illnesses.

Just like for other health problems, treating mental health conditions often needs more than just medication. It also includes things like therapy and lifestyle changes. Together, these different methods can help people manage their mental health better.

Common Mental Health Disorders and Medication Treatment


Medication Options for Treating Depression

Depression is a common mental health condition. Many people with depression feel sad, and tired, and lose interest in things they once enjoyed. Medication can help treat depression. Common types include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Depression

SSRIs are a common type of medication for depression. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin, a brain chemical, in the brain. This helps improve mood and relieve symptoms of depression.

Anxiety Disorders

Medication Options for Treating Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can make people feel worried or fearful a lot of the time. Some medications can help treat anxiety. These include benzodiazepines, SSRIs, and beta-blockers.

Anti-Anxiety Medications and Their Role in Anxiety Treatment

Anti-anxiety medications work by slowing down the brain’s activity. This helps people feel more relaxed and less anxious. It’s important to use these medications carefully, as they can be habit-forming.

Bipolar Disorder

Medication Options for Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder can feel very happy and energetic at times and very sad and tired at other times. Medications used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and sometimes antidepressants.

Mood Stabilizers and Other Medications for Bipolar Treatment

Mood stabilizers help balance moods and reduce the highs and lows of bipolar disorder. These can include drugs like lithium and anticonvulsant medications.


Antipsychotic Medications for Treating Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia can cause people to have false beliefs, see or hear things that aren’t there, and have trouble thinking clearly. Antipsychotic medications can help manage these symptoms.

Managing Symptoms and Promoting Stability with Psychiatric Medications

Both first-generation antipsychotics and newer, atypical antipsychotics can be used to treat schizophrenia. They work by affecting the brain chemicals that influence how we think and perceive the world.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Medication Treatment

ADHD can make it hard for kids and adults to focus, control their behavior, and stay calm. Medications, like stimulants and non-stimulants, can help reduce these symptoms.

Stimulant and Non-Stimulant Medications for ADHD Management

Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD. They work by increasing the levels of certain brain chemicals, which helps improve attention and focus. Non-stimulant medications work differently but can also help manage ADHD symptoms.

Role of Medication in Reducing ADHD Symptoms and Improving Functioning

Medication for ADHD can help reduce symptoms like restlessness, impulsivity, and distractibility. This can help individuals with ADHD do better at school or work and improve their relationships with others.

Common Medications and Their Effects

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Antidepressants

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant medication. They are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. They work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which can improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Anti-Anxiety Medications and Their Role in Treating Anxiety Disorders

Anti-anxiety medications, like benzodiazepines, can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. They work by slowing down the brain’s activity.

Mood Stabilizers and Their Use in Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Mood stabilizers are used to treat bipolar disorder. They work by reducing mood swings and helping to keep moods stable.

Antipsychotic Medications for Managing Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Antipsychotic medications can help manage symptoms of schizophrenia, like hallucinations and delusions. They work by affecting certain brain chemicals.

Considerations and Side Effects of Psychiatric Medications

Potential Side Effects of Psychiatric Medications

Taking medication to treat mental disorders can be an effective part of a treatment plan, but like all medicines, they come with potential side effects. Side effects can vary greatly depending on the specific medication, dosage, and individual response. Always remember that a healthcare professional should closely monitor any treatment plan. Some possible side effects of mental health medications include:

  • Drowsiness: This is common, especially when starting a new medication or increasing the dosage. Over time, this effect usually diminishes.

  • Weight gain: Certain medications, including mood stabilizers and some types of antidepressants, may cause weight gain.

  • Dry mouth: Many psychiatric drugs can cause dry mouth, which, if severe, can contribute to dental issues.

  • Nausea: This is a common side effect, particularly when starting a new medication. It usually subsides over time.

  • Constipation or diarrhea: These side effects can occur with a variety of mental health drugs and may be managed with dietary adjustments and other treatments.

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness: These effects are common, especially when standing up quickly.

  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure: Some medications can cause these effects, so regular monitoring by a healthcare provider is necessary.

  • Headaches: These can occur with different medications but often diminish over time.

Sexual Dysfunction and Other Commonly Reported Side Effects

Sexual dysfunction is another possible side effect of some psychiatric medications. This can present in several ways:

  • Reduced sexual desire: Some individuals may experience decreased libido or sexual desire.

  • Difficulty achieving orgasm: This can affect both men and women and is a known side effect of certain medications, particularly some antidepressants.

  • Erectile dysfunction: This is a potential side effect for men taking certain psychiatric medications.

Other commonly reported side effects of psychiatric drugs include:

  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances: Some medications can affect sleep patterns, causing either sleepiness or insomnia.

  • Blurred vision: This is a possible side effect of some psychiatric drugs.

  • Mental fog or difficulty concentrating: Some individuals report feeling “foggy” or having trouble concentrating while taking certain medications.

Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help manage side effects and ensure your medication works properly.

Personalized Treatment Approaches and Considerations

Not everyone with the same mental health condition will respond to medication in the same way. That’s why working with a mental health professional is important to find the best medication and dosage for you.

A mental health professional can help you create a personalized treatment plan. This might include medication but also other treatments like therapy or lifestyle changes.

Most mental health medications can cause side effects, like weight gain or sleep problems. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help manage these side effects and ensure the medication works properly.

Collaboration Between Medication and Therapy

Medication can help manage symptoms, but therapy can help people learn new ways to think and cope. Combining medication and therapy can often lead to better outcomes than either treatment alone.

A holistic approach to mental health treatment includes medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. This comprehensive approach can help improve overall mental health and well-being.

Medication and therapy often work better together. The medication can help manage symptoms, while therapy can help address the root causes of the mental health condition.

Treatment-Resistant Cases and Additional Approaches

If standard treatments aren’t working, there may be other options available. For example, a different medication or a different type of therapy may be more effective.

Sometimes, adding a second medication, an adjunctive medication, can help improve symptoms. Other treatments, like therapy or lifestyle changes, can also be helpful.

In addition to medication, therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy can be effective in managing mental health conditions.


Medication plays a key role in managing many mental health conditions. It can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to seek help. A mental health professional can help find the right treatment, which may include medication.

Managing mental health disorders often requires a comprehensive approach, including medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Together, these treatments can help individuals live healthier, happier lives.

Choose NuView Treatment Center for Personalized Mental Health Medication Management

Navigating the challenges of mental health disorders can feel daunting, but at NuView Treatment Center, you don’t have to do it alone. Our skilled team is here to help guide you through the complexities of mental health medications and treatments.

We specialize in personalizing treatment plans for mood disorders, depressive disorders, and schizoaffective disorders, considering all factors, including family history and existing conditions. If you’re battling treatment-resistant depression or persistent severe symptoms, our team is adept at handling complex cases, ensuring you receive the best care possible.

Adjusting to mental health medications can take time, but our caring professionals will be with you every step of the way. From the first few weeks of regular blood tests and monitoring to the management of any side effects or risks, we are committed to providing holistic care. We believe in patient empowerment and aim to provide you with the knowledge and tools necessary for recovery.

Whether you’re starting with medication for the first time or have tried many medications before, reach out to NuView Treatment Center today at (323) 307-7997 or send us a message from our contact page. Together, we can embark on a journey towards balanced mental health and a fulfilling life.

Frequently Asked Questions about Mental Health Medication

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Yes, healthcare providers often prescribe more than one medication to treat mental health problems effectively. This is called a combination or adjunctive therapy.

Antidepressant medications work by altering the chemicals in your brain that affect mood and emotions. They can help to ease symptoms of depressive disorder and other mental illnesses.
Most mental health medications, including antidepressants and mood stabilizers, take several weeks to start showing their full effects. Patients should closely monitor their symptoms and communicate any changes with their healthcare provider.
Yes, treating schizoaffective disorder often involves a combination of medications, including antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants. The specific medications prescribed will depend on the individual’s symptoms and response to treatment.
Oral antidepressants are medications taken by mouth to treat depression and other mental disorders. They work by balancing brain chemicals to help improve mood and reduce other symptoms.
All medications can cause side effects. Mental health drugs are no different, and some people may experience side effects such as weight gain, sleep problems, or feelings of restlessness. It’s important to discuss these risks with your healthcare provider and to closely monitor any changes after starting a new medication.
Yes, certain types of nasal sprays have been approved by the National Institute of Health for use in treating specific mental disorders like depression. These treatments may provide an alternative for individuals who have not responded to traditional oral medications.
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Chu A, Wadhwa R. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

Penninx, Brenda W J H et al. “Benzodiazepines for the long-term treatment of anxiety disorders? – Authors’ reply.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 398,10295 (2021): 120. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00931-4

National Health Service (NHS). “Treatment – Bipolar Disorder.” NHS, 11 Feb. 2021,

Lally, John, and James H MacCabe. “Antipsychotic medication in schizophrenia: a review.” British medical bulletin vol. 114,1 (2015): 169-79. doi:10.1093/bmb/ldv017

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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