DEAR MAYO CLINIC: How soon after starting on antidepressants should I begin to feel better? What type of changes will I notice? It has been three weeks and I don’t feel like my depression has lessened. If anything, it seems to be getting worse. Do I need to try another medication?
ANSWER: Many people who start taking an antidepressant begin to see some improvement in their symptoms within several weeks. But for others, it may take longer. The changes are not immediate or sudden, so you may not notice them much at first. Because of that, it is important to give the medicine time to work. Anytime you feel symptoms of depression getting worse, however, contact your health care provider.
As with all medications, you need to take an antidepressant at an adequate dose for an adequate length of time to see the most benefit. Typically, four to six weeks is a reasonable amount of time to use an antidepressant and decide if it is effective for you.
In most cases, the improvement you get from an antidepressant is gradual, and the benefits may be subtle. For example, if tearfulness is a common symptom for you, it might become less frequent. But it is unlikely to disappear right away. If anxiety is a persistent problem, it may slowly diminish and your interest in returning to hobbies and other activities may gradually increase.