Medication (for Mental Illness)


Psychiatric and mental health medications influence the brain chemicals that regulate emotions, thoughts and behavior. Although psychiatric medications cannot cure a mental illness, they do reduce symptoms and allow the child, adolescent, or adult to think clearly so they can participate in psychotherapy. The combination of medication and psychotherapy can help relieve the painful symptoms of mental illness so the patient can learn skills to improve their ability to function at work, school, and home.

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Key Things to Know About Medication for Mental Illness

  • Medication is complicated and it isn’t right for everyone. A psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, or family practice physician can help you determine if medication is right for you or your child.
  • Medication can reduce emotional pain, increase focus, and decrease anxiety.
  • Some medications have side effects, including weight gain, and increased blood sugar and cholesterol.
  • Some medications need to build up in the body before they can become effective. Individuals starting a new medication may not notice positive effects for several weeks, but it’s important to give the medication a chance before deciding whether to continue or change treatments.
  • Never stop taking psychiatric medication without consulting with your prescribing doctor as some medications have dangerous side effects when stopped abruptly.
  • Using medication to help with mental health challenges is becoming more common—even among children. Medications can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes individual psychotherapy, therapy, counseling, family or group therapy, and/or school and community interventions focused on providing necessary support.

Common Myths About Medication for Mental Illness

Myth 1: You will become addicted to psychiatric medication.
Most psychotropic medications are not addictive. Medication management appointments are necessary to manage refills and monitor progress and side effects.

Myth 2: Psychiatric medication will change who you are as a person.
Psychiatric medication won’t change who you are, but can relieve symptoms that hinder your ability to do certain things.

Myth 3: Psychiatric medication will disrupt healthy energy levels.
Psychiatric medication can give you more energy, due to decreased symptoms.

Our Approach to Medication at Dakota Family Services

The psychiatry team at Dakota Family Services includes a psychiatrist, Dr. Wayne Martinsen, and Nurse Practitioners, Tammy Uleberg, FNP-C, and Amanda Daggett, APRN, PMHNP-BC. Our experienced psychiatry team can help you understand your symptoms, make a diagnosis, and recommend treatment options. They will also help you understand the reason for their treatment recommendations, including how the medication works, possible side-effects, and potential risks.

Mental health is a vital component of overall health and wellbeing—but medications are only one of several effective treatment approaches. We aim to use the fewest medications at the lowest possible dose and ensure that other therapeutic approaches such as therapy, counseling, and psychotherapy are being used before prescribing medication. Our treatment focuses on the whole person in every context, including family, social relationships, and school.

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