What are the Different Kinds of Psychiatric Medications?

Psychiatric (or psychotropic) medications make up a large portion of mental health treatment. In 2020, the National Health Interview Survey found that out of the 20.3% of adults who received treatment for their mental health over the past year, 16.5% took prescription medications for their symptoms. Since one in every five people deals with a mental health condition, it’s clear that medication management is a service high in demand.

Medications are typically used in conjunction with other treatments like outpatient therapy to help people manage conditions from mild anxiety to severe psychosis. If you’re exploring the idea of adding medication management to your healthcare regimen, here’s a guide to help you understand the five types of psychiatric meds.


Antidepressants are one of the most commonly known classes of psychiatric medications and fall into different categories: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclics, MAO inhibitors, and “other.” You may have heard (or taken) some of the most commonly prescribed ones like Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, or Prozac. These drugs are usually used to treat depression but can be effective for other conditions like sleeping trouble, dysthymia, and seasonal affective disorder. They balance neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine that regulate mood.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder, your doctor might suggest anti-anxiety medications to help manage your symptoms. Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam and lorazepam, are prescribed for their fast-acting relief of anxiety symptoms. This fast-acting relief also increases the potential for substance abuse, so they are typically used short-term or in crises. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are also utilized for the long-term management of anxiety disorders, offering both anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.


As their name describes, stimulant medications boost or stimulate dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain to help you sharpen focus, sustain attention, and regulate impulse control. If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, methylphenidate, or Ritalin, and amphetamines like Adderall are going to be the first suggestions to manage your symptoms. While these medications are generally considered tolerable for most people, they can cause side effects like insomnia, decreased appetite, and an elevated heart rate.


Antipsychotic medications are primarily used in the management of disorders such as schizophrenia and depression or bipolar disorder with psychotic features. They work by blocking dopamine receptors in the brain, helping to alleviate hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thinking or racing thoughts. The two main categories of antipsychotics are first-generation (typical antipsychotics) and second-generation (atypical antipsychotics). Side effects of antipsychotic drugs may include weight gain, moderate-severe drowsiness, movement disorders (like tremors), and metabolic changes (like hypertension or insulin resistance).

Mood Stabilizers

Dealing with a mood disorder can be challenging, especially if you have episodes of mania or hypomania that alternate with periods of depression. Mood stabilizers are often prescribed to help regulate these mood swings. For example, lithium is considered a standard treatment for bipolar disorder and effectively prevents both manic and depressive episodes. Anticonvulsant medications like valproate and lamotrigine are also used as mood stabilizers because they have similar effects but a lower risk of adverse effects compared to lithium.

Interested in Learning More About Medication Management?

Medication management is one of the best ways to manage your mental health, but it is even more effective when you work with providers who take a holistic approach to healthcare. At Balance Psychiatric Services, we’ve adopted this approach – treating all of you, not just part of you. When prescribing and developing a treatment plan, we carefully consider all your lifestyle factors, from medical history and coexisting conditions to your nutrition and stress levels. Schedule an appointment with one of our providers today to see if our services are a good fit for you.