Medications for Mental Health Conditions

Medication is often used to help manage the symptoms of mental health conditions. Find out more about the most common types of medications prescribed, which conditions they are used for, and any additional useful information regarding the use of medication for managing symptoms.


Antidepressants are most commonly prescribed to individuals experiencing depression, but they can also be prescribed to those with anxiety, PTSD, OCD and eating disorders.

Whilst it is not known exactly how antidepressants work, it is believed the increase the levels of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which is closely linked to mood and emotion.

There are different types of antidepressants, such as:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - most widely prescribed

  • Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) - similar to SSRIs, designed to be more effective

  • Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs) - effective for people that cannot take SSRIs

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) - an older type of antidepressant

  • Serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs) - not usually the first choice but can be used if others do not work for an individual

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) - rarely used nowadays, prescribed only by a specialist doctor

Antidepressants are not a direct cure for depression, but they can help to treat associated symptoms, and are best used in combination with other types of treatments such as therapy.


Antipsychotics are a type of psychiatric medication most commonly used to treat psychosis. They can also be prescribed for other mental health conditions, including:

  • Schizophrenia

  • Schizoaffective disorder

  • Forms of bipolar

  • Severe depression

  • Psychotic symptoms of personality disorders

This type of medication works by blocking the effect of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, to reduce feelings of anxiety. Whilst antipsychotics don't cure psychosis, they can help to reduce and control psychotic symptoms, including delusions and hallucinations, anxiety and serious agitation, confusion, disruptive behaviour, and mania.

Antipsychotics are mostly taken orally, either by tablet or liquid form, but some are prescribed as a depot injection, which is a slow-release, slow-acting form of the medication given once every few weeks.

Sleeping Pills and Minor Tranquilisers

Sleeping pills and minor tranquilisers are a form of sedative medications that work by slowing down bodily and brain functions, including breathing, heartbeat and thought processes. This kind of medication is most commonly used for severe anxiety and insomnia.

The types of medications in this category that are prescribed include:

  • Benzodiazepine – for anxiety and/or insomnia

  • Non-benzodiazepine sleeping pills

  • Non benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medication

Medication for sleep and tranquilisers can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety, such as physical symptoms including shaking, and can also help you to overcome insomnia and return to a healthy seeping pattern.

As always, this type of medication cannot cure anxiety or insomnia as they don’t deal with the underlying cause, but they can be an effective way of managing associated symptoms and helping you to feel more relaxed in the short term.

Mood Stabilisers

Mood stabilisers are a form of psychiatric medication and are prescribed to individuals that experience extreme mood swings.

They can be used as part of the treatment for:

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Mania and hypomania

  • Recurrent, severe depression and schizoaffective disorder

There are various individual drugs that are referred to as mood stabilisers, but all have very different chemical properties. However, they are grouped together by healthcare professionals as they all work in a similar way to stabilise your mood, such as if you experience extreme highs and extreme lows.

There different types of mood stabilisers include:

  • Lithium – commonly used to treat bipolar disorder

  • Anticonvulsants – also referred to as anti-epileptic medication and help to stabilise mood

  • Antipsychotics – can be used as part of the treatment for bipolar disorder

There is a common misconception that antidepressant drugs are also mood stabilisers, as they can help to lift mood in people experiencing depression. However, antidepressants are not included in the list of mood stabilising drugs and are listed as another type of psychiatric medication.


Medication Is Just One Form of Treatment

There are various other types of treatment for mental conditions as well as medication including talking therapies and CBT. Medication isn’t always for everyone, and that’s okay – there are other ways you can manage your symptoms and seek help for your mental health.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition or suicidal thoughts and is in need of immediate help, there are resources available: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/behaviours/help-for-suicidal-thoughts/

Need more in-depth information on medication for mental health conditions?

Please visit the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/medicines-and-psychiatry/  

Mental health services and urgent help are available through the NHS and local mental health charities and services: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/mental-health-services/