What are antidepressants?
When a person has depression, a possible cause is because the chemicals in their brain are out of balance. Antidepressants are medications that help to restore the balance, allowing the nerves of the brain to more effectively communicate. By targeting certain brain chemicals (serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine), antidepressants help to regulate mood and to reduce the symptoms that keep you from enjoying your life and getting through day-to-day tasks. There are treatments that work on both the emotional and unpleasant physical symptoms of depression. There are also natural health products that are approved to relieve symptoms of depression.

Do antidepressants work?
Large clinical trials have shown that antidepressant medications work quite effectively to treat depression. But don't get discouraged if the first treatment you try does not resolve your symptoms. Because everyone's depression is different, people may need to try different antidepressant medications in order to meet their goal of resolving symptoms. Therefore, it's very important to talk to your doctor about finding the right medication for you, even if it takes some time, to restore your ability to function in your daily life.

How long does it take for antidepressants to start to work?
You probably won't notice much improvement on the first day you take antidepressant medication. If you continue to take your medication regularly and as directed, you may see some improvement within 1 to 2 weeks. The full benefit may not be seen until after 4 to 10 weeks of treatment.

How long do I have to stay on the antidepressant once I start to feel better?
You may feel tempted to stop taking an antidepressant as soon as you feel better. But you should continue to take your medication as recommended by your doctor.

It is important that you continue to take your antidepressant medication even after you start to feel better. Do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your doctor.

Are there side effects to antidepressants?
Antidepressants, like all medications, have the potential to cause side effects. Side effects are often mild, temporary, or go away once your body gets used to the medication. However, there are some serious side effects, such as the potential for behavioural and emotional changes (e.g., agitation, worsening depression) and self-harm. To learn more about side effects, see "Do antidepressants have side effects?" Not everyone will experience side effects. For those who do have side effects, it's important to know that most side effects can be managed effectively. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns about side effects, and do not stop taking your medication suddenly.

Are antidepressants addictive?
If you hesitate to take antidepressant medications because you worry about becoming addicted, rest assured: Antidepressant medications are not known to be addictive. However, if you stop taking some antidepressants abruptly or too quickly, you risk discontinuation syndrome, caused by a sudden withdrawal from the drug. Discontinuation syndrome can cause nausea, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, dizziness, anxiety, agitation, and tingling sensations.

For more information on depression and its management, visit www.depressionhurts.ca.