Skip to the main content.

4 min read

Medication Management: How to Avoid Overuse of Psychiatric Drugs

man who needs psychiatric drugs

Always consult a doctor for dosage and usage information of any prescription drugs. Never take a medication that was not specifically prescribed for you.

While psychiatric medications have offered enormous benefits to individuals with difficult to manage symptoms, there is still a lot of stigma and controversy surrounding their use. While these medicines can be literally life-saving in certain mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and others, there may be cases in which they can complicate matters. So the question is, can medication make mental illness worse?

In this article, we'll share an overview of several common psychiatric medications, their benefits and side-effects, and how to find the best balance of medical treatment for certain mental health disorders.

What Are Common Mental Health Medications?

Psychiatric drugs are a type of medication that affect the brain chemicals that influence thought patterns and emotions. Also known as psychotropic drugs, they are typically used as an aid to other therapeutic treatments like talk therapy. Therapeutic doses are meant to manage symptoms and allow the individual to participate more actively in psychotherapy to work through mental disorders.

There are several types of psychiatric drugs that are used for mental health conditions, the most common are: antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, and stimulants.


Antidepressant medications are used to treat depression, especially forms of treatment resistant depression or bipolar disorder. There are different types of antidepressant medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), older tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Sometimes a mental health professional will prescribe a combination of medications, including an antidepressant with a mood stabilizer, or an antipsychotic medication.

Anti-Anxiety Medication

Certain anxiety disorders may be treated with antidepressants, while others may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, or Valium). These medications are not recommended for long-term use as they carry risk factors for addiction. Busiprone can be used for anxiety disorders and is non-habit forming.

Antipsychotic Medications

Certain psychiatric disorders cause delusions (false beliefs), and hallucinations (false perceptions). These types of mental illnesses are called psychotic disorders and include schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorders. Antipsychotic medications are used to treat these mental disorders, and sometimes mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. A challenge with these medications, especially first generation antipsychotics, is that there are a number of side effects. These side effects can be more or less evident, depending on the person. With long term use, the drug effect can affect brain function, especially for those who may have been around since they were young adults. These side effects include:

  • Tardive dyskinesia, a movement disorder that causes uncontrolled movements
  • Neuroleptic malignant syndrome, severe muscle rigidity, fever, and high blood pressure that can lead to coma and death
  • Agranulocytosis, a condition that decreases immune system function

In clinical trials and in regular use, new generation antipsychotics seem to be far better tolerated than the old psychiatric drugs. These are often known as atypical antipsychotics. An atypical antipsychotic works on both the dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. Atypical antipsychotics are prescribed for certain manic disorders, paranoid delusions, schizophrenia, and OCD. They have far fewer side effects, with weight gain being the most common.


Stimulants such as amphetamines and methylphenidate are used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Benefits of Mental Health Medications

Mental health medications, despite the stigma that can surround them, are extremely beneficial for a number of individuals experiencing mental illness or mental health emergencies. Certain mental disorders, like bipolar disorder and forms of severe depression, require some combination of psychiatric drugs to get to a baseline for other treatments.

Psychiatric treatment and psychiatric diagnosis will sometimes include prescribed antipsychotics, anti depressants, or anti-anxiety medications to avoid severe or life-threatening mental health symptoms. For some with certain mental disorders, these psychiatric drugs can offer a better quality of life; reducing psychiatric symptoms like panic attacks, anhedonia, behavioral symptoms, psychotic symptoms, and more.

Side Effects of Mental Health Medications

The challenge with prescribing a psychiatric drug (or a combination of psychiatric drugs) to treat depression or schizophrenia is that symptoms must be closely monitored by a mental health professional. Certain medications may make mental disorders worse, have severe side effects, interact poorly with other medications, and cause withdrawal symptoms when the individual is taken off psychotropic drugs.

Taking medication for certain psychiatric disorders can do more harm than good, depending on the individual. Adverse effects may also lead to bigger problems, such as cognitive impairment, or a mentally ill patient seeking illegal drugs to manage symptoms if they lose access to their psychiatric drug. Mental health can be complicated, and mental disorders are best managed by a combination of mental health medications and other treatments.

Focus on Combination Treatments

Combination treatments for psychiatric disorders can include psychotropic drugs, regular psychotherapy sessions, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, such as treatment resistant depression, electroconvulsive therapy or ketamine.

Scientific evidence shared by the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association posits that an important factor in treating psychiatric disorders is offering a person-centered approach. Mental health should never be one-size-fits-all. A treatment plan for serious mental disorders with mental delusions or severe mood swings is often a team effort with a patient, a medical professional, and one or more therapists.

When Mental Health Medications May Be Necessary

When a person is diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, psychiatric drugs may be necessary, either in the short or long term, to reduce symptoms and promote mental health. However, this must be determined by a medical professional, like a doctor or psychiatrist. The treatment plan must consider other medications being used, adverse effects, drug use, impulse control, symptoms, and daily life. The right medications may take time to determine, as the provider monitors adverse effects on brain activity, the nervous system, and on mental health.

When depressed patients are overwhelmed by their symptoms, or when a psychiatric symptom like delusion leads to behavioral problems, certain drugs can help manage these symptoms so that talk therapy can work.

Supporting Team Treatment in Brooklyn

Mental health care is often a team effort, especially in cases where psychotropic drugs are involved. If you are managing a mental disorder like depression with medication and don't have a therapist, you may not be getting everything you need.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offers evidence-based therapeutic interventions that can get to the root of your symptoms, and provide valuable clues on how to proceed with your treatment plan.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Brooklyn therapist to support your mental health care journey with the tools you need to cope with stress and improve overall mental health and wellness. 

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

A woman with postpartum depression

How Postpartum Depression is Treated

Pregnancy, birth, and the immediate aftermath of parenting are times of enormous change and upheaval in a person's life. Pregnant and postpartum...

Read More
a teen in therapy

Effective Therapy Activities for Teens

Most of us understand that there is some difference to how therapy sessions are structured for teens and adults. However, many parents may be...

Read More
therapy office in austin

What Should I Do If I'm Attracted to My Therapist?

A strong therapeutic relationship can be essential to success in therapy, but when the professional relationship begins to take on romantic feelings...

Read More