Chances are, I don’t know you, and I don’t know your teen. What’s more, I’m not a doctor. But if we’re talking about psychotherapeutic medications and teenagers, that’s pretty scary stuff. Choosing this type of medication shouldn’t be done lightly or without careful considerations of the potential side effects, both spiritual and physical, immediate and long term.
Here are some questions to consider (and possibly ask a medical professional) in evaluating your teen’s situation:
1. Are there less invasive types of therapy available?
Sometimes everything else has been attempted, or the situation is so grave that psychotherapeutic medication is the only option. But all too often, it’s the go-to, as soon as symptoms of personality disorders or troubling emotions are described.
Many people benefit from changing aspects of their everyday routine, such as diet, exercise, and sleep. Other people find environmental or sensory therapies to help with physical symptoms. And counseling and support groups are cited as helping the same number of people as medication.
2. Is the potential benefit worth the side effects and long-term effects?
In addition to the obvious and immediate side effects most people experience (such as weight gain), everyone’s bodies respond differently to medications. And psychotherapeutics are known to be quite powerful medications.
The risks for side effects and long-term effects are higher for teenagers, whose bodies are not yet fully developed. Many of these psychotherapeutic drugs lack data on long-term effects.
3. Are you willing to risk the drama of trial-and-error situations?
These often-prescribed medications aren’t an exact science. We still don’t know exactly how or why they work sometimes in some people, while they don’t have the same effect in others. At times the same medications that help some people function normally can make others feel as if they’re in a hazy cloud. And after a while, the drugs may even stop working.
4. Are you keeping your options open?
Once you decide to treat your teen with medication, changing directions will be quite difficult. While many of the drugs typically prescribed are not technically addictive, going off them can produce withdrawal symptoms that mirror Anxiety or Depression.
If you don’t do meds now, your options are open, and you can always try them later. However, if you go with meds now, it will be difficult to stop them down the road.
5. Will you be helping or possibly hurting your teen’s relationship with God?
If your teen is so depressed or anxious that he or she can’t think straight, maybe medication or another more major intervention will help put him or her in a place where wise counsel can make sense again. Other times, there is a physical cause for feelings, rather than thinking regarding circumstances.
However, when there is a downward spiral started with problematic thinking, medication can still make a difference in how the body responds to the perceived threat. When the stress response and emotions are muted due to meds, it can be tempting to ignore the root cause — whether it’s physical or spiritual.