Although psychiatric medications don’t cure mental illness, they can often significantly improve symptoms in a variety of disorders from depression to schizophrenia. Psychiatric medications can also help make other treatments, such as psychotherapy, more effective.

Some of the most commonly used classes of psychotropic medications include:

Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressants are used to treat various types of depression and sometimes other conditions. Antidepressants can help improve such symptoms as sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and lack of interest in activities. Antidepressants are grouped by how they affect brain chemistry, and a number of different types are available. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and citalopram (Celexa) just to name a few. The best one for you will depend on your particular situation and how your body responds to the medication.

Mood-Stabilizing Medications

Mood stabilizers are most commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, which is characterized by alternating episodes of mania and depression. Mood-stabilizing medications include lithium (Lithobid), divalproex (Depakote), lamotrigine (Lamictal) and others. Sometimes mood-stabilizing medications are added to antidepressants to treat depression.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety medications are obviously used to treat anxiety disorders. They may also be useful in helping reduce agitation and improve sleep. Medications such as alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan) are generally fast acting, and helping relieve symptoms in as little as 30 minutes. However, a significant issue is that they have the potential to cause dependency and this side effect should always be discussed with the prescribing professional.

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotic medications, also called neuroleptics, are typically used to treat psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Antipsychotic medications may also be used to treat bipolar disorders or added to antidepressants to treat depression. Antipsychotic medications include clozapine (Clozaril), and olanzapine (Zyprexa).