Psychiatric medication

Explains what psychiatric drugs are, what to know before taking them, and information on side effects and coming off medication.

What is psychiatric medication?

Psychiatric medication includes all drugs which can be prescribed to treat different types of mental health problems, or to reduce the symptoms. 

What types of psychiatric medication are there?

There are 4 main types of psychiatric medication: 

Type of psychiatric medication What it's prescribed for
Mood stabilisers
Sleeping pills and minor tranquillisers

In addition to looking at our pages on these types of medication by clicking the links in the table above, you also can find reliable information on the eMC and NHS Choices websites. 

Why might I take medication? 

Generally, psychiatric drugs can’t cure a mental health problem. But in some cases, they can help reduce the symptoms or help you cope with them better.

Whether you are offered medication or not depends on:

  • your diagnosis
  • your symptoms
  • how severely the condition affects you

How long might I take medication for?

Again, this depends on:

  • your diagnosis
  • how severely the condition affects you

For some conditions (such as depression, or an episode of psychosis) you might only be expected take the medication for a specific period of time.

If you have repeated episodes of mental ill-health (such as might happen with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia) your doctor might advise you to stay on your medication for several years, or indefinitely.

Who can prescribe medication? 

You can be prescribed psychiatric medication by: 

  • a GP  
  • a psychiatrist 
  • a nurse prescriber – usually attached to your surgery or community mental health team (CMHT) 

(For more information about health care professionals, see our pages on who's who in mental health.)


This information was published in 2014. We will revise it in 2016.

Mental Health A-Z

Information and advice on a huge range of mental health topics

> Read our A-Z


Helping you to better understand and support people with mental health problems

> View courses

Special offers

Check out our promotional offers on print and digital booklets, for a limited time only

> Visit our shop today