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Medication for Mental Illness: Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to taking medication for mental illness. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand more about the different types of medicines used to treat mental illnesses and what the pros and cons are of taking these medications. Here’s what you need to know.

Want to know more about Arbor Wellness treatment options? Call us now: 1-866-771-1649

What Is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is an umbrella term used to describe any disorder or disease in which thoughts, feelings, moods, perceptions, emotions, behavior, cognition, memory, attention, judgment, orientation, personality traits, or other phenomena related to the brain.

The US government’s mental health website defines mental health as “emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.”

Regarding mental illness an individual experiences the opposite. They may not feel well, not be able to cope with normal stresses of life, and be able to manage life or make meaningful contributions to society.

Mental illness is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Additionally, mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”

Mental Health Conditions

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines mental illness as “a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological processes underlying mental life.” However, this definition of mental disorders is broad enough to include all mental health disorders. Here are some of the most common mental health conditions.

Common Mental Health Conditions:

Medications For Mental Illness

There are several different classes of antidepressant medications available.

  • The first generation of antidepressants was introduced in the 1950s. They included tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications were effective at treating depression but had significant side effects including dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors, and sexual problems.
  • The second generation of antidepressants includes selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. These include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox), and others. These medications generally have fewer side effects than the first generation of antidepressants.
  • The third generation of antidepressants includes bupropion (Wellbutrin), nefazodone (Serzone), venlafaxine (Effexor), mirtazapine (Remeron), trazodone (Desyrel), and others. These newer medications tend to have fewer side effects than earlier generations of antidepressants.

Psychotropic medications are commonly prescribed with the goal of correcting an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry and alleviating the symptoms of  mental illness that  interrupt your life. 

Psychotropic medications are not curative and work the best when used as part of a multi-modal approach to recovery.

Treatment with medication is just one way that we are able to help our clients at Arbor Wellness

Common Types of Medications For Mental Illness

  • Antidepressants – These are medications used to treat people who have depressive symptoms, anxiety disorders, and/or chronic pain. Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Zoloft are some examples of medications included in this class. Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed kind of psychotropic medication.
  • Antipsychotics – These medications work on the brain’s neurotransmitters to treat psychotic disorders with symptoms like  disorganized thinking, hallucinations, and delusions (fixed false beliefs). Because living with hallucinations and paranoia is a major stressor, patients who take antipsychotics may find that symptoms of anxiety and depression are relieved as well.
  • Mood Stabilizers – People living with fluctuating moods experience periods of mania, hypomania, and/or depression. Mood stabilizers are prescribed to restore balance and reduce the severity of mood swings. Medications like Lamictal, Tegretol, and Depakote are mood stabilizers that are also used in the treatment of seizure disorders.
  • Anxiolytics –  Anti-anxiety medications may be used as treatment for acute (sudden) episodes of anxiety or to prevent symptoms of anxiety. This medication class includes medications taken daily or on an as needed basis. Many different kinds of medication can be prescribed as an anxiolytic including antihistamines, antidepressants, and sedatives.

Pros and Cons of Antidepressants

Antidepressants are safe and effective medications used to treat depression. They may help you feel better by improving your mood or decreasing anxiety. But antidepressant drugs may also cause side effects such as weight gain, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, and dry mouth. You should talk to your doctor before starting any medication. Here are some more pros and cons of antidepressants.


  • Taking antidepressants can help you feel better and lead to other positive changes in your life.
  • Antidepressants can give you the motivation you need to change your habits.
  • Antidepressants are safe when used as prescribed. They have been proven to be effective. A person should not stop taking them without consulting their doctor.
  • Studies show that antidepressants are effective when used therapeutically
  • Antidepressants are proven to relieve depression faster than a placebo. There is a hierarchy of effectiveness among them. Newer drugs may be better than older ones.


  • Antidepressants may cause fatigue, stomach upset, decreased libido, and many other side effects. You should talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
  • Delayed onset antidepressants do not work right away. They take time to kick in. Most people feel better after 2-4 weeks. You should try another antidepressant if you haven’t felt any improvement after 6 weeks.
  • There is a stigma surrounding taking antidepressants. Some people think that taking them means you’re weak or crazy. This isn’t true.
  • People sometimes skip doses or take them irregularly which can make them less effective and can be mentally harmful in some cases. 
  • A medication may not work for you if you’re allergic to it. Your doctor can try another drug, or add a second medication. There isn’t any way to tell ahead of time what medication will work for you.

When to Request Psych Medications

If you’ve tried talking therapies before but still struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, or another condition, then it might be worth trying psychiatry or psychiatric medication.

If you experience severe depression, anxiety, or other mental conditions it is best to talk to a doctor who specializes in mental health.

Talk to your doctor about previous therapies and consult them to find out if medication may be a better option. A psychiatrist can prescribe psych medication to help you manage your depression. They are also there to help you manage dosage and to help you manage your mental illness. And the best time to contact a mental health professional is before your mental health gets out of hand.

Mental Health Treatment Nashville TN

People have strong opinions about how mental health should be treated. Unfortunately, stigmas exist surrounding mental illness and how to treat it. At Arbor Wellness we offer a safe, transparent, and caring approach to helping clients manage mental health in Nashville.

Here are some ways we approach treatment:

  • Genetic testing to determine what medications are right for you
  • Minimal therapeutic dose and stepwise dose adjustments 
  • Timing of doses to optimize therapeutic benefit and decrease the impact of side effects
  • Nutrition counseling  to prevent long term adverse health effects
  • Alternative and complementary therapies to alleviate discomfort from side effects.

Learn more about Arbor Wellness mental health treatment options: 1-866-771-1649