If you have side effects that bother you, speak to your doctor about them. They might be able to reduce the side effects by changing the dose or switching to a different medication. Some side effects will get better after a few days and some can be treated with other medications.
Possible side effects can include:
- weight gain
- sexual problems (e.g. taking longer to reach orgasm)
- sleepiness or tiredness
- sleep problems
- dry mouth
- diarrhoea or constipation
- problems with the heart and blood pressure
Sometimes young people have suicidal thoughts while they're taking antidepressant medication. Children, teenagers and young adults need to be checked during the first few weeks of treatment to make sure they are safe.
Many people only have side effects in the first few days or weeks.
How long will I need to take an antidepressant?
Antidepressants need time to start working. Most people improve within a few weeks, but you may need to take an antidepressant medication for up to 6 weeks before your symptoms of depression are under control.
After you start to get better, you usually need to keep taking the medication for at least 6 months. This helps you recover completely, and can stop the symptoms coming back.
Most people don’t need to stay on antidepressant medications for years, but it may be necessary if you've had depression before.
Taking medication every day
Many people find it hard to keep taking their medication.
If you have trouble remembering to take your medication, or you are taking several different medications, ask your pharmacist to package the tablets in containers with compartments for each day. They might use a blister pack (sometimes called a Webster-Pak or Medico Pak) or a plastic container (called a dosette box).
It is a good idea to always go to the same pharmacy so they can keep track of all your medications and give advice about them when needed.
What if the medication doesn’t work for me?
If an antidepressant medication is right for you, your symptoms will start to improve within about 2 weeks. If you are no better after 3–6 weeks, your doctor might recommend a different medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding it's essential to discuss this with your doctor.
It’s best to be cautious about using medications during pregnancy. Some medications could harm an unborn baby, but stopping medication during pregnancy may be risky for the mother.
If you are already pregnant, talk to your doctor as soon as possible about keeping yourself and your baby safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
If you need medication for postnatal depression, talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe to breastfeed.
Before you start taking a new medication, tell your doctor if you are taking any other medication (including over-the-counter or complementary medicines). Some medications cannot be mixed.
More about medications for mental illness