COLUMN: Psychiatry is a valid form of treatment

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Ian Stobaugh, Columnist

Mental health is widely stigmatized in our society. Many people are treated differently just for the way they behave and process information. But if there’s anything I know to be true about the culture around mental health, it’s that medication is often wildly misunderstood. There have been so many times where I’ve heard people turn down psychiatric services because of the stigma around medication. Many people are uneducated about the subject, and it’s a problem.

Of course, different treatments work for different people. Personally, I prefer a combination of therapy and psychiatry. I know people who prefer just one or the other. I am currently on medication for all of my diagnoses, and there are most definitely some stereotypes and assumptions outside of the mental health community that contribute to the stigma and fear around medication.

While medication is a big trial and error process, it isn’t dangerous. Your psychiatrist will most likely tell you to stop taking your medication if you have any adverse or uncommon effects. As someone who’s been getting treatment for almost six years, it is a lot less anti-climactic than you’d imagine it to be. I’ve never had anything unusual happen, and neither have most of the people I know.

Something that I often hear is that people are afraid that they’ll become a “zombie” while on medication. While this may happen, this is the opposite of what medication is meant to do. If you feel woozy and tapped out all the time, that’s a sign that your medication isn’t working for you. No reasonable mental health professional will keep you on that treatment if the effects are causing you to struggle in your everyday life that badly.

Another concern that people express is that they’ll become a completely different person while on medication. The best way I can explain this is to compare it to physical health. If someone gets diagnosed with a serious illness and given treatment, are they a completely changed person? No, they aren’t. While they may be forever impacted by the experience, they’re still the same person with the same traits and interests. When I started medication for my anxiety and depression, I didn’t change from someone who liked video games and music to someone who likes math and sports. It would be really funny if I did, but the point is that I didn’t. I was just happier and more organized than I was before.

If you’re looking for a sign to try medication for your mental health, here it is. I can’t tell you how helpful it’ll be, or if you’ll enjoy the experience, but I can tell you that it’s worth a try. If you feel like you need help, but you aren’t ready for therapy yet, or simply want to try another route, I recommend looking into psychiatric services. It helped me a lot, and it could help you too.

Ian Stobaugh is a freshman German major. He can be contacted at 581-1812 or [email protected]