Medications that affect people psychologically are called psychoactive drugs. They are often helpful in treating depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other psychological complications that may accompany HIV infection. Psychoactive drugs don't affect the underlying causes of these disorders, but they can provide symptomatic relief to allow people to live more normal lives.
Anxiety can be defined as persistent nervousness, tension, or panic caused by stress or other psychological causes. Antianxiety drugs (also known as minor tranquilizers) are used to promote relaxation or reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They depress the central nervous system, causing relaxation and sedation. A class of drugs called beta-blockers reduce the shaking or palpitations that may occur when people panic in highly stressful situations, such as job interviews or speaking in public. Other drugs used to treat anxiety include buspirone, some antidepressants, and in special cases, barbiturates.
Everyone feels depressed at times, but when it is prolonged and starts interfering with daily life, support, professional help, and/or psychoactive medications may be appropriate.
Antidepressants often have severe side effects. MAO inhibitors in particular must be used with caution because they deactivate enzymes in the body that break down chemicals found in many foods, such as meat, cheese, yeast extracts, and red wine. Eating these foods while taking an MAO inhibitor can cause a dramatic rise in blood pressure.
Insomnia has many causes, including anxiety and depression. When the cause is known and can be treated, sleep patterns generally return to normal. When the insomnia is persistent, sleeping drugs may be appropriate.
Psychosis is a condition in which a person may not be able to think clearly, recognize reality, or act rationally. The precise cause is often unknown, but stress, drug use, heredity, brain injury, or neurological disease may be involved. Drug treatment is usually reserved for when the psychosis is prolonged and interferes with normal life.
Mania (exaggerated euphoria or elation) is a type of psychosis that can be caused by a number of medical problems or as a side effects of certain drugs, such as the amphetamines, cocaine, and steroids. The most effective treatment is to remove the cause, if possible. Where the cause is unknown, drug treatment may be appropriate. Rapid or wild mood swings, with peaks of mania and troughs of depression, are usually treated with lithium, a drug that reduces the intensity of the mania and reduces the frequency of mood swings. Acute mania may be treated with haloperidol or phenothiazine drugs including thioridazine, fluphenazine, perphenazine, and trifluoperazine.
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