Medication treatment duration is a multi-threaded rug.
Some ask about the effect “wisdom and growth” has on their need for ongoing medication versus growing out of the need for medication therapy. It is normal logic to think that we should behave better and feel better when we know better. This leads many to wonder if it’s time to come off of medication therapy.
Let’s work on this by considering these variables.
Coping skills are how we deal with stressors. When something happens to us, like getting yelled at, honked at when driving, or suffering a loss like a break up – our automatic thoughts and actions may be kind or unkind to ourselves. They may serve us well or may not. Coping skills can be intentionally grown, such as through dialectical behavioral therapy, and/or may require medical treatment. Coping skills regress with mental illness. But there are therapies that will improve them, helping our resilience, and helping us choose to continue vs. taper down medications.
Has the patient had multiple episodes. Multiple episodes of mental illness will signal differently, as compared to a single episode, in regards to risk of relapse.
- Genetic loading.
What’s the family history of mental illness? Genetic loading. Genetic loading. Genetic loading. It tells the story of our biological risks.
- Risks and Benefits.
Weighing the disabling impact the disease processes have on a patient’s life against the risks of medications. Consider the psychic suffering. We suffer and the suffering is real. Compare this to what we don’t like about taking medication. Weigh it and find your balance. Medication may be too “costly” to continue.
- Impact of disease process on future brain health.
Mental illnesses in general are progressive, and the medication therapies not only treat the current symptoms but also are prophylactic (preventative and protective) against further brain insult. The brain now, if mental illness goes on, will be a different brain in ten years. We are fighting for that person too when we fight mental illness. Our future selves.
Even though the patient has been on medication for a long time, what is the current condition of the diseases and the treatment response? Is the patient fully treated? Symptom free? Or does the patient have ongoing symptomatology even if improved from prior to treatment? For example, if the patient’s depression has resolved but they still have symptoms of anxiety then they are at a higher overall risk if medications are stopped. Being better may not be good enough. Or it might.
Self-Care Tip: Staying on medication can be discomfiting but take a turn with your treatment provider to consider.
Question: What is being on medication like for you? Tell us your story if you stopped it or if you chose to stay on it.