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Do I need antidepressants?

3-minute read

People who are feeling down or depressed may wonder whether antidepressants would help. As with many other medications, there are benefits and risks to taking antidepressants.

Treating anxiety and depression

Antidepressants are a common treatment for depression and anxiety.

They can help, but they might not be enough on their own. Many people find they feel better faster with a combination of antidepressants and psychological therapy.

Benefits of antidepressants

Antidepressants can help to improve your mood, or if you have lost interest in activities you once enjoyed. They can also help improve sleep, thinking and concentration.

Antidepressants might also help people with anxiety-related disorders like generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Antidepressants don’t help everybody who takes them. They are more likely to help people with moderate or severe depression than those with mild depression.

Side effects of antidepressants

Side effects differ between antidepressants. Some people have no side effects at all. Some side effects may include:

For more information, see beyondblue and SANE Australia.

Other things to be aware of

You may start to feel better 2-4 weeks after starting an antidepressant but it can take up to 6-8 weeks to feel the full effect. Many side effects go away after a few weeks, so allow time.

To take your medication safely:

  • tell your doctor if you are taking other medications
  • ask your doctor if your antidepressant is affected by food
  • store your antidepressants in a box, away from children in a cool, dry place
  • don’t share your antidepressants with other people
  • take the recommended dose
  • continue to take medication even when you are feeling better until you have discussed stopping with your doctor.

If you drink alcohol, cut down or stop. Alcohol can reduce the benefits of antidepressants and in some cases can be very dangerous.

Stopping your antidepressant suddenly can cause problems. Talk to your doctor if you are struggling with side effects, or feel a particular brand of antidepressant is not working.

The goal is to find a treatment that works for you. Different antidepressants work differently for every person, so it can take time and patience to find the right treatment.

Alternative treatments for depression and anxiety

Some people get better with psychological therapy alone. Others find it best to use a combination of antidepressants and psychological therapy.

There are many different psychological therapies. The most common is cognitive behavioural therapy. This therapy aims to identify and change your negative thoughts.

Other types of therapy aim to get you to accept your thoughts and environment in a non-judgemental way, or help you change patterns of behaviour that are not helpful.

Talk to your doctor about options for treatment. You might be eligible for a mental health care plan, which reduces the cost of treatment.

There are other things that help your anxiety and depression.

Last reviewed: October 2017

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