Antidepressants, along with therapy, are an effective way to treat depression. However, it can take time for an antidepressant medication to be effective — and some people need to try different medications until they find one that works for them. Even if your medication works, it may not work in the right way; it may lose its effectiveness after a while or have unpleasant side effects. If your antidepressant medication isn’t working the way it should, it may be time to try another.
Finding the Right Medication Takes Time
Many people get their first prescription for antidepressant medication from their primary care physician. Some of the most popular antidepressant medications used today are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), and paroxetine (Paxil). They work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, responsible for feelings of well-being, in your brain. You can buy generic versions of drugs like Prozac to save on medication costs.
When you start taking an antidepressant medication, you shouldn’t expect to feel better instantaneously. It can take two to 12 weeks for an antidepressant to relieve your symptoms, though if you don’t feel any improvement in mood after six to eight weeks, you may need a different medication. In one study, only 30 percent of people felt complete relief of depression symptoms with the first antidepressant they tried. An additional 20 percent needed to change medications, take an additional medication or try therapy in conjunction with medication. Out of the remaining 50 percent, 70 percent felt better after changing medications two times or more.
If you think you may need another medication, there are plenty of options. If one SSRI medication doesn’t work for you, another one might. You could also try another class of medications, like serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (NRIs), such as duloxetine (Cymbalta). You can buy Cymbalta online and get your prescribed medication without breaking the bank. But if you think you need to change medications, and you haven’t already seen a psychiatrist, it’s time to see one — a psychiatrist is best qualified to help you sort through your options.
Signs It Could Be Time to Switch
How can you tell if it’s time to switch antidepressants? Obviously, if you’ve been taking your medication for several weeks and you still haven’t noticed any change in your symptoms, you need to make a change. That’s not the only reason you may need to change antidepressants, though.
Sometimes antidepressants only “sort of” work — that is to say they work, but not properly. If you feel a sudden increase in energy levels but no relief from your depression symptoms, that’s a sign your antidepressant isn’t working correctly. It could increase your risk of destructive behaviors or even suicide. If you experience an increase in physical energy that isn’t accompanied by an improvement in mood, see your doctor or psychiatrist ASAP.
Another sign your antidepressant medication isn’t working correctly is if your depression worsens after you start taking the medication. Your symptoms may get worse immediately or they may seem to get better and then get even worse than they were before. Signs of worsening depression include agitation or restlessness, handwringing, feeling like you’re out of control or constant movement and pacing. If you experience violent mood swings on antidepressant medications, it could be a sign you need a different medication or even a different diagnosis.
Unpleasant side effects are another reason you may want to change antidepressants. Many people find that their antidepressant medication comes with side effects they don’t like, like weight gain or decreased libido. If you’re experiencing side effects that are harming your quality of life, ask your doctor about alternative medications.
Some people experience depression relief on antidepressants, but even though they’re feeling better, they still don’t feel completely normal. If this happens to you, changing medications, adding a medication or making lifestyle changes could help. It’s also possible your medication could stop working as well as it once did after you’ve been on it for a while. If this happens, you may need a higher dose.
Will You Need Antidepressants for the Rest of Your Life?
The goal of depression treatment is to bring your symptoms into remission, which in this case means you are functioning at the same level as you did prior to your depressive episode. If you’ve experienced depression relief lasting at least six months on antidepressants, you may be able to stop taking them. Do not just stop taking your medication all at once — consult with your doctor or psychiatrist and taper off your medication slowly over several weeks.
Antidepressants are effective for the treatment of depression, but they can take time to work and specific medications may not be right for everyone. You may need to try two or more different medications to find the drug or combination of drugs that works best for you. The important thing is to keep trying and never give up.