Signs You Need To Adjust Your Antidepressants

Your mental health plays a role in your overall well being and can drastically impact your ability to function effectively from day to day. In fact, when your mood isn't right, it can throw off the tone and feel of your day, week, or even month. Inspira Health explains that the top three most diagnosed mental health disorders are anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For individuals who experience milder symptoms of mental health disorders, treatment options may only include a form of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help cope with the side effects and symptoms of a disorder or mental illness (via Mayo Clinic). However, other individuals who experience long-term or more severe effects of a mental health disorder may have a treatment plan that includes therapy and a prescribed antidepressant.

Antidepressants are medications that are commonly used to treat depression and other mental health conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, as explained by the NHS. When it comes to getting the proper assistance to deal with mental health issues, figuring out the right medication and the correct dosage can be a bit difficult to navigate. Understanding how antidepressants work, how long they take to be effective, and when it's time to talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications can help you to get a better handle on the symptoms associated with your mental health disorder.

How do antidepressants work?

When you first seek treatment for your mental health issues, your doctor may have you complete a physical exam along with lab work before prescribing any medications, according to the Mayo Clinic. Once it has been established that medication is needed, an antidepressant will be prescribed for you. NHS explains that in most cases, your doctor will start you off with the lowest dose of a medication. Like many medications, antidepressants can affect each person a bit differently. However, as Psych Central explains, typically most individuals begin to feel the effects of an antidepressant between two and eight weeks following treatment. This can vary depending on the specific type of antidepressant you are given. Healthline explains that other factors such as other medications you are taking, health conditions, and the dosage instructions of the antidepressant should also be taken into consideration.

It is not uncommon for individuals to take an antidepressant for several weeks without noticing a dramatic change in their symptoms. In some cases, the desired effects of the medication may be too subtle to notice at first. However, Psych Central explains that there are a few indicators that your antidepressant has begun working. These include having more energy or enthusiasm for daily activities, feeling less guilt, having better sleep, and feeling more hopeful in general. For most individuals, some initial adjustments to the dosage of medication may be needed to produce the desired effect.

When your antidepressant needs to be adjusted

But how do you know if your antidepressant needs to be adjusted? There are a few ways that you'll know if you should speak to your doctor. If you've only recently started taking an antidepressant regularly and haven't noticed any changes in your mood or behavior after four weeks, you should consult your physician to discuss possible medication increases or changes, NHS explains. For some patients, determining the right combination of medication, frequency, and dosage can take some trial and error before there is a noticeable change in symptoms.

Another time to consider speaking with your doctor about your antidepressant adjustment is if you notice a sudden change in its effectiveness. Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that for up to 33% of patients who have been taking antidepressants, symptoms of depression return in what is referred to as breakthrough depression. While there are factors that can contribute to an antidepressant becoming ineffective, there's no specific cause identified for why this occurs. If your antidepressant starts feeling like it's no longer working, you should consult your doctor to see if a dosage change or alternate medication is needed.

It is important to note that if you have been considering stopping your antidepressant, even if you feel it isn't working, you should speak with your physician first. Many antidepressants have withdrawal symptoms such as increased anxiety, nausea, and thoughts of suicide.