Antidepressants are medications that are used in the treatment of depressions of various kinds. When we are dealing with antidepressants, it is quite difficult to assess how effective a particular drug is for a patient since these drugs begin to act some time after the start of therapy. In most cases, you must take the drug for four to six weeks before it starts working. When the antidepressant begins to act, you will probably notice some side effects, and after a while, the positive effect of the drug will also appear: you will feel a surge of strength and energy and become more positive about life. If the prescribed antidepressant does not have the desired effect or cause too many side effects, the doctor can replace the drug and adjust the treatment plan. To date, doctors often prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and noradrenaline (SIOZSiN), selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors and dopamine (SIOZNiD), as well as on older drugs – tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants. Your health care provider will monitor if the prescribed treatment regimen works in your case and will also recommend alternative treatment depending on your condition.
3 ways to know if your antidepressant is working
Method 1: Identify the signs that your treatment is effective.
- Be patient. Be prepared in advance that it will take time to pick up antidepressants (or a combination of drugs) that will be effective in your case. Often you have to change a few drugs until you can find the right one. In addition, you need to take drugs for quite a long time (from four to six weeks) so that they begin to have a noticeable effect on the human condition. Sometimes you can notice positive changes in your condition within one or two days after the start of the treatment. However, in most cases, it takes several weeks or even months before the drug works. If you have been taking an antidepressant for more than six weeks but still do not feel positive changes, discuss the situation with your doctor. Most likely, the specialist will replace your antidepressant with another one;
- Watch your condition. Keep a diary to describe your symptoms daily. If before the treatment you had a feeling that the future was bleak and hopeless, try to notice how your attitude to the future changed two weeks after the start of the course of antidepressants. If you had the feeling that you were doing everything slowly and it was difficult to concentrate on the tasks, check whether these symptoms have changed under the influence of the treatment. Get tested for depression regularly to keep track of your symptoms. You can find many online test questionnaires to evaluate the symptoms of depression. Answer the test questions regarding symptoms and see if the results change over time. In addition, you can keep a health diary or use special mobile applications to observe the symptoms of depression over time. Note the positive changes. If you began to feel more energetic during the day or less pessimistic about life, this is an indication that your antidepressants have begun to work. If you notice a feeling of well-being two to six weeks after starting treatment, this is a very good sign;
- Pay attention to the side effects. Antidepressants are designed to reduce the symptoms of depression, but, like any other medicine, they have side effects. Therefore, you need to pay attention to both improving your condition and the side effects that may arise as a result of taking the drug. Although new-generation antidepressants have far fewer side effects than previous generation drugs, various unwanted symptoms occur frequently during treatment. Side effects include decreased sexual desire, dry mouth, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, drowsiness, constipation, and diarrhea. In most cases, side effects appear before the therapeutic effect of the drug develops. Thus, if you notice unpleasant symptoms, this may be a signal that the drug is beginning to work. However, you need to tell your doctor that you have some side effects. If the side effects do not decrease and persist for a long time, you need to discuss with your doctor the possibility of replacing the antidepressant you are taking with another drug. If you notice that the symptoms of depression are reduced but you feel unpleasant side effects, be sure to discuss the situation with your doctor;
- Pay attention to the signs that antidepressants do not have the desired therapeutic effect. It is extremely important to monitor your condition in order to notice in time that the prescribed treatment is ineffective. There are quite a few signs that help determine that the prescribed anti-depressant does not suit you. Special attention should be paid to abrupt, unreasonable changes of mood, suicidal thoughts, as well as to an increase in the general energy level, accompanied by a depressed emotional state. The symptoms that indicate that the treatment regimen is not suitable for you: If you feel a surge of energy, however, the mood and emotional state remain depressed, this is a pretty bad sign. In some cases, the antidepressant begins to act, but the mechanisms of its action on the body do not correspond to the peculiarities of your condition. In this case, you will feel a surge of strength, but the depressive emotional state will not change. Be sure to contact your doctor and describe your symptoms. You might be surprised, but if you feel an improvement in your condition as you started taking antidepressants, it could also be a signal that this drug does not suit you. In most cases, it takes considerable time for the antidepressant to begin to influence the biochemistry of the brain. If you feel an immediate improvement, perhaps this is due to the side effects of the drug, or you have a placebo effect. In any case, contact your doctor and discuss your condition with him. If the symptoms of depression have worsened while taking antidepressants or you have very strong mood swings, this may be a signal that the prescribed medication does not suit you. Be sure to talk about this with your doctor. It is noted that antidepressants cause suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior in people under the age of 25 during the first two months of treatment. If you or a loved one have suicidal thoughts while taking such drugs, the symptoms of depression increase, or you notice significant behavioral changes, contact your doctor immediately. However, it is important to continue taking the prescribed drugs, unless the doctor tells you to stop the therapy.
Method 2: Track your symptoms in the mobile app
Download a mobile application that helps monitor the emotional state. There are quite a lot of applications (both paid and free) to help monitor the state of depression. These apps include many features that allow you to track the dynamics of depression, learn about new types of activity and share information with medical professionals.
- Download the Start application. The Start app was developed by Iodine on Apple’s Care Kit medical application platform. It helps people track the dynamics of the symptoms of depression and makes it possible to send the results directly to their doctor. In the app, you can take a short test every two weeks called the PHQ-9 Depression Test (Patient Health Questionnaire). The test results provide an opportunity to see whether the symptoms of depression improve during treatment. You need to use this app for six weeks, and then discuss the results with your doctor. This will make it possible to determine whether the prescribed treatment is effective in your case;
- Record your mood in the CBT Self-Help Guide. This is a mobile diary app where you can track how you perceive events that occur during the day and respond to them. You need to write in a diary information about the events of your life, the mood associated with them and the intensity of emotions. This will help you keep track of the symptoms of depression while taking antidepressants. If you start using this application before treatment, you can use it to assess whether your mood has improved after starting drug therapy;
- Download the MoodKit application. This application will help you track your mood and learn about various activities that allow you to improve it. This application will be useful for people with mild manifestations of depression, but it is unlikely to help with moderately severe and severe forms of the disease. In this case, this application can be used as an additional tool for tracking mood, which you will use in conjunction with other therapeutic methods;
- Use the free T2 Mood Tracker app. This application will help you track your emotional state at different points in time, and its functionality includes the ability to present information in graphical form. If you accurately enter information into the application and discuss the dynamics with your doctor, you will be able to determine how effectively your antidepressants work;
- Download What’s My M3 free app available for download on the App Store. This application will help you track the results of the M3 test, so that the doctor will be able to determine how your disorder is treatable. If you use this application during antidepressant treatment, you will be able to send information about the test results to your doctor.
Method 3: Discuss the situation with your psychiatrist
- Talk with your doctor about how you feel during treatment with antidepressants. Tell your doctor in detail how your body reacts to the prescribed drugs. If you are using a mobile application to monitor your condition, use the information you entered to get a general idea of the effects of antidepressants. If you keep a diary, re-read your notes for the period of treatment when you are going to the next visit to the doctor. This will give you the opportunity to review your mood, emotional state and body reactions to the effects of drugs. If you are taking a certain antidepressant for a long time and you feel that the drug does not give the same effect as before, be sure to inform your doctor. Over time, a person may develop an addiction to a specific antidepressant, that is, the drug becomes less effective. In this case, the symptoms of depression may return. If it seems to you that you are experiencing something like this, inform your psychiatrist about it. The doctor will change the recommended dosage of the drug or replace the drug with another antidepressant;
- Consult with your doctor regularly. Tell your doctor all the information that is related to your mood during treatment with antidepressants. Using this information, the specialist will be able to determine whether this antidepressant treatment regimen is suitable for you. Be sure to tell your doctor about all the positive changes in your condition, as well as about the side effects that you notice. Tell your doctor if you missed another dose or had a break in treatment. Violation of continuous medication is one of the frequent reasons why antidepressant treatment is less effective than expected. Thus, tell your doctor if you missed a drug for some reason. If you took any medicine or drank alcohol during antidepressant treatment, tell your psychiatrist about it. Interaction with other substances may affect the action of the antidepressant. Never change the daily dosage of the drug and in any case do not stop taking an antidepressant without consulting your doctor. If you stop taking an antidepressant on your own, the symptoms of depression may worsen. If you need to stop treatment for some reason, the psychiatrist will explain how to reduce the dosage safely;
- Find out which antidepressants can be an alternative to your current drug. According to a large number of clinical studies, only 37% of patients experience improvements while taking the first drug they were prescribed. Your doctor will be able to assess how effective the prescribed drug is in your case and whether it is necessary to replace it with a drug from another group of antidepressants. Most often, antidepressants from the SSRI and SSRI groups are prescribed for the treatment of depression. Bupropion preparations (Wellbutrin, Zyban) are widely used in many countries and are related to selective norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). These drugs are used to treat depression, seasonal affective disorder, and nicotine addiction. In addition, in some cases, psychiatrists prescribe drugs of the previous generation, such as tricyclides, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tetracyclides. Human reaction to antidepressants of different groups depends on the individual characteristics of his body. For this reason, you need to maintain contact with your doctor in order to develop a treatment plan that will be effective in your case. If the first drug does not have the desired effect, the doctor is likely to replace it with an antidepressant from another group;
- Consider the opportunity to take a course of psychotherapy. The combination of drug treatment and work with a psychotherapist or psychologist is much more effective than antidepressant treatment itself. Today, specialists offer various types of psychotherapeutic care: cognitive-behavioral therapy (aimed at helping a person to understand how he perceives himself and the world around him, and, if necessary, change his way of thinking); intrapersonal therapy (recommended for people whose depression is caused by family conflicts, the loss of a loved one, problems in relationships, social exclusion and significant life events, such as childbirth); psychodynamic therapy (helps the patient to solve subconscious problems, for example, a child trauma).
Tags: antidepressants, health problems, Mental Health