Squashing Stigma: 3 Common Myths that Perpetuate Medication Shame

Squashing Stigma: 3 Common Myths that Perpetuate Medication Shame

As a parent, it’s difficult to sift through stigma that surrounds mental health medications. We live in a culture that is historically rooted in anti-mental illness bias which clouds our perspective on therapy, including medicine therapy. Weighing options to introduce psychotropic medicine into one’s delicate brain neurochemistry, can be daunting.  This blogger hopes to help shine light in a dark arena of doubt around mental health medication therapy in the hope to dispel medication shame.


3 Medication Shame Myths


“Can’t you just write me a prescription; I don’t need to talk about anything.”


Myth #1: Medication will fix it.

At its best, mental health treatment incorporates therapies that will together provide an optimal outcome for clients. Therapies that are empirically proven to result in positive outcomes include, and are not limited to, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, play therapy, talk therapy, insight-oriented therapy, AND medication therapy. In Saving Talk Therapy: How Health Insurers, Big Pharma, and Slanted Science Are Ruining Good Mental Health Care, the author acknowledges that medications can be useful additions to psychotherapy. Medications alone rarely produce lasting treatment effects. For effective and long-term psychotherapeutic change, we must treat symptoms that can interfere with engagement in the therapeutic process. What’s more, multiple therapeutic modalities addressing the uniqueness of each presenting problem are most likely to produce the greatest results.


“I don’t want to take psych meds because they are addictive.”


Myth #2: Medication is addictive.

Some stimulants and anxiety medications are addictive, but many are not, including antidepressants and antipsychotics. These medications will not create dependency in users and therefore will not require more and more of the medication as an individual reaches their therapeutic dosage. Addictive medications will be labeled as such and prescribers will go to great lengths to inform and warn of the possibility of drug dependence. It is important that within the context of medication decision-making, folks take the time to identify whether the recommended substance is truly addictive. Frequently, addiction is not a cause for concern.


“I felt bad yesterday and took my antidepressant, but usually I feel good, so I skip taking it those days.”


Myth #3: Medication should be taken as needed.

This is untrue. Albeit, there are some medications that are prescribed on an “as needed” basis, for the purposes of this blog we are discussing medications that require daily maintenance. A daily dosage amount is prescribed and intended to maintain blood drug levels within a specific therapeutic range. When blood levels are consistently within the therapeutic range, medications help stabilize symptoms for individuals thus enhancing the response to more treatment modalities. The only way for blood levels to remain consistently therapeutic is to take medications daily, at the same time. It is important to follow the prescribing physician’s instructions to reap the greatest therapeutic benefit.


Medication shame, based in myths around mental health issues and therapies, can become a barrier to requesting and receiving effective treatment for a variety of symptoms that would respond well to medication therapy. Medication shame should not stand in the way of mental wellness if it’s part of a professionally recommended therapeutic process that will enhance behavior and functioning. Ultimately, mental wellness is at the very core of a holistic approach to successful living. Let’s not miss opportunities to seek empirical evidence that will support our understanding of the stigma that sometimes unconsciously influences mental health decision-making.


When questions arise, we are here to help. We have a team of therapists ready to shed light on the medication decision-making process and to share evidence-based truth about medication benefits and concerns.

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