When prescribing antidepressants, your GP usually selects the lowest possible dose thought necessary to improve your symptoms.
This approach is intended to reduce the risk of side effects. If this dose does not work, it can be gradually increased.
Antidepressants are usually taken in tablet form. Depending on the type of antidepressant prescribed and the severity of your depression, you'll usually have to take 1 to 3 tablets a day.
It usually takes around 7 days before you begin to notice the effects of antidepressants. Contact your doctor if you have not noticed any improvement after 4 weeks, as they may recommend increasing your dose or trying a different antidepressant.
It's usually recommended that a course of antidepressants lasts at least 6 months, to prevent your condition recurring when you stop. Some people with recurrent illness are advised to carry on taking medicine indefinitely.
The recommended course of treatment largely depends on weighing up the benefits of the medicine against the side effects. If your illness is severe and the medicine is effective, treatment will often be continued. If your illness is mild and the medicine does not help and causes side effects, continued treatment will not be recommended.
Missed or extra doses
It's important not to miss any of your doses, as this could make your treatment less effective.
You may also get withdrawal symptoms as a result of missing a dose of the medicine.
If you do miss 1 of your doses, take it as soon as you remember, unless it's almost time to take your next dose. In this case, you should just skip the missed dose. Do not take a double dose to "make up" for the 1 you missed.
If you take more tablets than prescribed, contact your GP as soon as possible for advice. If this is not possible, contact your local out of hours service, or call NHS 111. Taking a double dose is unlikely to be harmful, but you should only do so if advised by a medical professional.
Talk to your doctor before you stop taking antidepressants. It's important that you do not stop taking antidepressants suddenly.
Once you're ready to come off antidepressants, your doctor will probably recommend reducing your dose gradually over several weeks – or longer, if you have been taking them for a long time.
This is to help prevent any withdrawal symptoms you might get as a reaction to coming off the medicine. These include:
- trouble sleeping
- stomach problems
- feeling as if there's an electric shock in your head
- feeling irritable, anxious or confused
Withdrawal symptoms are often mild and get better on their own. However, some people have withdrawal symptoms that are severe and last for several months or more.
Coming off antidepressants too soon can cause your condition to return. Stopping before you have been taking them for 4 weeks may mean the medicine has not had a chance to work.