How long you will need to take antidepressants depends on the condition they are being used to treat.
With depression, you will start to feel better within 2 to 4 weeks of starting an antidepressant, but it can take 6 to 8 weeks to feel the full effect.
With anxiety disorders, it usually takes more time for an antidepressant to work. It may take 4 to 6 weeks before you start feeling better and it may take up to 12 weeks to feel the full effect of the antidepressant.
Regardless of the condition being treated, you should see your doctor at regular intervals to review your progress and discuss any issues related to treatment. If you are not improving, your doctor may discuss increasing your dose, switching to another antidepressant or referring you to another doctor or specialist.
If you are feeling better with antidepressant treatment you will usually need to keep taking it for a further 6 to 12 months to reduce the risk of your depression or anxiety disorder coming back. Having psychological treatment at the same time can further reduce the risk of your condition coming back. Some people may need to keep taking an antidepressant for a long time to prevent their symptoms coming back.
Stopping an antidepressant
If you and your doctor have decided it’s time for you to stop taking your antidepressant, you will usually need to reduce the dose gradually to avoid symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and feeling jittery, which are side effects from stopping antidepressants. How slowly you need to reduce the dose can depend on several factors, including the type of antidepressant, and how long you have been taking it.
In some cases, you need to slowly reduce the dose before you change to another antidepressant too.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the best dose reduction plan for you.