Each diagnosis has national guidelines that clinicians generally follow. Knowing these guidelines can help you and your family to better understand the options available. They begin with the focused strategies to help you discern what the challenges are. This remains an ongoing process as healthy daily routines are suggested. Suggestions become more aligned with you needs as the exact challenges become more obvious. It is at this point that specific therapies including medications can be considered. You will discuss what you have attempted to date, what helped and what hasn't. By this time a 'working diagnosis' is usually reached that best describes the 'symptom clusters' and the challenges you and your family face.
A diagnosis is a collection of symptoms that tend to run together and causes our life variable challenges. It seems that each of us is different and we each express these imbalances in unique ways. As time passes the results of these imbalances tend to draw our lives further off course. Sometimes knowing these tendencies is enough to establish which of our bodies circuits is struggling, develop a plan of action and learn from strategies we find helpful. A medication is offered when it is felt that it will quicken your response and maximize your efforts to restore your quality of life.
There are national treatment guidelines available for each diagnosis or symptoms cluster. The National Institute of Mental Health’s web site offers excellent information on many aspects of each condition. It also discusses the various treatment options including medication. Having this information will greatly improve your chances of communicating well with both family members and your treatment team.
How Psychiatric Medications are Chosen
The specific medication you and your doctor choose will depend on many factors. Have you or a family member done well with a certain type of medication in the past? What has worked for you in the past? What has not worked? Do you have other health concerns or a history of allergies to certain medications? What other medications do you take? Do you have a second or even third psychiatric diagnosis (some do)! Do you have a history of sensitivity to certain side effects? After reviewing these things and more, you and your doctor will decide if a medication is right for you. Then, your discussion with your doctor will continue as you consider which medication has the best chance for success with the least possible side effects. This then can be added to the daily health regimens mentioned in 'Caring for Your Vessel'
Can Psychiatric Medication Improve Quality of Life?
Psychiatric medications are thought to help by restoring optimal communications between individual neurons. As communications are restored various body systems are brought back to their natural balance. You may notice that some of your symptoms may improve right away as the neurons begin to talk to each other again. Other symptoms may take more time to improve as individual body systems slowly improve. Still other symptoms may take a year or longer to improve as we shed old habits and build daily routines that develop new neuronal pathways.
As new habits form, relationships restore and we create greater vision for our lives. Lastly, some symptoms or challenges may never completely resolve. Here is where our spiritual wisdom comes into play. As Mother Teresa might say, "Let's learn to live with it and enjoy our lives anyway." This choice may be the single greatest gift we offer all of those who know and love us. To avoid the need to make such decisions we need to deal with small problems before they become big problems. This is where a carefully laid out plan for self-care with daily goals that we share with our loved ones becomes so valuable.
The best way to think about taking any medication is to consider it just one more way you are improving the quality of your life. Once medications are prescribed, be sure to discuss whether you should take the medication with or without food as this can make a big difference in the amount that is absorbed. Taking daily medications at the same time of day also helps optimize the effects of the medications by allowing the medication’s effects to work with the body’s circadian rhythm. This will also ensure that the entire day is being positively affected. If you struggle to remember taking your medication consider attaching your medication bottle to your tooth paste with two rubber bands.
Optimally, the medication will help lessen symptoms while allowing daily progress towards your life goals. Others may notice improvement a week or two before you do. You and your therapist may notice improvements in your ability to move forward with the goals you have set for yourself. Charting these results daily, along with any side effects you may experience will help you and your doctor make decisions along the way.
You and your doctor will need to devise a plan should you have any questions about your medications, its side effects and/or any worsening of symptoms. Just like anything else you put in or on your body, what will help one person may not help another. Monitoring your progress and keeping open communications between you, your doctor and other team members quicken recognition of problems and maximizes your efforts.
Tracking Your Progress: Why Good Record Keeping is a Must
As time goes by your records are of the utmost importance. They document types of therapies, timing of response, effect of various stresses, effect of food types, time of day, day of the week, what has worked and what has not. Many times the response to one kind of treatment can help with the selection of others. It is not unusual to attempt several approaches in therapy and/or types of medications before you find what works best for you. Each of us are unique, and like any other strategy for self-improvement, the path you begin with will likely need to be adjusted to find the 'sweet spot' that works just right for you. As always, a close trusting relationship with your support team is your best ally to move through this part of your life optimally.
As time goes by, if you are not satisfied with your progress, share your concerns with your clinicians. There are always options and additional resources that can be called on. If needed, get a second opinion, even if it is only for your own peace of mind. It is well worth it, as building confidence in your efforts can only serve you. Your clinician knows this and will encourage these open and honest discussions about how you feel and what your options are.