Types of Psychiatric Drug Therapy
- Antipsychotic agents treat psychosis and schizophrenia and include brands such as Thorazine, Risperdal and Haldol. Side effects of antipsychotic drugs can include low blood pressure, weight gain, constipation, dry mouth and blurry vision
- Antimanic or mood-stabilizing drugs are used to treat bipolar mood disorder, mainly manic-depression. Perhaps the most famous antimanic medication is lithium. Side effects of antimanic drugs can include weight gain, tremors, increased urination, and decreased thyroid function.
- Antidepressants. There are three types: (1) Tricyclic (examples: Elavil, Tofranil), (2) Monoamine oxidase(MAO) inhibitors (examples Nardil) and (3) Serotonin reuptake blockers (examples: Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil. Antidepressant side effects can include dry mouth, constipation, dizziness, weight gain, sexual problems and insomnia.
- Anxiety Disorders. The two types of drugs used to treat these conditions include (1) Benzodiazepines (examples: Valium, Xanax, Ativan) and (2) Non-benzodiazepines (example: BuSpar). Side effects of antianxiety drugs can include sedation and physical dependency.
If you are consulting a psychiatrist for drug therapy make sure you know your medical history in detail. Let him or her know of the medications you are currently taking and have taken in the past. It is also helpful to let the psychiatrist know your habits such as smoking, alcohol, exercise and diet. Some medications can be dangerous if combined. During the second visit tell the psychiatrist about any side effects or problems. Dose adjustments may be needed. During the next few weeks, keep in touch with your physician by phone and write down any side effects. Most psychiatric medications take from two to six weeks to become effective and the one month mark is a good time to reassess how you feel. Open communication with your doctor about your medications will enable him or her to help you find the most effective treatment.
The key to understanding which therapy is most effective for you is to realize which type of treatment you are most comfortable with. If you find that you are continually bombarded with negative thoughts throughout the day, which result in negative and sour moods throughout the week, perhaps individual cognitive therapy would be the best form of treatment. If, however, you are diagnosed with manic-depression, a severe type of disorder that requires medication, then medication may help quiet your manic thoughts and hallucinations. Whatever treatment you choose, realize that finding help either through one-on-one, group or pharmacological intervention will help you to achieve a better quality of life.
- Nicholi A, editor. The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry. Cambridge (MA): Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 1999, p.415.
- Gorman J. The Essential Guide to Mental Health. New York: St. Martin's Griffin; 1996, p. 45.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Grace Tsai received her doctorate from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health with an emphasis on Social and Behavioral Sciences. She investigated mental health issues in Asian and Asian American communities for her doctoral dissertation. She has served as a Psychiatric Epidemiologist in the Department of Mental Hygiene at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Tsai has also researched other mental health topics such as depression and suicide. She writes on mental health issues for various health organizations.