How to Decide if Medication is Right For You


While taking medication for emotional symptoms is on the rise, more people are slowing down to consider medications usefulness. In my office, more and more people want to figure out how to get back to their life without taking anxiety or depression medication.

I am not anti-medication but I do know that sometimes medications bring more problems than relief. If you find your doctor prescribing more and more medication for each symptom and side effect you share, it may be time to consider medication’s usefulness in your life.

In a world of quick fixes and short cuts, I think it’s worth taking the time to decide when medication is useful and when it is not useful. Anyone, including me, can get caught in the quick fix mindset. How do you think clearly when considering medication? It’s so tempting to take a pill with the hope of getting better quicker.

Startling Psychiatric Medication Statistics

First I want to share some startling statistics regarding the use of psychiatric medication for mental illness. Do you know…

“Psychiatric medications are among the most frequently-prescribed medications in this country and throughout the world. One in 10 Americans takes an anti-depressant.” ~ Lloyd Sederer, MD, Medical Director NY Mental Health 

“The new generation of antipsychotics, such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, and Seroquel, has replaced cholesterol-lowering agents as the top-selling class of drugs in the US.” ~ Mary Angell, Epidemic of Mental Illness

“The tally of those who are so disabled by mental disorders that they qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) increased nearly two and a half times between 1987 and 2007—from one in 184 Americans to one in seventy-six.” ~ Mary Angell, Epidemic of Mental Illness

“The World Health Organization (2010) estimates that approximately one million people a year die by suicide. This represents a 60% worldwide jump in the last forty-five years.” ~ Anthony Wilgus, Suicide and Systems

As I read through these statistics, I am surprised by the dramatic increase in “mental illness.” And I am even more curious how it’s increasing despite all the psychiatic medications being prescribed. Something is not working.

Most people seek medication for emotional and behavioral symptoms in hope to cure a “chemical imbalance” in the brain. There is no conculsive scientific evidence that shows chemical imbalances cause mental illness. It’s a theory; that is one way to think about a complex set of symptoms. Sadly, many consumers, parents, and patients think this theory is a fact.

This article is not intended to make you feel bad if you decide to take medication for anxiety or depression. My hope is that you take the time to be a thoughtful consumer. In that, you are choosing when to take medication for emotional and behavioral symptoms. It’s not your doctors, your family, or your medication urging you to take more. It’s your choice, so make the decision wisely.

Considering Medication As Treatment Option

I urge you to make your own list of when you think taking medication is useful as well as when it’s not useful. The following thoughts guide me when I am considering taking medication for any variety of symptoms for myself or my children.

When is Medication Useful?

  • To kill bacteria, especially in life threatening cases
  • To aid the body’s natural healing abilities
  • To treat acute states and/or medical emergencies
  • When you guide your own medication use (instead of the medication, doctor, or family member urging you)
  • When used in conjunction with working on yourself and how you relate to important people in your life

When is Medication Not Useful?

  • When your spouse or parent tells you they would feel better if you take medication to treat your symptoms
  • To treat occasional symptoms that come and go
  • When it lets you off the hook for learning about yourself and developing self-control
  • When medication guides you to need more medication to cope with side effects of the medication you are already taking
  • When you want to hit your symptoms hard to get better quicker
  • When medication robs you of your sureness and confidence

As I said, medication isn’t all bad or good, just be cautious when you start to over-value your medication. I think it can help as long as you don’t value your medication more than you value your own ability to overcome life and relationship challenges.

What do you think? Weight in on the pros and cons of taking medication for anxiety and depression.


Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not replace consultation with qualified mental health and/or medical professional.

Photo Credit: “Magic Pills” by Jonathan Silverberg