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your doctor has prescribed antidepressants, there are some important things you
need to know about how to take them. Following these guidelines can reduce
problems and help you get the most benefit from your medicine.
Antidepressants help restore the normal balance of brain chemicals. When
these brain chemicals are in balance, your depression gets better.
Be sure your doctor knows about any other health conditions you have and
any medicines you take regularly. This information can affect which
antidepressant your doctor prescribes for you.
There are many
antidepressant medicines, and they affect brain chemistry in different ways.
The first medicine you take may help you feel better. Or you might need to try
a few medicines before you find the one that works best for you.
You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start to take
an antidepressant. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more
improvement. If you have not improved at all after taking an antidepressant for
3 weeks, talk to your doctor. He or she may increase your dose or have you try a different medicine.
Taking an antidepressant for at least 6 months after you feel better can
help keep you from getting depressed again. If this is not the first time you
have been depressed, your doctor may want you to take the medicine even longer.
Side effects may
vary depending on the medicine you take, but common ones include stomach upset,
loss of appetite, diarrhea, feeling anxious or on edge, sleep problems,
drowsiness, loss of sexual desire, and headaches.
effects are mild and will go away after you take the medicine for a few
If your child is
taking antidepressants, make sure to tell your child's doctor about any family
bipolar disorder and to watch your child closely for
manic behavior. Some people who are first diagnosed
with depression turn out to have bipolar disorder, which causes mood swings
from depression to mania. A first episode of mania can happen on its own, but
it can also be triggered by certain medicines, including antidepressants.
Women who take an SSRI during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. But not treating depression can also cause problems during pregnancy and birth. If you are pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of taking an SSRI against the risks of not treating depression.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.
Still, for people who are depressed, the benefits of antidepressants are
probably greater than the risks. By relieving depression, antidepressants may
actually reduce the risk of suicide in the long run.
As soon as you start to feel better, you can slowly
reduce how much medicine you take.
Taking an antidepressant for at least 6 months
(as prescribed) after you feel better can help keep you from getting depressed
again. If this is not the first time you have been depressed, your doctor may
want you to take the medicine even longer.
Continue to Why?
Antidepressants are very good at treating depression. Keep the following
in mind when you take antidepressants:
Antidepressants work best when you take them exactly
Antidepressants are very good at treating
depression. But if you don't take your medicine as prescribed, it is less
likely to help you.
Continue to How?
To get the best results
from an antidepressant medicine, you need to take it just as prescribed. Be
sure you know:
When you pick up your medicine at the drugstore, read the
information sheet that comes with it. This will list the side effects and other
important facts. If there is anything you don't understand, ask the pharmacist
to explain it.
Do not stop taking your medicine if you have mild side effects. They
will most likely go away after you take the medicine for a few weeks.
If the side effects bother you, talk with your doctor. He or she may
prescribe a different medicine or suggest ways to manage your side effects.
Call your doctor right away if you
or anyone who takes antidepressants has any serious side effects, such
If you have not improved after taking an
antidepressant for 3 weeks, you should stop taking it.
If you have not improved after taking an
antidepressant for 3 weeks, you should call your doctor. You may need a
different medicine. But in the meantime, keep taking the medicine. Stopping
suddenly could cause problems.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you know more about how to take antidepressants wisely.
If you have questions about this information, print it out and take it
with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to use a highlighter to mark
areas or make notes on the pages where you have questions.
Return to topic:
January 11, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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