If you're pregnant, there may be other issues that affect your decision. Pregnant women need to be more careful about taking antidepressants.
The symptoms of depression include a loss of interest in daily activities or feeling sad or hopeless and having at least four of the following symptoms:
Antidepressants are medicines for treating depression. They work by helping to balance certain chemicals in your brain. They can make your symptoms better or get rid of them completely.
There are several kinds of antidepressants. There is no evidence that one works better than another. But the side effects are different.
Antidepressants don't change your personality. They help your symptoms.
You don't need to be ashamed about taking antidepressants. Depression is a health problem, not a character flaw or weakness.
Most people are able to find an antidepressant that helps their depression. But you may have to try a few before you find one that works for you. The right medicine is one that helps your symptoms and has the fewest side effects.
You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start taking an antidepressant. But you may need to take it for as long as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement.
It's best to keep taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better. If this is not the first time you have been depressed, your doctor may want you to take these medicines even longer.
The thought of needing to take medicine for a long time can be scary. But many people are able to slowly stop taking antidepressants after a while.
Antidepressants can change how you feel and respond in certain situations, but they don't change who you are. You may feel more relaxed, more social, more assertive, or more outgoing when you are taking an antidepressant.
Depression treated only with antidepressants, and not also with therapy, is more likely to come back later.
Most antidepressants cause minor side effects that go away or improve in the first few weeks of treatment. If you keep taking your medicine, there is a good chance that you will start to feel less depressed and that the side effects will decrease. Most people feel that the benefits of antidepressants are well worth the price of living with some side effects.
Side effects may vary depending on the medicine you take, but common ones include:
Some side effects may not go away, but usually there are ways to manage them. Talk with your doctor about how to manage side effects.
Problems with sexual arousal and a lack of interest in sex are common side effects. If this happens to you, talk to your doctor. There are other medicines that may help with these problems.
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.
Counseling is an important part of the treatment for depression. The types of counseling most often used for treatment of depression include:
There are also lifestyle changes you may be able to make that may help your depression symptoms:
Besides counseling and lifestyle changes, there are some other treatments you can try:
Your doctor might suggest that you try antidepressants if:
|Take antidepressants||Don't take antidepressants|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"I didn't even realize that I was depressed for a long time. I thought everyone felt this way; at least everyone in my family seemed to. I probably would have just gone on like that if my doctor hadn't asked one day if I had ever thought about taking an antidepressant. I was relieved to find out that it isn't normal to feel like I do and that a lot of people are helped by medicines. I know it might take a while to find the right one, but I'm in no hurry; I've spent my whole life feeling sad."
— Jackie, age 62
"I tried antidepressants about a year ago. I really was not prepared for the first few weeks, when the side effects seemed to get me down even more than the depression did. So I stopped taking them. It took me about 3 months, but I eventually started to feel better without any medicine. Then last month, I started to feel depressed again. I don't want to wait so long to feel better this time. So I'm going to try the antidepressants again. This time, I know what to expect and am better prepared for it."
— Tyrone, age 43
"I guess I'm just not comfortable with taking medicine for my depression. I feel like I ought to be able to manage this on my own without needing medicine. It seems too much like taking the easy route. But maybe I just don't feel bad enough yet."
— Bob, age 50
"I recently began going to counseling. I know that if I took an antidepressant, I might feel better sooner, but I don't like the sound of the side effects I could have. My therapist and I have set some goals for me to work on, and we agreed to revisit my decision in 3 months. I want to wait and see how the counseling goes before I take medicine."
— Joslyn, age 28
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to take antidepressants
Reasons not to take antidepressants
My symptoms are keeping me from living my normal life.
My symptoms aren't bad enough to get in the way of my life.
I'm willing to take medicine every day for at least 6 months, and maybe longer.
I don't like the idea of taking medicine for a long time.
My symptoms are worse than the possible side effects of the medicines.
I think the side effects will be worse than my symptoms.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Taking an antidepressant
NOT taking an antidepressant
1. Are antidepressants right for everyone with depression?
2. Is it possible to manage the side effects of antidepressants?
3. Will you start to feel better right away?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry|
Kennedy S, et al. (2009). Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) clinical guidelines for the management of major depressive disorder in adults. Journal of Affective Disorders, 117(Suppl 1): S1–S64.