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Who Can Prescribe Antidepressants?

Daniel Lieberman

Reviewed by Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD

Written by Taylor Trudon

Published 04/22/2022

Updated 11/15/2023

Whether it’s starting a new job, caring for a sick parent or dealing with that stack of mail that won’t stop piling up on your desk, it’s totally normal to feel stressed out from time to time. But when you’re dealing with depression, everyday tasks can feel so overwhelming to the point of being debilitating.

If this sounds at all relatable, you’re not alone. Nearly 60 million American adults suffer from mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and panic disorders.

Fortunately, mental health medications like antidepressants can be very effective, which is why they’re often considered a first-line treatment. They work by targeting certain neurotransmitters in your brain to help regulate your mood and how you respond to stress.

Some of the most commonly used antidepressants include:

The big question is: How do you get antidepressants, anyway? The short answer is: They must be prescribed by a healthcare provider.

While that may sound intimidating, the process of accessing antidepressants is a lot less complicated than you might think. We’ll walk you through who to speak to, what to say to them and other mental health resources you can tap into for support.

Who Can Prescribe Antidepressants?

To get antidepressants, you’ll first need a prescription. Primary care providers (PCPs), psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychiatrists are all qualified to prescribe antidepressant medications. 

We’ll dig into the differences below. 

Primary Care Providers

A primary care provider is an excellent first step in getting antidepressants. The benefit of using your own PCP is that you have an established relationship with them. They’ll already have your medical history on record, and since you’ve seen them before, it might be easier to approach them with this topic.

Alternatively, you can also consult with a provider via telehealth primary care. The big plus about virtual appointments is that you don’t have to leave your home, and you can avoid the annoyance of having to sit in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. 

Whether your appointment is online or in-person, your healthcare provider will likely start the conversation by asking about your symptoms and lifestyle habits, like smoking and drinking.

Your provider might bring up these common symptoms of depression

  • Pessimistic, despondent feelings

  • A sad, anxious or “empty” mood

  • Fatigue and lower energy levels

  • Slow speech or movement

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Difficulty focusing, making decisions or remembering things

  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed

  • Physical aches and pains

  • Irritability and annoyance

  • Weight gain or loss 

  • Thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Depression also shares similar symptoms with anxiety — which is why healthcare providers often prescribe antidepressants as treatment for anxiety disorders, like social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The important thing to remember is that there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment when it comes to depression. Some people have severe depression, and other people have mild to moderate depression. Some will need antidepressants for a short time, while others will need them for years.

Your provider will be able to come up with a treatment plan for you based on your specific symptoms while taking other factors into consideration, such as other medications you’re taking.

If you’re still feeling stuck navigating this conversation, our guide on how to ask your doctor for anxiety medication has more tips.

Psychiatrists

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in treating mental health disorders, like depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder or anxiety. They have extensive knowledge in their field and can use their deep expertise to create a plan tailored to your needs.

Psychiatrists can provide prescription medications and offer psychotherapy treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to go with it.

If you think you’d benefit from seeing a mental health professional, the Hers online psychiatry platform can connect you with a licensed provider. For more resources, take a look at our guides to finding a psychiatrist and how to choose a psychiatrist

Whether you see a psychiatrist or a primary care physician, the choice is ultimately up to you. Regardless of who you choose, there’s a strong possibility that in addition to medication, your provider will recommend certain lifestyle adjustments to reduce your symptoms, like exercising or cutting back on substances like alcohol.

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Antidepressants are complex medications (some with more troublesome side effects than others), so it’s a good thing that not just anyone can prescribe them. 

Though they can offer great mental health services, here are a few people who can’t prescribe antidepressants:

Again, your best bet for getting antidepressants is to connect with your primary care physician or find a psychiatrist.

Deciding on a healthcare provider might seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be. The most important thing is that you speak to someone you feel like you can trust and be transparent with about your symptoms. 

Here are a few questions to consider in the search for a provider: 

  • Have you been treated for mental health before? 

  • How severe are your mental health symptoms? 

  • Do you definitely want to take antidepressants, or are you undecided? 

  • How soon do you want to start taking antidepressants? 

Ultimately, do what feels right for you, and know that you can always change course if needed.

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psychiatrist-backed care, all from your couch

If you feel like your depression is interfering with your life, don’t wait until it gets worse before seeking help. With guidance from a healthcare professional, be it your PCP or a psychiatrist, you can come up with a treatment plan best suited for your needs.  

If you start to feel overwhelmed, remember: 

  • There’s nothing wrong with needing medication. Think of it this way: If you injured your ankle, would you not go to the hospital? When you break a bone, you fix it — not judge yourself for trying to look cool while skiing. When your mental health is struggling, the same mentality applies. There’s no shame in getting the treatment you need.

  • Opening up helps. Whether it’s reaching out to a loved one, exploring psychotherapy or joining anonymous support groups, opening up about your struggles can make you feel less alone while giving you resources for coping. And if you don’t want to get out of bed, online therapy is an A+ option.

  • Practice self-care. Taking care of your needs is pivotal for feeling better. Self-care looks different to everyone, so focus on what makes you feel good, whether it’s hitting the gym, journaling or surrounding yourself with friends you can lean on.

If you need additional support, our online mental health services can provide tools and strategies as you take steps toward getting the help you deserve. 

8 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Mental Illness. (n.d.-e). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness
  2. Sheffler, Z. M. (2023b, March 1). Antidepressants. StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538182/
  3. Mental Health Medications. (n.d.-c). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications#part_149861
  4. Any Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.-c). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder
  5. Caring for Your Mental Health. (n.d.-c). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health
  6. Nichol JR, Sundjaja JH, Nelson G. (2022). Medical History. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534249/
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Depression disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. (NIMH). Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Anxiety Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. (NIMH). Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD

Dr. Daniel Z. Lieberman is the senior vice president of mental health at Hims & Hers and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at George Washington University. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Lieberman spent over 25 years as a full time academic, receiving multiple awards for teaching and research. While at George Washington, he served as the chairman of the university’s Institutional Review Board and the vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. Lieberman’s has focused on , , , and to increase access to scientifically-proven treatments. He served as the principal investigator at George Washington University for dozens of FDA trials of new medications and developed online programs to help people with , , and . In recognition of his contributions to the field of psychiatry, in 2015, Dr. Lieberman was designated a distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is board certified in psychiatry and addiction psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

As an expert in mental health, Dr. Lieberman has provided insight on psychiatric topics for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Office of Drug & Alcohol Policy.

Dr. Lieberman studied the Great Books at St. John’s College and attended medical school at New York University, where he also completed his psychiatry residency. He is the coauthor of the international bestseller , which has been translated into more than 20 languages and was selected as one of the “Must-Read Brain Books of 2018” by Forbes. He is also the author of . He has been on and to discuss the role of the in human behavior, , and .

Education

  • 1992: M.D., New York University School of Medicine

  • 1985: B.A., St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland

Selected Appointments

  • 2022–Present: Clinical Professor, George Washington University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

  • 2013–2022: Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs, George Washington University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

  • 2010–2022: Professor, George Washington University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

  • 2008–2017: Chairman, George Washington University Institutional Review Board

Selected Awards & Honors

  • 2022: Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association

  • 2008–2020: Washingtonian Top Doctor award

  • 2005: Caron Foundation Research Award

Publications

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