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Psychosis is treatable - get help early

In addition to the use of antipsychotic medications, sometimes other medications may be used in the treatment of someone experiencing psychosis. This depends on what other symptoms are present.

The most common other medications sometimes used are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Sedatives/anti-anxiety medications

Antidepressants

Antidepressants may be used for significant depression (not day to day ups and downs or grief). Those with major depression experience profound feelings of low mood or loss of interest and pleasure. Other symptoms may include low energy, change in appetite, change in sleep, poor concentration, feelings of guilt, thoughts of death, and ideas of self-harm. These symptoms are present most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks.

Antidepressant medications help with depression in approximately 2/3 of the people who are prescribed them. But some patience is required as it often takes 4 weeks for them to start to help.

Some people experience one or more side effects including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Sedation
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Weight gain

All of the above side effects are reversible. Let your physician know if you experience any of these effects.

Many antidepressants are long lasting and therefore only need to be taken once a day. Be sure to find out how to take your medications.

Care should be taken when stopping the medication. A physician can help you to slowly reduce and then stop the antidepressants.

Mood stabilizers

Lithium: Lithium is an element that occurs naturally. It is a salt. Its use as a mood stabilizer was discovered in the 1950s. It seems to help bipolar (manic-depression) disorder in 75% of people. Lithium can be detected in the blood by testing. Generally, when one begins to take lithium, blood tests are used to determine the correct dose. Lithium is usually taken once or twice daily.

Lithium can cause the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremor
  • Thyroid problems
  • Sedation
  • Weight gain/ increased appetite

Anti-epileptic drugs also have benefits in managing bipolar disorder; these include drugs such as sodium valproate, carbamazapine and lamotrigine.

Several of the atypical antipsychotic drugs have also been proven to be effective mood stabilizers and are officially recognized as treatments for bipolar disorder.

Sedatives / Anti-anxiety Medications

Benzodiazepines (e.g. Ativan, Valium) have been in use since the 1960's and are effective for anxiety or insomnia. They were originally marketed as non-addictive but after some years on the market it was concluded that they do cause dependency. Their effectiveness also tends to wear off after a time. Benzodiazepines are generally useful in the short term and long term use is rarely recommended.

Alternative Therapies

More information about medication can be found at HealthLink BC. Try searching for the keywords antipsychotic or antidepressant in the search box.

Mega vitamin treatment has been studied extensively and there is little supporting evidence that it works. There are no well-designed studies for other 'alternative' treatments although there is increasing research being conducted on such compounds (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil)

People who choose to use alternative treatments are urged not to ignore well-proven treatments. It is important to be aware that most alternative treatments have not been studied for either effectiveness or safety, and anecdotal experience can be misleading. As well, the ingredients in some formulations may not be monitored or standardized.