How to Get Antidepressants and Manage Your Medications

How to Get Antidepressants and Manage Your Medications

Have you been feeling down for weeks at a time? Do you struggle to find joy in everyday activities?
These are common symptoms of depression. If your doctor diagnosed you with depression or you suspect you have depression, there is hope.
The medical field has made incredible antidepressant advances, offering you long-term relief.
Use this guide to learn how to get antidepressants and how to manage your medications for the best possible outcomes.

    What Are Antidepressants?

    Antidepressants are medications doctors primarily use to treat depression. The drug works by alleviating symptoms such as persistent sadness, loss of interest, and fatigue. It alters the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, dulling those feelings.

  • Where Did Antidepressants Come from?

    Depression is the most common mood disorder in the US.

    Roughly fifty years ago, researchers first recognized that depression occurs when someone doesn’t have enough serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This theory was known as the monoamine hypothesis.

    This hypothesis led to the first treatments for depression.
    Since then, science has made many advancements, allowing doctors to more effectively treat depressive symptoms while also treating the body through other more technologically advanced methods.

5 Types of Antidepressants

There are five primary types of antidepressants. Each one acts slightly differently, accounting for people’s lifestyles, health, and genetics differences. Ask your healthcare provider which one is right for you.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are a common antidepression. They primarily target serotonin levels in the brain.

Most healthcare providers will prescribe SSRIs first because they are the most efficient and have the least side effects.

Examples of SSRIs include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine. They are commonly used in depression and anxiety treatment, working well for dual-diagnosis patients.

Examples of SNRIs include:

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs are one of the earliest classes of antidepressants developed. They work by blocking serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake, similar to SNRIs. However, they also have additional effects on other neurotransmitter systems.

TCAs are effective for depression but have more side effects compared to newer antidepressants, limiting their use.

Examples of TCAs include:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Nortriptyline
  • Imipramine
  • Clomipramine
  • Doxepin

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs are among the oldest antidepressants. They work by inhibiting the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

MAOIs are effective for depression but are used less frequently due to their dietary and drug interactions, which can lead to serious side effects.

Examples of MAOIs include:

  • Phenelzine (Nardil)
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
  • Selegiline (Emsam)

Atypical Antidepressants

Atypical antidepressants are a diverse group of medications that don’t fall into any of the above categories. They often have unique action mechanisms, and doctors use them as alternatives for people who do not respond to or cannot tolerate other antidepressants.

Examples of atypical antidepressants include:

  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Trazodone (Desyrel)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)
  • Vortioxetine (Trintellix)

How Antidepressants Work

    Depression involves imbalances in neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which regulate mood, emotions, and behavior. When the body doesn’t have enough of these chemicals, it feels dysregulated, which can inhibit a person’s ability to feel emotions.

  • Each class of antidepressants targets specific neurotransmitter systems. As you read in the list above, antidepressants usually target serotonin by preventing uptake. This means the body is taking less of it away, leaving more inside your brain to use in mood regulation.

    Antidepressants also can block neurotransmitters, which relay messages and mood to the brain.

    Have you wondered, “Do I need antidepressants?”

    If you have been feeling consistently down for several weeks, you may want to consult a doctor for a diagnosis. Because each antidepressant works uniquely and each person’s depression severity is different, the effectiveness of antidepressants varies wildly and you may not need the same dosage or tablets as someone else.

    Once you find a dosage that works, antidepressants typically take several weeks for patients to feel their full therapeutic effects.

How to Get Antidepressants

All antidepressants are prescription medications, so you will first need an official diagnosis and prescription from a medical professional before you can receive the medication.
Who can prescribe antidepressants?
While you may obtain a prescription from a doctor, some prescriptions require a mental health professional’s approval as well.
Psychiatrists consider factors such as the patient’s symptoms, medical history, potential side effects, and drug interactions when selecting an antidepressant.
Doctors begin with the lowest dosage first. This allows them to monitor side effects and change your prescription if necessary, minimizing your risk of side effects.

How Long Does It Take Antidepressants to Work?

Once you begin taking antidepressants, you may not notice their effects until a week or two later. If four weeks pass and you still do not see any changes, then consider talking to your doctor about adjusting your prescription or trying a different antidepressant.
Treatment lasts six weeks after recovery but may last longer depending on the severity and how often you experience depressive episodes.

Common Antidepressant Side Effects

    Side effects are expected, and there is no need to switch medications if you experience any unless they are severe. Many side effects will wear off as your body adjusts to the medicine. However, if the side effects persist, you may discuss changing your medication.

  • Side effects vary among antidepressants but may include feeling anxious, flu-like symptoms, stomach issues, diarrhea or constipation, loss of appetite, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.

    How to Manage Antidepressant Side Effects

    Always stick with your recommended dosage to avoid adverse side effects. Starting with a small dosage and gradually increasing it can help your body adjust easier.

    To provide your body additional support, try taking your tablets with food or adjusting the timing of doses. For example, if your antidepressant is causing insomnia, try switching from night to morning dosage times.

    Patients should consult their healthcare provider if they experience severe or persistent side effects that interfere with their daily activities.

Managing Your Antidepressant Therapy

Consistently taking antidepressants is crucial for achieving and maintaining symptom relief. Taking more than prescribed or suddenly stopping your treatment can result in adverse reactions.
For the best chances of a positive outcome, strictly stick with your doctor’s recommendation for dosage and schedule.

Common Challenges

Sometimes, keeping that schedule isn’t easy. Some common challenges include:

  • Forgetting to take your antidepressants
  • Fear of side effects keep you from taking the tablets
  • Distrust of your doctor results in a distrust of your prescription and schedule

To overcome those strategies, begin with an open and trusting conversation with your doctor. Voice your concerns and challenges so you can discuss strategies to help you remember and motivate you to continue treatment.
You may also want to use pill boxes, phone notifications, or accountability partners to keep you on track.

Managing Missed Doses

What if you forget a dose and mess up your schedule?
If you forget a dose, just pick your schedule back up as soon as you remember. However, never double dose to make up for lost doses. Just keep moving forward on the same schedule. If you missed too many doses, let your doctor know, especially if the missed doses caused adverse side effects.

Avoiding Harmful Drug Interactions

Antidepressants, such as SSRIs and TCAs, can have adverse interactions with certain other substances.
Combining certain antidepressants with other drugs can lead to dangerous conditions like serotonin syndrome or high blood pressure spikes. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are common culprits that interact negatively with antidepressants.
Consult your doctor before taking any medication to avoid canceling its effects or causing an adverse reaction.
You should always avoid taking antidepressants with alcohol as it can lead to seizures and other adverse reactions.

Special Considerations

Antidepressants are generally considered safe for most patients. There are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • Pregnant or nursing mothers: Consult with your provider before taking antidepressants while pregnant, as it may not be safe for all expectant mothers.
  • Children and adolescents: Doctors tend to avoid prescribing antidepressants to children because it can lead to an increased risk of suicidal behavior and other adverse side effects.
  • Elderly: Elderly patients may be more susceptible to side effects and drug interactions. They usually require lower doses and closer monitoring.

Combining Antidepressants with Other Treatments

Antidepressants, while offering short-term help, are not always recommended for long-term treatment unless necessary. Most doctors aim to treat a person’s whole body and mind so they can fully recover from depression.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Combining antidepressants with psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can significantly improve treatment outcomes for depression. CBT is a therapy that digs into the root cause of depression and helps patients face their fears and triggers for long-term freedom from depression.


Polypharmacy is combining different antidepressants or other psychiatric medications. Polypharmacy may be necessary for treatment-resistant depression but requires careful monitoring for potential drug interactions and adverse effects.

Tapering and Discontinuing Antidepressants

There are many benefits of getting off antidepressants such as fewer side effects, however the process may time some time.
Tapering off antidepressants gradually reduces the risk of withdrawal symptoms and recurrence of depressive symptoms. While antidepressants aren’t considered addictive, you should still take care when stopping treatment and should only do so with your doctor’s permission.
When you begin tapering off antidepressants, slowly reduce your dosage rather than stop all at once to help the body adjust.

Some common withdrawal symptoms, also known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tingling
  • Vivid dreams

Your doctor should monitor you closely during the tapering process. If you are tapering too quickly or your body reacts negatively, your doctor can promptly adjust your dosage and tapering speed.

Emerging Research and Future Directions

Ongoing research aims to develop more effective and better-tolerated antidepressants. One of the most notable advances is Exxua. It’s an FDA-approved antidepressant that does not have the adverse side effects of sexual dysregulation and weight gain.
Research, such as genetic testing to guide antidepressant selection, holds promise for improving treatment outcomes. It would help remove some of the guesswork of prescribing antidepressants and dosages.
The future is bright in the field of antidepressants as advances in medications are allowing for personalized treatment with fewer side effects and greater chances of long-term freedom.

Patient Resources and Support

Are you currently struggling with depression?

Here are some resources that can provide much-needed support:

FAQs about Antidepressants

Do you still have questions about antidepressants and how to get antidepressants? Browse the following frequently asked questions or contact us to learn more about depression.

How do you know when you need antidepressants? / Should I take antidepressants?

If you feel consistently anxious, hopeless, and empty daily for at least two weeks, you may have depression. See a doctor for an official diagnosis. If your symptoms aren’t too severe, your first treatment plan may be lifestyle changes and counseling.
If lifestyle changes like better sleeping habits, healthier eating habits, and regular exercise don’t improve symptoms, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants.

What are the side effects of antidepressants?

The most common side effects of antidepressants are:

  • Feeling anxious
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Stomach issues
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction
Should I take antidepressants for anxiety?

Antidepressants can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Many people with anxiety also develop depression, so you may require a dual-treatment plan that addresses both.

What are the best antidepressants?

Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac, is one of the most widely used antidepressant.