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How do I know if an antidepressant is working?

A patient with depression should start to improve within four weeks of starting on an antidepressant, says Tarique Perera, MD, a psychiatrist with Contemporary Care of Connecticut. In this video, he discusses antidepressants.

Depression is a disease that includes the emotional feelings of sadness and lack of interest but also involves physical problems including sleep, appetite, energy, and concentration disturbances, to name a few. Another key difference in someone suffering from depression rather than the normal feelings of sadness is the impact of your depression on your ability to function day to day. If your antidepressant is working, you should notice these symptoms of depression lifting. If you find yourself sleeping or eating too little or too much while depressed, these should return to your normal patterns. If you have a problem with energy or concentration, these should improve. Most importantly, any impact your depression has on your motivation, interest and ability to function at home, school or work should return to your normal. Certainly, any thoughts of wanting to die or suicide should completely go away.

While sleep, appetite, energy and concentration problems can all be a result of depression, there may be other reasons why you are having these problems. Antidepressant therapy will not improve those if not caused by depression. Most importantly, antidepressants are not “happy pills.” If you have good reasons to be sad, anxious or angry, you should still feel those emotions. The only difference is that they should be in proportion to the stressors triggering those feelings. Talk with your healthcare provider when starting antidepressant treatment to make sure you understand what to look for to know if your medication is not working as it should. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.