Is Psychiatric Medication Really the Best Option For Your Child?
By Dr Becky Spelman
Whenever the topic of psychiatric medication is mentioned concerning one’s child, there is always the risk of an alarmist-type reaction. This is completely understandable, you should rightly have a healthy amount of scepticism towards any form of psychiatric treatment, especially where your child is concerned. They’re not all created equal, and choosing the correct route to go down isn’t as straight forward as many of us would like it to be. There have been many advancements in both the ability to accurately diagnose conditions as well as offer suitable courses of treatment since research in the 1970s, but it is still an expanding area of expertise. So how do you decide whether psychiatric medication really is the best option for your child?
The answer to that question, of course, is entirely circumstantial. There are no hard and fast rules as to whether medication is the right decision without first carrying out a thorough examination of your child’s mental health. However, as with all things in life, there some generalisations that we can draw on to help give you a better idea of the pros and cons for whether psychiatric medication is right for your child.
The most significant upside to any course of treatment is the improvement to your child’s quality of life. This can be felt nowhere more keenly than with those who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, as it’s widely accepted that those who suffer from the condition are often labelled as ‘disruptive influences’ in school. It is largely due to the effectiveness of drugs that many children have seen a marked improvement in their behaviour and overall performance in an academic environment.
Another benefit of symptom control is it enables your child to engage with other therapies that will help them achieve a greater degree of mastery over themselves, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Some studies have even suggested that children who take these medications early on in life may not need them at all in adulthood as the effects can long outlast the duration of treatment. It hasn’t quite been established why this is, but some doctors have theorised that it may well be the stabilising platform of the medication that allows the child to develop the skills for them to manage their symptoms, independently.
The largest and the most obvious elephant in the room here are the side effects. This should always be the one the first things you establish with your child’s psychiatrist, along with the likelihood of them occurring. Each medication will have its own list of possible drawbacks, so it wouldn’t be practical to list specific examples here. The important thing to bear in mind when trying to decide on the value of a medication will offer is whether the benefits outweigh the cost (side effects).
In addition, there is also the financial side to consider. You may rightly take the point of view that you can’t put a price on either yours or child’s health, and that is absolutely true. However, if the treatment option you are being offered is one based on speculation this may or may not figure in your decision, as there is never a 100% guarantee what the outcome of a particular medication will be without first trying it. If there is a cheaper, more viable alternative with fewer drawbacks, this might be a better option.
With that being said, trying to provide your child with the proper medication for their condition can prove especially difficult, given that they are in a constant state of change, making an accurate diagnosis particularly challenging. “Children change so much in relation to their environment and development that their diagnosis and treatment requires the greatest care, patience and time.” And to back up this point while reiterating an earlier one, the wrong treatment for the wrong condition can prove worse than doing nothing at all.
The Middle Ground
Having examined both sides of the argument in relative detail, the main takeaway is that medication can absolutely be a viable solution in the right circumstances, working in tandem with other evidence-based therapies. Psychiatric medication undoubtedly has its uses, but it should not be the first resort, especially in the case of a young child who’s still going through significant and often times quite natural fluctuations in their thoughts, moods and behaviours. There must be a thorough examination before a decision is made with any medications being taken alongside a course of evidence-based therapy, preferably by someone who specialises in the condition you seeking help for.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome the effect of a multitude of mental illness.
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