March 12, 2024

So You’re Thinking About Taking Medication: Part Two

By Pamela Larkin
Anxiety & Depression
Mental Health & Wellbeing
Postpartum & Perinatal

During my last blog, we focused on the different treatment approaches that impact a providers view on prescribing medications. Today, I’d like to spend some time focusing on the emotional struggles you may be facing that might lead providers to a recommendation for prescribing medications.

Different Struggles may Illicit Medication as a Part of Treatment

When I meet with someone for the first time in the counseling session, often a person’s goal is to decrease the emotions and thoughts that are overwhelming them.  It’s helpful for us to talk about what has aided them with these thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, someone may share that they’ve tried taking medication before. While I am not licensed to prescribe medication, it’s helpful to know if they’ve taken it in the past and what effect it had on them.

I have found that taking the right medication can be helpful in reducing the frequency or intensity of distressing feelings.  There are a few emotional struggles particularly that researchers recommend with counseling.

Feeling Depressed

Those include those who may struggle with severe feelings of hopelessness and low motivation that impacts their relationships, responsibilities, and self-care.  Some may feel feelings of depression for a variety of reasons.  Maybe you are a parent after your child’s birth and you are experiencing intense feelings due to postpartum.  This is different from “baby blues” that can occur within the first week to 10 days.  You recall what you felt like before this all began and you are longing to feel like your old self again. You fear that this depressed feeling will never go away.  Perhaps you feel disconnected from your baby. You notice yourself experiencing deep rage (often towards your partner).  For male partners, you may suffer from “masked male depression” which shows up as increased substance use, hostility, rage, engagement in at-risk behaviors, or withdrawal.

Some may feel down due to a number of losses.  Different from grief, feelings of depression are described here as a constant or continued cloud of heaviness in which moments of relief or joyfulness are absent.  For others, you may not know where those feelings originated from, all you know is that on top of feeling heaviness you are often critical of yourself, struggle with low-self esteem or guilt, and may have thought about taking your own life.  Because of the nature of depressed feelings, providers often will suggest medication in hopes of decreasing the intensity and enabling individuals to manage the stressors of life with more energy.

Struggling with Psychosis

The other struggle in which medications are recommended are those who may struggle with hearing voices, seeing things that others may not see, the feeling that others are against you, and those who experience false beliefs that are so ingrained that they cannot be changed even when there’s evidence that it is not true. In pregnancy or postpartum, this can look like: a fear of being controlled, disorganized thinking, being emotionally distant from family and baby, held beliefs that baby is unsafe.  With psychosis, there’s a lack of concern for distorted thinking & a true belief that these thoughts are true.  The risk of harm to self (suicide) or baby (infanticide) is so great that medication management or hospitalization is often necessary.  I’m naming these struggles instead of calling it some type of Psychotic disorder because the truth is there are multiple struggles that can elicit these symptoms.

Types of Medications

The medications that are often used to assist individuals with depressed or feelings of psychosis are antidepressants and antipsychotic medications.   Antidepressants can possibly impact low mood, appetite, problems with sleep, low energy, and difficulty concentrating.  For those who are suffering from postpartum Bipolar Disorder, it’s important to note that some antidepressants can induce feelings of mania.  Antipsychotic medications can help reduce hearing voices, seeing things that no one else sees, struggles with false beliefs, and disorganized thoughts and actions. Dr. John Preston, Psy.D., ABPP created a Quick Reference to Psychiatric Medications that may be good to bring to a physician or pharmacist.

Again, I absolutely recommend speaking with your physician about different medications.  It is true that studies have been done to help providers prescribe the most effective medication, each person is different.  Truly you are the greatest expert in how it’s impacting you. Furthermore, it’s important to know how each medication can impact your perinatal journey (from baby growing in utero to your ability to breastfeed).   So ask questions, bring someone along with you to the appointment, explore what your personal beliefs are about taking medication.  Please know I am available and willing to explore this process with you!  Call today!

Written By

Pamela Larkin

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