Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
The first time you sipped coffee or wine — you may have wondered how they’d make you feel.
Would the coffee make you alert, or the wine turn you tipsy? Considering antidepressants for the first time can sort of be like that.
So what do antidepressants feel like? Or rather, how will you feel when you start taking them?
Read on to learn how they might affect you, along with some basics about antidepressants and how they work.
Antidepressants are a common treatment option for depression and can be incredibly effective.
For those with major depression or even moderate depression, medication is often a first line of treatment.
But antidepressants work differently for different people, and side effects and general feel may depend on a variety of factors.
First, some basics: Antidepressants consist of three different types of medications: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and other drugs that target neurotransmitters and change serotonin levels in your body.
Although there are other types of antidepressants such as tetracyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIS) and tricyclic antidepressants, they are not as popular given their adverse effects.
How an antidepressant feels for you depends on your body’s response along with your current condition.
For example, an SSRI might work well and feel okay for some people, while for others bupropion or another kind of antidepressant will work better.
For reasons that researchers still aren’t sure about, some people respond better to different antidepressants.
You might worry that taking an antidepressant might change your personality. Worry no more.
While there has not been extensive research on whether or not long-term antidepressant use can lead to personality changes, the studies that have been conducted show that you should be in the clear.
One particular study followed patients with a depressive disorder over a span of five years and found that antidepressants did not significantly alter personality in any way.
Instead, the researchers found that depressive symptoms and untreated major depression contributed to personality shifts.
Here’s the big thing: Finding the right antidepressant that works for you can take time.
Researchers at the Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health and Science University found that six out of ten people will like the first antidepressant they try, but the other four people will need to try another.
They also revealed that most people are able to find at least one antidepressant that works for them.
To learn more about what might work for you, contact a health professional. They’ll be able to assess which antidepressant might be best for you to try first, based on your level of depression and medical history.
Antidepressants don’t immediately kick in. In fact, it can often take up to four to six weeks before you start feeling the effects of your chosen antidepressant.
You also may find that one antidepressant works for a while, but then you have symptoms again.
Know this: It’s important to not stop taking antidepressants suddenly. If you wish to stop taking them, consult your healthcare provider, who can advise a way to wean off your medication.
If you abruptly stop taking antidepressants, you could be at risk for withdrawal symptoms which can sometimes be quite severe.
And even while taking antidepressants, it’s wise to keep your healthcare provider abreast of how you feel, so you can both determine whether its time to try something else or potentially adjust your dosage.
All that said: What will antidepressants feel like for you?
In an ideal world, your symptoms of depression will decrease and you will feel better.
But the reality is that although antidepressants are great for reducing depression symptoms, you might experience common side effects.
In fact, most people experience at least one side effect while taking antidepressant medication.
Common side effects include: constipation, weight gain, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, nausea, trouble sleeping, sexual problems and dry mouth.
Keep in touch with your healthcare provider about your symptoms, specifically, if you have a loss of appetite, sexual side effects or experience any other effects of antidepressants you are concerned about.
Side effects could be a sign it’s time to try a different antidepressant, which may work better for you.
It’s natural to worry about how you might feel if you are on a new medication. Yet know that while antidepressants may cause some uncomfortable side effects, they won’t change you into a completely new person.
In fact, antidepressants when used to treat depression are really just meant to target specific transmitters in your brain and decrease symptoms.
And with fewer depressive symptoms, hopefully you will be feeling more like yourself.
If you do experience several side effects or ones you particularly don’t want, or if you don’t see any positive change in your mood or emotions after taking antidepressants for four to six weeks, talk with your healthcare provider about trying a different antidepressant or alternate treatment plan.
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Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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