For many people, finding antidepressants that work for them may be a matter of trial and error. Antidepressants work by altering the chemistry inside your brain and are designed to reduce the intensity of depression and anxiety symptoms.
You should be able to experience the following benefits while on antidepressants:
- Improve mood and motivation
- Reduce restlessness and promote better sleep
- Increase appetite and concentration
- Improve self-esteem
- Ability to think more clearly
How long does it take for antidepressants to work?
Antidepressants are not magic pills that solve everything right away from the first dose. Since they work at the neurotransmitter level, it takes time for your brain chemistry to change to the point where it is getting a consistent supply of serotonin and other mood-enhancing chemicals.
This entire process may take 2-3 weeks to complete, with optimal effects being seen at 6 weeks. Some may even take 8 weeks or longer. How soon you see results depends on the severity of your symptoms of depression, mood swings, or anxiety. Your doctor will usually increase the dosage of medications gradually based on your body’s response to the medication.
Even if you start feeling much better, however, your doctor will not stop your treatment. Since mental disorders often come back, antidepressants need to be continued for at least 4-9 months. The duration also depends on whether symptoms change over time and how likely they are to return. Some people may need to use antidepressants for many years.
How effective are antidepressants?
Antidepressants are usually prescribed when psychotherapy or counseling does not work in cases of mild depression. Benefits are more pronounced in cases of moderate to severe depression. According to some studies, 40%-60% of people with moderate to severe depression noticed an improvement in their symptoms within 6-8 weeks.
Since there are a wide variety of antidepressants available, and since each person has unique brain chemistry, it’s difficult to predict how your body will respond to certain medications.
Your doctor will make a prescription based on what they think will be the most effective for you and what your body will likely be able to tolerate. It may take a few different medications before finding one that works the best for you.
What should you remember when taking antidepressants?
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel better right away. Antidepressants take time to work, and patience is the key. If you feel like your symptoms are the same or getting worse, don’t stop taking your medications but inform your doctor. They may adjust your dosage, add another medication, or change your prescription altogether.
If you need to stop taking antidepressants, you will need to taper off gradually over several weeks. Stopping them abruptly can cause moderate to severe side effects, including nausea, restlessness, and more depression. One of the advantages of antidepressants is that unlike many sleeping pills and sedatives, they don't cause physical dependence or addiction.
When you are on antidepressants, make sure to keep up with your doctor’s appointments. Your physician will need to know how you are doing on the medications and whether there are any side effects.
Kajanoja J, Scheinin NM, Karukivi M, Karlsson L, Karlsson H. Is Antidepressant Use Associated With Difficulty Identifying Feelings? A Brief Report. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. Feb 2018;26(1):2-5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29337584/
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/
Top How Should Antidepressants Make You Feel Related Articles
12 Tips for Success with Antidepressants, SSRI MedicationAntidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are medication treatments for depression. Learn about side effects, interactions, and brand names for MAOIs, TCAs and other antidepressants. Find out how antidepressants work and why they are useful in fighting depression.
Can Major Depression Turn into Schizophrenia?Sometimes, you can have depressive symptoms in the early stages of schizophrenia before or while you experience psychosis, but these disorders are separate diagnoses. Major depression doesn’t become schizophrenia.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Treat Depression?Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses cognitive strategies to help people change patterns in the way they think and behavioral strategies to help people change behaviors that aren't helpful. CBT can help people with mild-to-moderate major depressive disorder.
damianaDamiana is an herbal supplement used for varied conditions such as headache, depression, bedwetting, and as a general tonic and aphrodisiac. Damiana use can be addictive and can lead to overdose. Damiana may have an estrogen lowering effect. Avoid use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Typical doses of damiana may not cause side effects. Side effects are unknown because of lack of clinical studies.
DepressionDepression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Learn to Spot Depression: Symptoms, Warning Signs, MedicationKnow when you or someone else is depressed. Get information on depression symptoms, signs, tests, and treatments for many types of depression chronic depression and postpartum depression.
Depression QuizMany people do not recognize the symptoms and warning signs of depression and depressive disorders in children and adults. With proper diagnosis, treatments and medications are available. Take this quiz to learn more about recovery from depression.
Foods to Fight DepressionFoods that help fight depression include turkey, Brazil nuts, carrots, shellfish, coffee, leafy greens, salmon, milk, and berries. These are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D. Avoid central nervous system depressants like alcohol and foods containing high-glycemic simple carbohydrates and added sugars that exacerbate depression.
How Does Depression Affect a Person's Behavior?Depression — a serious mood disorder — is the most common mental health disorder. It can interfere with your thoughts, your feelings, and daily activities like sleeping, eating, and working.
Is Fish Oil an Antidepressant?Fish oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an essential role in your brain’s functions. There have been studies that show omega-3 fatty acids may help treat depression in some people.
Medicines that Cause Depression
mirtazapine (Remeron, Soltab)Mirtazapine is a tetracyclic antidepressant prescribed for the treatment of major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The most common side effects of mirtazapine include drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain, increased appetite, increased cholesterol and triglycerides, dizziness, constipation, confusion, and abnormal dreams. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
sodium bicarbonateSodium bicarbonate is a chemical compound made of sodium and bicarbonate used to increase the alkalinity of the body. Intravenous sodium bicarbonate is also used as an antidote for metabolic acidosis due to toxicity from many drugs. Oral sodium bicarbonate is an antacid used to temporarily relieve symptoms of acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach. Common side effects of sodium bicarbonate include excessive alkalinity (metabolic alkalosis), high sodium levels in blood (hyponatremia), low potassium levels (hypokalemia), low calcium levels (hypocalcemia), cerebral hemorrhage, increased acid level in the brain tissue (intracranial acidosis), exacerbation of congestive heart failure (CHF), swelling (edema), and others. Consult your doctor if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Depression Therapy MythsFalse ideas scare many depression suffers away from therapy and the quick relief and help these pros can provide. Let our experts help you understand the truth about therapy.
tricyclic antidepressants-oral, injection
What Is Major Depression Disorder?The American Psychiatric Association defines major depressive disorder (depression) as a common, but serious, medical illness that negatively affects how one feels, thinks and acts. Depression causes sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and decrease a person’s ability to function at work and home.
What Is the Most Commonly Prescribed Antidepressant?Depression is a type of mood disorder and serious medical illness. It negatively affects the thought and the behavioral process of life. Antidepressants are drugs used to treat depression. The best and most commonly used drug for the treatment of depression is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs help activate the cells that have been deactivated by depression, relieving the depressed person's symptoms.