Ways to manage the side effects of psychotropic medications

Ways to manage the side effects of psychotropic medications

Psychotropic medications help manage mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia. A treatment plan that combines psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs helps those who are diagnosed with a condition to better manage their mental health and live a productive life.

Psychotropic drugs have, in fact, become widely prescribed and therefore used by more patients. According to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services, this is because psychotropics like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), for instance, are “safer, better tolerated by patients, easier for clinicians to prescribe because they offer simpler dosing schemes, pose less danger from overdose, and have more tolerable side effects.”

Nevertheless, not everyone should take these medications, especially without prescription and supervision. It’s also important to note some crucial information when taking these medications:

  • Certain drugs may take a few weeks to take effect.
  • For some individuals, it may be important to try different types of medication.
  • Most importantly, taking them may come with a few side effects.

But with the guidance of a mental health professional, you can manage the following common side effects.

Weight gain

Some psychotropic drugs are known to induce significant weight gain. Clinicians are therefore tasked to inform patients about these drugs’ potential to cause weight gain and ensure they aren’t at great risk of suffering from heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, and other conditions.

This side effect, fortunately, can be managed and even prevented by adhering to weight management strategies that include eating a proper diet, exercising regularly, and modifying one’s behavior. Clinicians can also help manage this side effect through a combination of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions. Early intervention is important to prevent extreme cases of weight gain.

Loss of sexual interest

Sexual dysfunction as a side effect of taking certain psychotropic drugs like antidepressants and antipsychotics is well known. However, it may not manifest until several months after your initial treatment. This is one of the reasons why a clinician may ask you about your sex life and/or sexual history.

You may be alarmed by this side effect, but it can be managed by lowering the medication dosage or switching medications. It’s imperative that you consult your clinician about altering your dosage.

Emotional flattening

Antidepressants are thought to work by increasing chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Taking SSRIs — which are one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants — reduce feelings of depression but also can cause emotional disengagement in some cases. For instance, you might find it difficult to laugh when you’re feeling joyful or cry when feeling sad. Furthermore, SSRIs don’t address the causes of depression, which is why it’s best combined with therapy.

Strategies to alleviate emotional flattening include reducing dosage or switching to a different class of medications. For those who take antidepressants (e.g., for clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder), it may be necessary to switch to a different class of antidepressant because different types may produce a range of side effects in different patients.

Sleep disturbances

Taking psychotropic medications may also result in various types of sleep disturbance, including chronic insomnia and sedation. Although medications for anxiety disorder and depression are known to have direct and indirect benefits to sleep, studies show that psychotropic medications have adverse effects on sleep, including daytime sleepiness and/or insomnia.

Note, however, that different medications may affect sleep differently and said effects will vary between patients. And for some individuals, it may be important to try different types of medication to determine what works best.

There are sleep medications available, but methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation, and sleep hygiene education are also well worth considering. In any case, it’s best to consult your clinician about managing the effects of medications on your sleep.

Psychotropic medications should be taken with the guidance of mental health professionals. For questions or concerns about managing medications, consult Meridian Psychiatric Partners LLC.