Not everyone needs psychiatric medication as part of their mental health treatment program. But they can be highly beneficial in managing mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorders, and many types of anxiety. Psychiatric medications are most helpful when combined with psychotherapy, although it’s not required.

If you think taking psychiatric medications may help, or if your psychiatric provider has recommended them, you may be concerned about potential side effects and wondering if they can even help.

Like any prescription medication, psych meds, otherwise known as psychotropic medications, can have unpleasant side effects. But they can also be a beneficial tool in controlling undesirable mental illness symptoms.

How Psychiatric Medications Work

Your brain contains more than 60 types of neurotransmitters constantly working to manage your breathing, concentration, heartbeat, and more. These small powerhouse chemicals are messengers to carry, boost, and balance neuron signals and target cells in your body. They also affect your feelings and emotions like pleasure, fear, joy, and mood.

Psychotropic medications balance these neurotransmitters in your brain and body to reduce undesirable mental illness symptoms.

The neurotransmitters psych meds target include:

  • serotonin –  your happy hormone
  • dopamine – your pleasure hormone
  • y-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) – your calming neurotransmitter
  • norepinephrine

The medications prescribed by your psychiatric provider are meant to help you feel more regulated.

Risks of Taking Psychiatric Medications

Of course, there are pros and cons to taking psych meds. It’s also important to understand you may need to try a few different medications before settling on the one that’s right for you. Finding the proper combination of meds and therapy may take some time. It’s crucial to stay patient and trust your psychiatric provider.


Woman taking pill


There are some potential risks to taking psychiatric medications. Most are rare, and if you experience them, you must notify your provider. Let them know about any adverse side effects or if you feel like your current meds or dosage aren’t working for you, and they’ll adjust appropriately.

Before we get into the potential risks, it’s essential to understand that, although there may be some misconceptions about them, most psychiatric medications are not addictive. Unlike prescription opioids which can be highly addictive, psychotropic medications are not. They are given in a controlled therapeutic dose to help manage your mental illness symptoms.

The most common types of psychiatric medications include:

  • antidepressants – for clinical depression
  • antipsychotics – for symptoms of psychosis
  • anxiolytics – for anxiety (These can be addictive and typically only prescribed for short periods.)
  • hypnotics – to help with sleep
  • mood stabilizers – for bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), schizoaffective disorder, and depression
  • stimulants – to treat ADHD and narcolepsy

Risk #1: Side Effects

All medications, prescribed and over the counter, can have side effects. Psychiatric medications are no exception. Depending on the type of medication, you may experience mild side effects you can deal with or side effects you absolutely cannot tolerate. Or you may not experience any.

The side effects of the different types of psych meds vary, but the most common ones include:

  • dry mouth
  • sexual side effects
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • drowsiness
  • sleep disturbances
  • dizziness
  • blurry vision
  • nausea
  • constipation

There is also the possibility of more serious side effects, which you should tell your psychiatric provider about immediately if you experience:

  • allergic reactions
  • mania
  • seizures
  • suicidal ideation
  • tremors
  • loss of coordination

Side effects vary from person to person, and just because they are possible doesn’t mean you’ll experience them. Many individuals experience little to no side effects with psychiatric medications.

However, if you experience non-severe side effects, talk about it with your psychiatric provider. Together, you can decide if you think the benefits outweigh the side effects you feel.


woman with depression

Risk #2: Delayed Onset

In today’s instant gratification world, it’s understandable to desire immediate positive effects from taking your psychiatric medication. You want to feel better as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Depending on the medication and your individual makeup, you may get relief from your symptoms quickly, or it may take a few days, weeks, or even months. That’s why it’s crucial to communicate with your psychiatric provider and keep them up to speed on how you’re doing on the medication prescribed.

Risk #3: Effectiveness

Everyone’s reactivity and response to taking psychiatric medications are different. It may take a while to experience symptom relief, or your prescription may not work for you. If you find this to be the case, it’s critical that you do not stop taking your medication on your own. This can be dangerous and cause you discomfort.

Patience is key when finding the proper psychiatric medication or combination of medication and therapy. The important thing is to keep trying until you find the right one. The benefits of the right treatment can make a world of difference in your life.

Benefits of Taking Psychiatric Medications

There are so many positives to taking psychiatric medication. While psych meds may not be suitable for everyone, the potential benefits can improve your mental, physical, and relationship health. While staying on top of taking your medication can be frustrating initially, when it becomes a part of your everyday routine, and you experience positive changes in your life, you’ll wonder why you ever second-guessed taking them.

Benefit #1: Improved Quality of Life

Living with a mental illness can be debilitating and disruptive to your everyday life. But once you find the right psychiatric medication or therapy and psych meds combination, you’ll experience an increased quality of life.


couple sitting on the beach


You’ll not only experience relief from your symptoms but likely find your outlook on life and relationships improve. You’ll be able to think more clearly, have more energy, and return to work or school. To top it all off, there’s an excellent chance you’ll feel happier.

Benefit #2: Safety

As mentioned earlier, with the exception of some anxiety medications,  psychotropic medications are not habit-forming. So you don’t have to worry about becoming dependent and addicted.

While there is no FDA regulation around the word “safe” when it comes to psychiatric medications, they’ve all been tested, researched, and deemed safe. According to Dr. Marc Stone, the Deputy Director for Safety at the FDA’s Office of New Drugs in the Psychiatry Products Division, The FDA rarely considers psychiatric drugs to be “too dangerous.” He also states that that is left for you, the patient, and your doctor to decide.

Of course, your psychiatric provider won’t prescribe something with harmful side effects when combined with other medications you may be taking. That’s why it’s crucial to inform them of any current medications.

Benefit #3: Effectiveness

The fact is: psychiatric medications are effective in treating mental illness. Several research studies and controlled trials have proven such. They can reduce symptoms and improve your daily functioning and overall wellness.

While psych meds aren’t a “cure” for mental illness, they are a valuable tool to help relieve symptoms and help you feel better. Studies also show that psychiatric medications are most effective when combined with other treatment methods, such as psychotherapy.

Our Minnesota Psychiatry & Mental Health and Wellness Services Can Help

If you’re looking for high-quality Minnesota psychiatry services, partner with our highly-trained team of psychiatric nurse practitioners at Nexus of Hope. We provide in-person and teletherapy to patients in the Minneapolis area and all of Minnesota.


Nexus of Hope logo


When you partner with us for your Minnesota psychiatry needs, you’ll benefit from our holistic, compassionate, and collaborative approach to mental health care. Our Minneapolis psychiatry team of experts aims to provide culturally-competent, proactive, high-quality care to improve your mental health and overall wellness. Owned and led by Nigerian psychiatric nurse practitioner Adejoke Adedeji, our experienced providers are ready to help you feel relief from your symptoms to live a more fulfilling and enjoyable life.

Contact Us