for better mental health


Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

For depression

If you experience depression, it can mean that you feel very down a lot of the time and:

  • no longer enjoy the things you usually do
  • find it hard to talk to people about how you feel
  • find it hard to look after yourself and carry out day-to-day tasks

An antidepressant might help to lift your mood so you feel more able to do all those things. You might then be able to benefit more from other, more long-term help (see our page on alternatives to antidepressants for examples of other treatments).

"The first time I was prescribed [antidepressants], I only took them for a few weeks. During another episode of depression, I was put on [an SSRI] and found it, along with some counselling, helped."

Antidepressants are more likely to be effective if your depression is severe. If you have mild or moderate depression, it is generally recommended to try other treatments, like talking therapies, before you try antidepressants.

Some doctors may offer you antidepressants alongside, or instead of, other treatments for mild or moderate depression. They should discuss your options with you, to help you decide which treatment works best for you.

For anxiety

If you have some form of anxiety or phobia, an antidepressant could help you to feel calmer, more able to deal with other problems, and more able to benefit from alternative treatments.

"Once I started taking [an antidepressant], I started to feel better. I was then able to start to see a psychologist and work on the deeper rooted issues."

How soon will they start working?

Most antidepressants take 1–2 weeks to start working, but you might feel the benefit sooner than this.

If you don’t feel any benefit (or if you feel worse) after taking an antidepressant for 2–4 weeks, discuss this with your doctor – different types of drug all work slightly differently, and it’s possible that a different antidepressant would suit you better.

"I was a total mess before I started my antidepressants. After a struggle through the first two weeks, I began to see the light at the end of what had been a very long tunnel."

What's it like to take antidepressants?

Everyone's experience of antidepressants is different. Hear Chris, Georgia, Mark, Cathy, Rose, Jess and Liz tell their stories in these videos.

This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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