Psychotropic Medication

There are several categories of medication that can help you with your condition:

Tranquilizers

If you are suffering from anxiety, tranquilisers such as Diazepam (more commonly known as Valium) may be helpful for a short while. Tranquilizers are not antidepressants and do not work in the same way. They are for short term use only as they are very addictive. You must only take these under strict direction from your doctor. Never take more than your doctor prescribes.

Antidepressants

Your doctor or psychiatrist will assess you to establish the severity of your illness. If you are mildly depressed, he/she will probably advise you on certain strategies to help you get better without medication. However, he/she may recommend anti-depressants if you are moderately to severely depressed. It is entirely up to you whether you accept this medication or not. In many cases, anti-depressive medication can be helpful. It is important to understand that antidepressants treat the symptoms of depression and not the underlying cause. To use the flu analogy again, they are the “Lemsips” used to help you make you feel better and to function.

There are many different anti-depressant drugs available, but they fall into just a few categories. The main categories are SSRIs, SNRIs, NASSAs and TCAs. This handbook won’t go into detail about the various drug types and how they work. There is plenty of information available on the web and in other books describing in detail what these drugs are and how they work. In short, these drugs work by increasing levels of certain neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, which are otherwise too low in a depressed patient.

Brain chemistry is still not understood as well as we would like. We are learning more and more as time goes on, but the finer details of the mechanisms by which these medicines work is still not very well understood.

You must be warned that unlike tranquilizers, the effect is not immediate. It takes time for this type of medicine to get into your system and influence your brain chemistry. It may take 3 weeks or more before you will notice a difference. Also not all medicines work on all people in the same way. You may hit upon one that works for you first time, but if it doesn’t, ask your doctor for an alternative. For example SSRIs work wonderfully well for some people, but they weren’t right for me. They made me agitated and made my insomnia worse. I switched to an SNRI-based medicine which worked very well for me.

Sleeping pills

Depression and anxiety can cause insomnia, sometimes severe. Further, this insomnia can be exacerbated by certain types of SSRI antidepressant medication. If your illness is accompanied by severe insomnia, tell your doctor and he will try to find medication that will not make your insomnia worse than it is already.

It is important that you get some sleep, because when you are very tired, you generally feel worse. So if you are having trouble sleeping then, there is no harm in taking sleeping pills for a while. There are different types of sleeping pills, and some types may work better for you than others. Let your doctor advise you on the type of sleeping medication you should take and for how long.