starting depression medication

Starting Depression Medication? Here’s What to Expect

Deciding to begin an antidepressant is an important decision to be made with your doctor or therapist. It is not a decision every individual makes easily. Starting depression medication, however, can give you the boost you need to overcome depression and to enjoy life again. If you decide to begin treating your depression with medication, this is what you should expect.

Common Side Effects of Depression Medication

Depending on your medical history, depression symptoms and goals for the medication, your doctor will prescribe you one or a combination of the various types of antidepressant medications available. Types of drugs commonly prescribed for depression include:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • tricyclics
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • atypical antidepressants (other medications used for depression which do not fit into a category)

Although proven effective at treating depression, these medications are not without side effects. Potential side effects of antidepressants include:

  • nausea
  • weight gain
  • restlessness and insomnia
  • drowsiness and fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • lower libido
  • irritability
  • increased suicidal thoughts

Everyone reacts differently to antidepressant medications, but most will experience some side effects. Sometimes, these side effects will clear up after the first few weeks of treatment.

If intolerable side effects persist, you might consider talking with your doctor about changing medications. Be sure to ask your doctor about your treatment expectations and potential side effects of the various medications.

How Soon After Starting Depression Medication Will You Feel Better?

Each person’s body chemistry, condition and symptoms are different. As a result, it can be difficult to predict the exact outcome or timeline of any given patient’s treatment. Some medications, however, work more quickly than others. Depending on your prescription, you might begin feeling the effects of your medication right away, after a few weeks or not until after up to two months of treatment.

Due to the variability in treatment timelines and patient response, it is important to try to be patient while your doctor works with you to perfect your treatment plan when starting depression medication. In fact, many doctors ask their patients to commit to, at the minimum, six months to a year of finding the right treatment before starting a patient on a medication.

When beginning a new depression medication, stay in close contact with your doctor. Notify your healthcare professional of any side effects you experience, adverse changes in behavior, improvements or lack of changes. During the first few weeks or months of treatment, your doctor will work with you to adjust your dosage, type of medication or combination of medications to help you achieve your desired treatment outcome.

The Key to Success on Antidepressants? Medication Adherence

Different types of antidepressant medications work in different ways. For example, the most commonly prescribed (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) require time and consistency for them to effectively combat depression from the inside out. Adhering to your prescription instructions and doctor’s orders will give you the best chance at finding a medication that helps you defeat depression.

For the best results, ask your doctor at what time of day your medication should be taken, whether to take it with food or on an empty stomach, and be sure not to miss any doses. There are tools available to help with becoming more consistent with pills, from the humble smartphone alarm clock to the more sophisticated pill tracker.

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