Antidepressants: 10 things you should know

Antidepressants are medicines used to treat depression. The decision to take an antidepressant, undertake psychological therapy, or combine both approaches, is very individual. Talk to your doctor about what you think will work best for you.


Different medicines suit different people

You might need to try more than one antidepressant before you find the one that suits you best – not everyone responds the same way to a particular antidepressant.

They take a while to work

Often you will start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of starting an antidepressant, but it can take 6 to 8 weeks to feel the full effect.

Some side effects are temporary, others are not

All antidepressants have some side effects, but different people respond quite differently to the same antidepressant. Some side effects might go away after a few weeks (eg, insomnia, nausea, dizziness), while others may not (eg, sexual problems).

It is important to talk to your doctor

If the side effects of your antidepressant medicine are hard to manage, talk to your doctor about trying a lower dose or switching to a different antidepressant. A psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), could also be an option.

Give yourself time to recover

Keep taking your antidepressant after you start to feel better for as long as your doctor advises (usually 6 to 12 months) – this will reduce the risk of your depression coming back when you stop treatment.

Don't stop suddenly

With most antidepressants, the dose should be reduced gradually over at least a few weeks. Stopping them suddenly can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or feeling jittery. When it’s time to stop taking your antidepressant, your doctor can discuss a dose reduction plan that 's right for you 

Know which medicines interact

Some antidepressants increase the amount of serotonin (a neurotransmitter or brain chemical). Combining these antidepressants with other medicines or illegal drugs that also increase serotonin can cause a serious reaction called serotonin syndrome or serotonin toxicity.

Use our Medicine Finder to get the consumer medical information for different kinds of antidepressant medicines and find out more about potential medicine interactions.

Try non-medicine options first for mild depression

Schedule time in your week for activities you enjoy. Exercising (especially in a group setting) can help you recover and get back on track. Non-medicine options also include eating well and avoiding alcohol or drugs. Be realistic in planning these – start small.

Psychological therapies may have more benefits for some people

For mild depression, it's better to try psychological therapies first, because they are more effective than antidepressants in this situation. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a talking therapy, is about as effective as antidepressants for moderate depression, but the benefits may last longer.

Severe depression should be treated with an antidepressant

Antidepressants are advised if you have severe depression; psychological therapies may be useful, especially once you start to feel better.