Taking Medication is Not a Sign of Weakness
Medications have been used around the world to relieve symptoms, prevent infection, and cure sickness for hundreds of years. In fact, most of us have an abundance of over-the-counter medications in our homes at this very moment and rarely hesitate to use them for headaches, pains, and more. So why is it that medications used for brain health receive exponentially more criticism and resistance than those that treat physical ailments?
Unfortunately, it often has to do with the stigma surrounding mental illness and the medications that treat them. Some refuse to acknowledge mental illness altogether—despite the fact that 21% of adults in the U.S. experience mental illness (1 in 5). Others believe that brain health medications won’t work, will alter who they are as a person, or that they serve as an indication of failure.
These beliefs are untrue and incredibly damaging. Society has come a long way in improving the public’s perception of both brain health and medications—but our work is far from finished.
Stopping Stigmas through Perspective
Stigmas are false ideas furthered by misinformation and a lack of understanding about a particular topic. In the instance of brain health, these beliefs can cause individuals to avoid helpful medications or treatments simply because they don’t want to subject themselves to the perceived consequences of stigmatization.
So, let’s put it in perspective:
- If we have a headache, we go to the medicine cabinet for a pain reliever.
- If our child has a fever, we grab a children’s fever reducer to make them more comfortable.
- If someone in our home gets a cut, we rub some antibiotic ointment on it to prevent infection while it heals.
- If we get a sore throat or other symptoms of sickness, we take a nighttime symptom reducer and head to bed.
Those are all medications we keep in our homes and typically use without even thinking about consulting a professional—even though each contains its own risks.
Let’s take a look at instances involving healthcare professionals:
If you slip, fall, and break your leg, you go to the hospital. You are given medication and treated on location before being sent home with further instructions—typically involving a rotation of Tylenol and Advil for pain and inflammation.
If you go to your annual check-up and your doctor discovers that you have high blood pressure, then your doctor will advise you on how to lower it. This likely includes a healthier lifestyle and a prescription for a diuretic.
Now, let’s say you find yourself having trouble sleeping, feeling sad often, and leaning away from those around you. You go to your doctor; they evaluate your symptoms and diagnose you with clinical depression. Your doctor will likely recommend talk therapy and an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor).
In summary, treating brain health with medication carries no more risk than the medications used for physical symptoms. Many practitioners and patients feel brain health medications are well worth the potential risks.
If you are struggling with brain health, please know you are not alone. Don’t ignore your symptoms—seek treatment by making an appointment with your healthcare provider or finding a provider in your area.