Antidepressant medicines may improve or
completely relieve the symptoms of
depression. If you are mildly depressed, you may not
have to take them, but most people with moderate or severe depression need
Antidepressant medicines work in different ways. No
antidepressant works better than another, but different ones work better or
worse for different people. The side effects of antidepressant medicines are
different and may lead you to choose one instead of another.
may have to try different medicines or take more than one to help your
symptoms. Most people find a medicine that works within a few tries. Other
people take longer to find the right one and may need to take the
antidepressant and another type of medicine, such as an antiseizure, mood
stabilizer, antipsychotic, or antianxiety medicine.
and your doctor will decide if you need medicine, what things you'll need to
think about if you need medicine, and which medicine is right for you.
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Antidepressant medicines include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such
as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
- Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants, such as
doxepin (Sinequan) and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor).
- Other antidepressants, such as bupropion (Wellbutrin,
Wellbutrin SR), mirtazapine (Remeron), trazodone, and venlafaxine (Effexor,
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as
isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine sulfate (Nardil), and selegiline
Side effects and safety
have side effects. You may notice the side effects before you notice that the
medicine is helping you. Side effects vary depending on the medicine you
People who are taking medicines for other health problems
need to know about medicine interactions. Talk with your doctor about the best
way to track whether a combination of medicines is harming you. People who are
taking a lot of medicines also are more likely to have harmful side effects.
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How long will you need medicines?
If you take
antidepressants, you should take them for at least 6 months after you begin to
feel better. This can help prevent you from feeling depressed again (relapse). If this isn't the first time you have been
depressed, your doctor may want you to take these medicines even longer.
You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after starting your
antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see a great
deal of improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or
if you don't notice that you feel better by 3 weeks, talk to your
Some people need to remain on medicine for several months
to years. Others will need medicine long-term. This is more likely if you have
had several bouts of depression that seriously affected your home life, work life, or both.
Don't quit taking your medicines
without talking to your doctor. If you quit suddenly, it can cause your depression to return and it can cause dizziness,
anxiety, fatigue, and headache. If you and your doctor decide you can quit
using medicine, gradually reduce the dose over several weeks.
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