Psychiatry and Wellness, Behavioral Medicine Associates, Atlanta and Alpharetta
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Anxiety Disorder
Older Adults
  Psychiatric Medications  
  The era of modern psychiatric medications was inaugurated by the accidental discovery and rapid widespread use of the anti-psychotic or anti-schizophrenia drug, chlorpromazine(Thorazine). Antidepressants such as amitriptyline(Elavil) and imipramine(Tofranil) began to be widely used about the same time around the middle of the twentieth century, as did anti-anxiety agents such as chlordiazepoxide(Librium) and diazepam(Valium). Since that time there has been fairly steady progress in the development of psychiatric medications that are safer to use and less likely to produce bothersome side effects.

The main classes of psychiatric medications are:

  • Anti-anxiety agents(minor tranquilizers)
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics(major tranquilizers, neuroleptics)
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Psychostimulants

While necessary and in a general way useful, such categories, like current categories of psychiatric diagnoses, can be also be misleading, since medications tend to have a spectrum of effects rather than a single, narrowly defined action. Antidepressants, for example, commonly have potent anti-panic and anti-anxiety effects, even in individuals who are not depressed.

The impact of medications upon the practice of psychiatry and mental health practice in general has been profound and in very many respects beneficial. But the widespread use of medication to treat problems previously dealt with by psychotherapy has in many instances led to an under-use of psychotherapy. 

Though it may be surprising to many, modern psychiatric training programs no longer routinely provide adequate instruction in psychotherapy to psychiatrists in training - though they may teach considerable skills in the diagnosis and drug treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

 An unfortunate tendency has developed, driven in part by third party(insurance) reimbursement arrangements, for so-called "split therapy," in which a psychiatrist prescribes medications and a non-medical psychotherapist, often a Master's level counselor, provides whatever psychotherapy the patient is able to obtain. While this arrangement often works quite well, it presents obvious opportunities for confusion and less than ideal treatment, especially in difficult and complicated cases. The ideal situation for the patient requiring both medications and psychotherapy is a psychiatrist skilled in both areas and thus able and in a position to balance and adjust the treatment approach in a sensitive and ongoing fashion according to the often changing needs of the patient.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychiatry and Mental Health
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Drug InfoNet

Internet Mental Health
Information about psychiatric drugs.

Medications and Mental Disorders
National Institute of Mental Health.

Medications for Mental Illness

Medicines for Psychiatric Disorders

Medline Plus Drug Information
A guide to more than 9,000 prescription and over-the-counter medications provided by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) in the USP DIĘ Advice for the PatientĘ.

Psychiatric Medications
From the American Psychiatric Association.