By Katie Bui, clinical pharmacist at CHOC
Mental health is an important part of our overall health. It affects our energy level, our ability to connect with family and friends, our confidence, and our performance at school and work. Sometimes, it means taking medicine to help maintain our mental health. These medicines are safe and effective when taken appropriately under a doctor’s supervision.
Take medicine exactly as it’s prescribed
It’s important for patients taking medicines to take them exactly as prescribed. If you closely follow the medication schedule and directions, it will help your doctor know if the medication is working or not. It will also help minimize unwanted side effects from stopping it abruptly. When you take a medicine inconsistently, it is hard to figure out if the medicine is working or not, if the dose needs to be changed, or if your physician should have you try a new medication. If you have trouble sticking to a medication schedule, or if you have trouble helping your children follow their medication schedule, set a daily medicine reminder, plus a refill reminder so you don’t run out of medicine. Using a pill box can help you stay on top of a medication schedule and be mindful of when you’re due for a refill.
Possible side effects of antidepressants
Since these medicines affect the chemicals in the brain, they may take time to work, sometimes up to a month. Sometimes you might experience side effects before seeing positive changes results in mood. Most of these side effects are relatively minor and may include nausea, vomiting or sleepiness. If you experience major side effects like confusion, fever, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, increasing depression or suicidal thoughts, no matter how long you have been on antidepressants, seek immediate medical help. These side effects are rare but it is important to know the signs and symptoms that require emergency treatment.
How mood medications interact with other medications
Sometimes, the medicine you take to treat a mental health condition can interact with other medicines you might be taking. This is another reason to follow the directions as prescribed by a doctor, and to ask your pharmacist any questions you have when you pick up a prescription. For example, mood medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or citalopram (Celexa) can interact with certain antibiotics like linezolid (Zyvox) and cause high fevers and confusion. Others can cause more sleepiness with sedating medicines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and clonazepam (Klonopin). As mentioned earlier, most of these interactions and side effects are rare and patients should talk to their doctors and pharmacists regularly when taking new medicines.
How lifestyle choices may positively impact mental health
Some lifestyle choices can also have a positive impact on your mental health. These can include simple daily activities such as going for a walk and being physically active, eating lunch outside to get fresh air and sunlight, listening to calming music, meditating, yoga and getting enough sleep each night. These activities help with relieving stress, which can directly help with mental health. It’s important to have an ongoing, open and honest conversation with your primary care physician and mental health professional about your mental health, what resources you need, and what lifestyle changes you can make.
-Reviewed by Dr. Hoang (Wayne) Nguyen, medical director of child and adolescent psychiatry at CHOC
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