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Learn about mood, personality, anxiety, psychiatric, and psychotic disorders from expert Ankur Saraiya, MD.
This is a good example of how confusing terminology causes a lot of problems in understanding different aspects of psychiatric treatment. Why would you use an antipsychotic on somebody who's not psychotic? The answer to that question is that the effects of medications that are used to treat psychotic symptoms are not limited to just stopping psychotic symptoms. In other words, when you take a medication that's classified as an antipsychotic it can have other effects that are positive and some of those effects are antidepressant effects. So, in an individual who is not responding to a primary antidepressant, sometimes it can make sense to add a so called antipsychotic as a second or third medication to try to get benefit for that person for their depression symptoms; and it reflects a general trend in psychiatry where medications that are referred to as a certain class, when moved to a different context, that classification causes confusion. What's more useful in general in understanding why a certain medication is used for a certain disorder is understanding what the effects are of that particular medication, what the potential benefits are, and what the side effects are; and then evaluating whether the side effects or the risks justify the benefits or the effects. If each medication is approached this way, it's easier to avoid the confusion that comes from thinking about medications in general classes. So the reason that antipsychotics are used to treat depression is they're not just antipsychotic. This holds true for many classes of psychiatric medications. So, when working with your doctor, focus on a particular medication, find out what it can do, find out what the side effects are, and then you can make an informed decision about whether it makes sense to take that medication.