Minded partnered with research firm Censuswide to survey 2,000 US adults about the stigma around mental health medication. We found that 2 in 5 US adults have taken medication for their mental health, and over 80% say it has been effective. Unfortunately, 66% also say they delayed treatment due to stigma, fear, or misinformation1.
Minded is on a mission to encourage as many people as possible to get the help they need. Below, we’re debunking some of the most common misconceptions about taking medication for mental health conditions. Read on and spread the word to stop the stigma.
Myth 1: Mental health medication isn’t safe
Mental health medication, like any other pharmaceutical drug, is extensively studied and tested in clinical trials before it’s ever available on the market. Common medications, like antidepressants, are generally safe and well tolerated, but all medications have potential side effects and risks, and your provider should discuss those with you when talking about the potential benefits.
Myth 2: Mental health medication has terrible side effects
All medications have potential side effects, mental health medication included. Providers usually only prescribe a medication of any kind when they think the benefits outweigh the potential risks (including negative side effects). When you start taking a mental health medication, your provider will likely start you on a lower dose to reduce the risk of adverse side effects. Common side effects of some of the more popular mental health medications, like antidepressants, are typically mild and decrease after the first few weeks of taking the med. If they continue or get worse, talk to your prescribing doctor, nurse practitioner, or Minded psychiatry provider about changing your dose, trying a new medication, or adding another medication to counteract the negative effects.
Myth 3: Medication is only for the mentally weak or seriously ill
This could not be further from the truth. There is nothing weak about seeking help for your mental health, and medication can be a valid form of treatment, regardless of the severity of your condition. Remember, it takes courage to ask for help.
Myth 4: Once you start taking mental health medication, you can’t stop
Stopping medication abruptly is generally not recommended. And stopping some medications abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms that can be serious. But if you and your provider decide it’s time for you to go off your meds, there are safe ways to do so. The most common method involves gradually tapering your dose, but it should always be done under the supervision of a medical professional who can monitor your symptoms.
Myth 5: Mental health medication will change who you are
The Censuswide survey found that 37% of people believe that mental health medications like antidepressants alter your personality. Not true. The goal of mental health medication is to help you feel more like yourself, not less. Most mental health meds work by correcting a chemical imbalance in your brain, which in turn can help you feel better mentally and function healthily in your daily life.
Myth 6: Mental health medication is addictive
Certain controlled mental health medications, like Xanax, Klonopin, and other benzodiazepines, do come with a risk of physical or psychological dependence. For that reason, they are usually prescribed short-term, and the risk of abuse or dependence is typically greater in people with a previous history of substance use disorder. More commonly prescribed antidepressants like Lexapro and Zoloft, however, are not habit-forming.
Myth 7: Lifestyle changes are enough to treat a mental health condition
Evidence shows healthy routines like good sleep hygiene, exercise, and nutrition play a role in keeping people physically and mentally healthy—and your mental health provider may recommend them. But for some people, working out, a healthier diet, and better night’s sleep may not be enough on their own, which is where other forms of treatment, like therapy and medication come in. Oftentimes, taking mental health medication can even make it easier to put those lifestyle changes in action.
Myth 8: Mental health medication is a quick fix
This myth is two-fold: For one thing, most medications aren’t what you’d call “quick.” Antidepressants, for instance, can take 6 to 8 weeks to work fully—and that’s after you find the right one. And second, while a pill may not solve the underlying cause of your mental health condition, it can help you live a healthier lifestyle and do all the things that make you feel like you.
1The Censuswide survey for Minded was conducted between March 30 and April 5, 2022, among 2,039 general US adults. The data was weighted to ensure accurate representation of gender, age, and region. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.