Depression: Taking Antidepressants Safely
If your doctor has prescribed antidepressants, there are some important things to know about how to take them. Following these guidelines can reduce problems and help you get the most benefit from your medicine.
- Antidepressants work best when you take them exactly as your doctor prescribed them. This also helps reduce side effects.
- You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start taking this medicine. But it can take as long as 6 to 8 weeks to see improvement. If you don't start to feel better by 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.
- Antidepressants can cause side effects. But most of them are mild and go away after you take the medicine for a few weeks.
- It's best to take these medicines for at least 6 months after you start to feel better. This can help keep you from feeling depressed again (relapse).
- Be sure your doctor knows about any other health problems you have and any medicines you take. These things can affect which medicine your doctor prescribes for you.
- Quitting antidepressants too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms or cause depression to come back. If you have a problem with your medicine or are ready to quit taking it, work with your doctor to slowly reduce the dose over time.
How to take antidepressant medicine wisely
If your doctor has prescribed antidepressants, try these tips. They can help you get the most from your medicine.
- Share your health history with your doctor.
Tell your doctor about your other medicines and health conditions. These things can affect which antidepressant your doctor prescribes for you. Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your family has had bipolar disorder or used antidepressants before.
- Take your medicine as prescribed.
It works best and has fewer side effects when you take it exactly as your doctor prescribed. If you miss a dose and it's not too late in the day, you can still take it. Don't double up doses.
- Keep taking your medicine for a while.
If antidepressants work well for you, your doctor may suggest taking them for at least 6 months after you feel better. This may help keep you from getting depressed again.
- Let your doctor know if your symptoms aren't getting better.
You may need a different dose. Or you may need to try several different medicines. It can take a while to find the medicine and dosage that work best.
- Don't take any new medicines unless you talk to your doctor first.
Even common medicines like aspirin and some vitamins and herbs can cause problems if you use them while you take antidepressants.
- Do not drink alcohol.
It can make the side effects worse.
- Don't stop taking your medicine on your own.
Quitting antidepressants too quickly can cause withdrawal symptoms. It can also cause depression to come back. If you are having a problem with your medicine or are ready to quit taking it, work with your doctor. They can help you to slowly reduce the dose over a span of a few weeks.
Call your doctor right away for serious side effects.
- Warning signs of suicide. These include talking or writing about death, giving away belongings, and withdrawing from family and friends.
- Manic behavior. This includes having very high energy, sleeping less than normal, being impulsive, or being grouchy or restless.
- Serotonin syndrome. This can happen if you take too much antidepressant medicine or take more than one type of medicine that affects serotonin. Signs may include high body temperature, clumsiness, nausea, and feeling restless.