Whether you’ve recently visited your healthcare provider about your mental health or you have an established treatment plan to help manage and ease your symptoms, you may have questions related to your medication(s).
If you’re nervous about the medication working or concerned about the side effects you may have, remember that these are all common feelings to have as you start a treatment plan. You can help yourself be more prepared by understanding how your prescription works (how it will act on your body and brain). However, not every antidepressant or mental health medication works the same for every individual, so asking questions is a proactive way to ensure you get the most benefits out of your treatment.
Here are seven questions to ask yourself and your healthcare provider to make sure your prescription is a good fit for you.
Question #1: How Am I Feeling?
It's important to take the time to check in on yourself. Notice if your symptoms have gone away completely after several weeks, or if you find some lingering. Your symptoms may have changed or you might notice some new ones. Think about how you're feeling, and if you've noticed any positive or negative changes since you started treatment.
Question #2: Am I taking my medication correctly?
One of the factors that may impact the efficacy of mental health medication is medication adherence — taking the prescription exactly as directed by your healthcare provider. For example, some drugs need to be taken with food. Others may require split doses during the day. And in instances where you may forget to take your medication, there may be steps to take that may help your treatment stay on track.
Adhering to these directions will give you the best possible chance of reducing medication side effects and increasing medication effectiveness. Make sure you thoroughly read the label and follow up with your healthcare provider if you have any questions.
Question #3: How Long Does It Take for My Medication to Take Effect?
Once your healthcare provider determines your prescription you may be anxious to see and feel results quickly. However, it can take weeks or months for a medication to reach its full effectiveness. That said, you may also want to know how long is too long when it comes to finding symptom relief.
Make sure you ask your healthcare provider how long it may take to see the benefits of your medication so you can check in on how you’re feeling and if the medication is working as intended.
Question #4: Will I Develop Side Effects From My Medication? If So, Should I Stop Taking It?
Many individuals who take prescription medication have few or no side effects, and medications can provide long-term relief and reduce symptoms. In certain instances, mental health medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may cause side effects depending on the individual. However, like most prescriptions, the side effects of medicines aren't always the same person to person. These side effects can include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in sleep
- Dry mouth
- Bowel issues such as constipation or diarrhea
- Decreased libido
- Anxiety or restlessness
If you’re experiencing side effects, start by discussing these effects with your healthcare provider. You should never stop taking a medication or change your dose on your own without input or direction from your medical provider.
Question #5: How Do Mental Health Medications Work?
Mental health medications, like antidepressants, affect certain brain chemicals that are linked to emotions, thinking, or behaviors. These brain chemicals include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Understanding how a medication works in your brain and body and how it affects these various neurotransmitters may help you anticipate the benefits of the medication or the side effects that may happen.
This is a question you should ask your healthcare provider, or your local pharmacist. Both will be well-equipped to explain your specific medication(s).
Question #6: Are My Genetics Impacting My Mental Health Treatment?
Even if you take your mental health medication just as prescribed, there are other factors that may impact treatment. One of these factors is your genetics, something you can't change or alter but can be aware of.
Genetic variations can affect an individual's response to various medications. For instance, different variants in certain genes may affect the likelihood that a medication may be effective, while other genetic variations may alter the way certain drugs are metabolized. With reference to the latter, variants in the drug-metabolizing enzymes CYP2C19 and CYP2D6 may decrease the likelihood of effectiveness or increase the likelihood of side effects with common antidepressant medications (SSRIs).
DNA testing for genes that can affect your response and tolerability to medications can help provide valuable background information for your clinician. Genetic testing is designed to minimize trial and error in an effort to reduce symptoms without causing side effects. In that way, genetic testing can be an important tool your healthcare provider can use in assessing medication options and preparing your treatment plan.
Genomind® Professional PGx Express™ looks at 24 genes related to mental health treatment. It provides guidance across 10+ mental health conditions and 130+ medications to help clinicians determine
- Which medications may be more or less likely to be effective
- Which medications may be more or less likely to show side effects
- How you metabolize medications for personalized dosing guidance
Every ordering Genomind clinician also gains access to the proprietary software, GenMed✔ Pro™. This medication management tool can shed light on gene-drug and drug-drug interactions, as well as environmental factors that may be affecting your mental health treatment.
The Genomind PGx test can be done at a clinician’s office—or from the comfort of your home. It requires a prescription, and Genomind can help connect you with a verified Genomind provider near you. Get started by filling out this form.
Question #7: Is Your Mental Health Treatment Optimized?
Minor or moderate improvements after starting a mental health medication is good, but there may be alternative options that can make you feel even better. With GenMed✔ Pro™ and Genomind® Professional PGx Express™ together, healthcare providers can evaluate safer prescribing options with speed and precision. When your healthcare provider has knowledge of your genetics, they get an important piece of the puzzle for establishing a treatment plan.