Antidepressant medications are effective for depression, anxiety, and some pain conditions. However, they might be slower to become effective than other medications that you may have taken. Researchers are uncertain why these medications take weeks to reach effectiveness, but your patience and adherence with taking your antidepressant daily is an important part of getting well. Some patients improve in a couple weeks, and others may not fully respond for 6 to 12 weeks. Not only is the time that you’ve taken the antidepressant important in evaluating your response, each antidepressant has a range of dosages and your healthcare provider may consider dosage increase or other strategies if you are not responding as expected. It’s important to keep follow-up appointments and discuss your response (or lack of response) to the antidepressant medication with your prescriber. Your healthcare provider has other treatment options including increasing the medication dosage, switching to a different antidepressant, adding another medication, or adding psychotherapy.
All medications have potential adverse effects and current commonly prescribed antidepressants have low risk for serious negative effects. Often, mild nausea, dry mouth, headache, bowel habit change, or sleep disturbance are signs that the medication is starting to take effect and these effects frequently go away after a few weeks. If you are concerned that you are experiencing intolerable side effects, or don’t think that you want to continue taking the antidepressant medication, you should contact your prescriber to discuss your concerns. Abrupt discontinuation of some antidepressants can result in unpleasant withdrawal-like symptoms, and some patients develop sudden worsening.
Alcohol and recreational drug use can negatively affect the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. Alcohol and sedatives are powerful drugs that cause depression, and sometimes rebound anxiety, so that antidepressants don’t work very well. Your healthcare provider can more effectively help you if you are open about your alcohol and other drug use.
Once you’ve responded well to antidepressant medication, follow your prescriber’s recommendations for maintenance treatment.
Increasingly, research has found that depression, anxiety, and pain are chronic or recurring conditions over a lifetime, so that the illness is better managed by maintaining on the full dosage that was initially effective. Each individual has personal factors that can be discussed with your healthcare provider to develop your best treatment plan.
The Department of Psychiatry & Psychology is made up of a specialized support team trained to care for individuals of all ages with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral concerns. Our board-certified psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistant, along with our licensed psychologists, provide services that span the full range of mental health disorders and behavior problems. Please call 563-584-3500 or visit our website for more information.