How Long Does It Take for Antidepressants to Work?

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If you have been prescribed an antidepressant medication to help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, you may be wondering how long it will take for the antidepressant to work. Read ahead to learn more about antidepressants, including how long they may take to work.

What Are Antidepressants?

As you can tell by the name, antidepressants are used to treat the symptoms of depression. This class of medication has also been found to effectively reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and agoraphobia. Additionally, antidepressants have become the generally used medications to treat panic disorder.

There are different types or classes of antidepressants that impact chemical messengers in the brain. Known as neurotransmitters, these messengers are responsible for a variety of bodily functions and feelings, including sleep and mood regulation, anxiety levels, and motivation. Common classes of antidepressants used to treat anxiety-related disorders include:

  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)​
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Time to Start Working

Studies have shown that antidepressants are effective in reducing or eliminating panic attacks and improving anticipatory anxiety and symptoms of agoraphobia. Unfortunately, antidepressants generally don’t result in immediate relief of symptoms. Many people will not see a significant improvement for several weeks.

Studies have generally shown that the full benefits of antidepressant therapy may take as long as 8 to 12 weeks. However, this timeline is variable among individuals.

What to Expect

Some people may experience increased nervousness or anxiety at the beginning of antidepressant therapy. To reduce this possibility, your doctor may start you at a very low dose that is gradually increased. Some of the most common side effects of taking antidepressants include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Increased sweating
  • Sexual side effects
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea

This list is only some of the side effects you can face while taking an antidepressant. You may experience one or more of these side effects, or you may not have to deal with any of them. These side effects typically subside and become much more manageable over time.

Managing Side Effects

If side effects are persistent and become difficult to manage, you can always consult your doctor about the possibility of changing the dosage or medication to better fit your needs.

Your doctor may also prescribe a benzodiazepine (anti-anxiety medication) along with your antidepressant, especially at the beginning of treatment. Benzodiazepines provide quick relief, allowing for a faster sense of symptom alleviation.

However, these medications have the potential for dependence and abuse. To reduce this risk, your doctor may take you off the benzodiazepine once the antidepressant reaches its full benefit.

A Word From Verywell

If you and your doctor believe that you have had an adequate trial of antidepressant therapy without significant improvement of symptoms, a medication change may be made. For the vast majority of panic disorder sufferers, the right medication will be found to improve or eliminate panic symptoms.

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Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: Compendium 2006. American Psychiatric Association, 2006.