7 Things to Know About Antidepressants - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 06, 2016

7 Things to Know About Antidepressants

If you’re considering antidepressants, here’s what you need to know.

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If you’re struggling with depression and it’s gotten to the point where it’s interfering with work, family or socializing, your doctor may recommend an antidepressant.

These medications are designed to help balance the levels of your neurotransmitters, which are chemicals responsible for communication between the neurons in your brain. These chemicals affect your mood and emotions.

If you’re considering antidepressants, here’s what you need to know.

1. There’s More than One Type of Antidepressant

In fact, there are five types, most of which target neurotransmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

The five types include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (bupropion)
  • Tricyclics
  • Monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

2. They Take Time to Work

Unlike a pain medication that starts working soon after you take it, antidepressants need more time to work. They can take a few weeks to a couple of months before they take full effect. In other words, they won’t make you feel better immediately.

3. You May Experience Some Side Effects

Antidepressants’ side effects vary greatly from drug to drug and person to person. The most common physical side effects include insomnia, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues like nausea and diarrhea. In some cases, these drugs can increase depression and anxiety.

However, these side effects should subside once your body adjusts to the medication. If they don’t, you should talk to your doctor.

4. They Need to be Taken Exactly as Prescribed

If you’re taking antidepressants, it’s imperative for you to take it how your doctor prescribed. Taking less or skipping doses will make it less effective. If you don’t feel like it’s working or the side effects are particularly troublesome, talk to your doctor before doing anything differently.

5. You and Your Doctor Will Determine How Long You Should Use It

Every person responds to antidepressants differently. In general, you should give your medication four to six weeks to build up and provide you with the most benefit. If you’re feeling the benefits of the medication and tolerating any side effects, you’ll likely remain on the antidepressant for a minimum of six months to a year.

6. If You Feel Better, Discontinuing the Medication May Not Be the Answer

During your treatment for depression, your doctor will regularly evaluate your condition to make sure it continues to improve. If you’re feeling better, stopping your medication may not be ideal – you may be feeling better because the antidepressant is working.

Similarly, you shouldn’t give up your medication if you don’t feel like it’s helping your depression. If the one you’re taking doesn’t seem to be working, your doctor will likely suggest another one to try. Studies have shown that people with depression who didn’t respond to the first medication had a better chance of recovery if they tried a second type of antidepressant or added a new one to their treatment.

7. You Need to Come Off of the Medication Slowly

If and when you and your doctor decide it’s a good time to go off of your antidepressant, it’s important to do so slowly and with your doctor’s supervision. Some antidepressants can cause intense withdrawal symptoms, which can possibly ramp up your depression and anxiety . Your doctor will help you slowly and safely taper off by gradually reducing your dose.

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