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Pharmacological Treatments in Psychiatry

Feb 15, 2024
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Mental illnesses are complex and can be difficult to manage or treat. In some cases, a psychiatrist will incorporate pharmacological methods into your treatment plan to help address different aspects of your specific condition.

Mental illnesses are complex and can be difficult to manage or treat. In some cases, a psychiatrist will incorporate pharmacological methods into your treatment plan to help address different aspects of your specific condition. This article will review the information you need about pharmacological treatments and why your psychiatrist may recommend them.

How psychiatrists combine pharmacological methods in their treatment plans

What is a pharmacological treatment?

Pharmacological treatment is the use of prescription medications to treat or manage a mental illness. Mental health professionals can use different medications to treat various mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, psychosis, and more. In some cases, it may be necessary for the patient to take multiple medications to address their symptoms effectively. 

Why do psychiatrists use pharmacological treatments?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specializing in mental health and can prescribe any medication needed in a pharmacological treatment, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, hypnotics, stimulants, or mood stabilizers. They also have training in providing multiple therapies such as psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), deep brain stimulation (DBS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), ketamine treatment, and more.

After a patient undergoes an in-depth evaluation involving both psychiatric and medical testing, the psychiatrist may find it beneficial for them to combine pharmacological methods. This decision differs for every patient and depends on multiple factors, including their diagnosis, severity, medical history, and much more.

Common types of pharmacological treatments

Though pharmacological options treat mental health conditions, they are divided into the following different classifications:

  • Antipsychotics: Antipsychotic medication blocks or reduces the activity of one or more neurotransmitters in the brain called dopamine receptors to a person’s brain chemistry by decreasing overactivity in certain brain regions, including those related to mood and behavior. There are many different types of antipsychotic medications available today, each with its strengths, side effects, and uses.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressant medication increases the number of chemicals in the brain, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which affect mood, emotions, and behavior. There are many different antidepressant medications, but they all work similarly. 
  • Sedatives and hypnotics: Sedatives come in short-term and long-term. Short-term sedatives are used for less than two weeks, and long-term are used for extended periods. The medications consist of components that slow down the brain’s activity, making the patient feel more relaxed or sleepy. Doctors also often use these medications for patients undergoing surgery.
  • Stimulants: Stimulants are medications that stimulate the central nervous system, regulating the patient’s emotions, behaviors, and mood. Specialists reserve these medications for those diagnosed with attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), certain eating disorders, and narcolepsy.
  • Mood stabilizers: Mood stabilizers alter the chemical balance in the patient’s brain. Some act on neurotransmitters in certain areas of the brain; others affect the levels of chemicals in the blood, such as lithium with sodium and potassium ions. They can be prescribed by themselves or in combination with other medications.

Benefits of pharmacological treatments in psychiatric care

Antipsychotic medications are often used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. They can also help reduce the risk of self-harm and suicide. They also treat acute episodes of psychosis when used with other psychiatric methods such as psychotherapy.

Antidepressants can be very helpful in treating depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Depending on the severity of the patient’s condition, they can improve their symptoms by using these medications alone. While sedatives can sometimes fall into the antidepressant classification, they operate differently depending on their initial purpose. For example, they can treat anxiety disorders, stress, and insomnia and put a patient to sleep before surgery.

Stimulants are commonly used for children. ADHD is not uncommon during childhood, and it can be hard for the child to stay focused during certain activities such as school or after-school programs. It can also be used to give patients with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep, to increase their energy.

Mood stabilizers can help individuals with chronic conditions such as bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. They are also sometimes used as a first-line therapy for other conditions such as epilepsy. These medications are fast-acting and can be taken orally or intravenously (injected into the body).

Learn more today

We hope you have found this article helpful. Pharmacological treatments are one tool that psychiatrists can use to help their clients with mental illness. These treatments are not always necessary, as many people can be treated with alternative methods, such as psychotherapy. However, some people with certain mental illnesses may also find it beneficial to add medications to their treatment plan. Our psychiatrist will help determine if pharmacological treatments are necessary for your specific condition through an in-depth evaluation, and if so, will help you use them safely and responsibly. 

If you are interested in learning more about pharmacological treatments or curious about how a psychiatrist can help you, schedule an appointment at our New York by calling (917) 391-0076 today.

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