Thinking of starting to take antidepressants? Many people are curious about how long it will take for the medicine to “kick in” and start feeling better.
The answer, unfortunately, isn’t straightforward. For some people, antidepressants may offer relatively quick relief from depression symptoms in just a few hours. Others may need to wait several weeks before they start feeling better.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with antidepressant medication is different. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. It may take some time for the medication to work.
Here’s everything you need to know about taking antidepressants.
What Are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a class of psychiatric medications used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, and other mood disorders.
They work by correcting imbalances of certain brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals play an important role in regulating mood.
Antidepressants can be taken in the form of pills, but there are also other forms of antidepressant treatment that are effective. For example, some people with depression may benefit from transcranial magnetic stimulation, a non-medication antidepressant therapy, or ketamine therapy, which is available as an IV drip or nasal spray.
What Kinds of Antidepressant Medications Are Out There?
There are many different types of antidepressant medications. The most common type is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other types of antidepressant medications include:
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
There is no one antidepressant that is better than another. Finding the right antidepressant can be a process of trial and error, and it may be necessary to try several antidepressants or doses before experiencing maximum benefit.
How Do Antidepressant Medications Work?
Antidepressants work by balancing chemicals in your brain. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. They help regulate your mood and emotions. When these chemicals are out of balance, you may experience depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions.
Antidepressant treatment works to balance neurotransmitters by preventing them from being reabsorbed by your brain cells. This allows more of the chemicals to remain in your brain, which helps improve your mood and emotions.
How Fast Do Antidepressants Work?
Typically, antidepressants take a ‘ramp up’ period of 4-6 weeks to experience their full effect. However, just like there are different types of antidepressants, there are also different timelines for how long they take to work. It can depend on the individual’s unique body chemistry, the antidepressant type and dose, as well as the depression type and severity.
Some people may start to feel relief from their symptoms within a one to two weeks of taking the first dose, while others may not start to experience the full benefits of the medication until after several weeks or even months. According to the American Psychiatric Association, for most, antidepressants begin working after four to six weeks. It’s important to be patient and to continue taking the medication as prescribed, even if it doesn’t seem to be working right away.
If you’re not seeing any improvement after a few weeks, or if your symptoms are actually getting worse, talk to your doctor. He or she may want to adjust your dose or try a different type of antidepressant altogether.
What Are the Benefits of Antidepressants?
While the timeline for how long it takes antidepressants to work may vary, there are many potential benefits of taking these medications. For some people, antidepressants work what feels like a miracle.
Antidepressants can help to improve mood, energy levels, sleep, and appetite. They can also help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. In some cases, antidepressants can even help relieve suicidal thoughts.
Like with most medications, there can be potential risks and side effects associated with taking antidepressants. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before starting any medication.
What Are the Possible Side Effects of Antidepressants?
The most common side effects of antidepressants include:
• Dry mouth
• Sexual side effects
• Weight gain or loss
Some people may also experience more serious side effects, such as:
• Increased anxiety or agitation
• Trouble sleeping
• Changes in heart rate or blood pressure
Despite the potential side effects, many people find that the benefits of using antidepressants outweigh the risks. If you are considering taking antidepressants, be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits.
There are a number of ways to manage the side effects of antidepressants. If you’re experiencing side effects from your medication, your doctor may be able to adjust your dose or switch you to a different medication.
How Do You Know If You Shouldn’t Take Antidepressants?
When it comes to treating depression, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Antidepressants can be life-changing, but they don’t work for everyone. In general, the benefits of adequately treating depression symptoms, whether that’s with an oral antidepressant or an alternative depression treatment like TMS, outweigh the potential risks. It’s important to know that you can still consider antidepressant medication if:
You have mild depression. For any severity of depression, first-line treatments like talk therapy and behavioral modifications are generally the best place to start. However, if symptoms persist, then antidepressant medication is a safe, effective option.
You’re trying to get pregnant. If you are trying to conceive, you should talk to your doctor about your current medications including antidepressants. Some antidepressant medications are teratogenic (considered harmful to the developing fetus), however, it’s important to discuss your specific health needs with your provider before making changes to your treatment.
You’re pregnant or breastfeeding. In California, one in five women suffers from depression, anxiety, or both while pregnant or after giving birth. While “postpartum” depression is commonly known for occurring after birth, fifty percent of postpartum major depressive episodes actually begin prior to delivery. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of your current medications as well as your alternative treatment options for depression, like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
You have a history of substance abuse. In many cases, substance abuse co-occurs with depression or another mental health condition and successful, long-term recovery requires the effective treatment of both. If you’re struggling with depression and have a history of substance abuse or if you are actively misusing substances, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of antidepressant medication.
If you’re not sure whether you should take antidepressant medication, talk with your doctor. He or she can help you decide if antidepressant treatment is best for your unique symptoms, health history, and health goals.
Will Antidepressants Fix My Depression?
Depression is a chronic illness, like cancer, that can go into remission and never recur. However, depression very well may recur. Currently, there is no cure for depression, however, there are several safe and effective treatment options that can help patients achieve full remission. Antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other types, can be life-changing. However, antidepressants don’t work for everyone. The good news? Oral medications are not the only options for depression treatment.
If you’ve tried an oral antidepressant medication and are experiencing lingering symptoms or unwanted side effects, tell your doctor about your treatment options.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, only you and your provider can decide if antidepressants are right for you. It’s important to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking medication. Be sure to ask about side effects and other treatments that may be available.
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Although depression is highly treatable, many people struggling with their mental health go a long time between developing symptoms and receiving appropriate treatment and support. If you’re struggling with depression, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to you, including therapy, support groups, and medication. With the right treatment, you can start to feel better and live a happier, healthier life.
Find an Expert, In-network Psychiatrist in Los Angeles
Medication isn’t right for everyone. But for some people with disorders such as anxiety, depression, and other conditions, the results can be profound.
At Neuro Wellness Spa, our no-pressure clinicians here in Los Angeles can work with you to figure out whether antidepressants or a non-pharma alternative, like TMS, might work for you. Get started today.