Finding the Right Medication for Teen Mental Health Treatment

Medication can be an important part of a treatment plan for anyone diagnosed with a mental illness. For most diagnoses, research indicates that the combination of both medication and therapy yields the best treatment results.

Teen Mental Health Treatment 

Medication, which helps to bring a reprieve of symptoms, combined with therapy, which can address the underlying issues of the teen mental health illness, has proven to the most effective with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other forms of disorders.

However, finding the right medication requires an honest and in-depth conversation with your psychiatrist and often a period of trial and error. And, let’s face it, not all medications are going to be ideal. There might be a psychotropic medication that relieves your symptoms but brings with it many side effects. Finding the ideal medication is based on a number of different factors. Below you’ll find some factors to consider when discussing medications with your psychiatrist. But first, here are the categories of psychotropic medication, used for teen mental health treatment:


are used to treat depression, from moderate to severe, as well as anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This classification of medication can also address the painful mood states that some with personality disorders experience.


are used to treat psychotic symptoms such as those experienced in individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, mania, and many brain disturbances that might be the result of trauma or infection.


are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a condition in which an individual suffers from a strong tendency to fall asleep whenever he or she is in relaxing situations.


(Anti-anxiety medication) treats anxiety disorders and in low doses situational stress.

Mood Stabilizers

are used to help stabilize moods for those who are diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, schizoaffective disorder, severe personality disorders, and for the instability produced by neurological conditions.

Central Nervous System Depressants

are sleeping pills and are also used for anesthesia


Likely the class from which your psychotropic medication derives will be clear. However, the specific medication itself might be in question. It will be up to you and your psychiatrist to determine which drug is the most effective and which will cause the least side effects. To determine which drug might be the most ideal for you, you might consider the following. An ideal drug should:

  • Do a good job of reducing or eliminating symptoms.
  • Be safe in that the side effects are not harming or dangerous.
  • Not interact with other drugs, making them ineffective or produce additional side effects.
  • Be convenient to use, such as a pill a day or with meals.
  • Be inexpensive.

Of course, an ideal drug is what to aim for, but there might be tradeoffs to consider. For example, there might be a drug that’s inexpensive but causes weight gain, or a drug that is safe and convenient but interacts with another drug you’re taking. Since many people already have resistances to taking medication for a mental illness, finding one that as much as possible meets the above ideal criteria can facilitate sticking to a medication treatment plan.


A few important elements to finding the right medication are having a clear, open, and honest communication with your psychiatrist, doing your own research, and being honest with yourself about what is most important to you. For instance, you’ll want to inform your doctor about any herbs or alternative methods you might be using to treat your condition. You might want to take the time to do research on all your medication options, and you may want to make a list of your priorities.



Morrison, J. (2002). Straight talk about your mental health: everything you need to know to make smart decisions. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Sederer, L.I. (2013). The family guide to mental health care. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.