It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in Hong Kong will experience a common mental disorder at any given time. Mental health remains largely misunderstood. Three-quarters of people will not seek professional help even though they may be suffering from it. There are many misconceptions that continue to persist today hindering a person in seeking help and using psychiatric medication.
Myth 1: Psychiatric medication cannot help a “mental problem”
Psychiatric medications could work on the neurotransmitters that influence both physical and psychological symptoms of mental condition. It could help in alleviate symptoms, enabling a person to pursue benefits from other aspects, e.g., counselling and lifestyles changes; and to improve quality of life.
Myth 2: I will be addicted to psychiatric medication
Psychiatric medication is given in a controlled and therapeutic dose to help to improve symptoms of mental illness. It would be best to discuss with your doctor if you worried you have symptoms of addiction. Psychiatric medications take time to be effective. Taper off medication gradually if needed and do not stop abruptly as it might cause withdrawal symptoms.
Myth 3: Psychiatric medications have horrible side effects
Psychiatric medications, like other medication, may carry the risk of side effects. It may range from fatigue to dry mouth etc., varying from one person to another. Newer generation of medications have relatively few or mild side effects. Moreover, many of the side effects would be lessen with time. Discuss with your doctor if you have concerned.
Myth 4: Psychiatric drugs will alter your personality
Psychiatric medication could not change your personality, yet they could help alleviate symptoms that affecting you, allowing you with the ability to seek help and become even more of yourself.
Myth 5: I can stop medication once I improved
Even if you feel better, you should remain on the psychiatric medication for the prescribed amount of time, and it would help preventing from a relapse.
Myth 6: I needed to take psychiatric medication forever
The length of medication treatment varies greatly depending on a number of factors, e.g., the specifics of diagnosis, symptoms experienced or severity of the condition. Everyone is different. Discussed with your doctor if you have concern about the duration of your treatment.
Myth 7: Seeking help is a sign of weakness
Mental illness could be caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, psychotically and social factors. Willing to seek and receive help is actually a sign of strength and bravery. It would also help alleviate stigma and improved awareness of the importance of mental health. We should also learn how to use the right language to talk about mental health issues in a positive manner.
Myth 8: I can pull myself out of it
Mental illness is an illness, and medication can help ease symptoms. Mental illness is not caused by a personal weakness. Regular therapy combined with medication can improved one’s condition and quality of living.
It is important to understanding about psychiatric conditions, the use of medications and how we could support those in needed to build a stigma-free society on mental health. Bursting the myths could help!
Supported by the Jebsen Group Charitable Fund
Psychiatry Specialist Dr. Lily HO Nga Lei (Psychiatry Specialist)