When Antidepressants Make You Feel Worse

"I'm taking antidepressants yet I feel even worse" Do you identify with this situation? In this article, we'll talk about why it happens and the measures you can take to stop it from happening.
When Antidepressants Make You Feel Worse

Written by Ebiezer López

Last update: 03 October, 2022

Antidepressant drug therapy is one of the first options in cases of severe depression. However, unlike other medications, there are notable individual differences in the effects of antidepressants. In fact, some people claim that, despite taking antidepressants, they’re worse off.

There could be several reasons for someone to think like this. Furthermore, it’s not something that should be taken lightly, since people sometimes make wrong decisions regarding proposed intervention plans. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of what could be happening and what can be done about it.

How do antidepressants work?

Antidepressants are drugs that have psychoactive properties to treat mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, among other conditions. Evidence claims that these types of alterations are related to imbalances in neurotransmitters. They’re a set of substances that participate in different processes, including mood.

Not all antidepressants work the same way. Each has different components and mechanisms of action. Most of those prescribed are selective (mood-associated) serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Their objective is to prevent neurons from capturing serotonin, thus increasing its levels in the body and improving mood.

So, why would someone taking antidepressants feel worse? Firstly, the action of these particular drugs is slower than that of others. In fact, the effects of antidepressants usually take two to four weeks to appear. There are even cases in which this time can be extended up to six weeks. At the end of the day, it all depends on the type of antidepressant and the particular circumstances of each individual.

Woman taking pills
Antidepressants usually take between two to four weeks to work.

Side effects of antidepressants

Antidepressants can also cause different side effects. In fact, a large-scale study found that patients taking these drugs often report problems in different areas. Among the most common are body weight, sex life, appetite, sleep, and pain perception. In several cases, side effects worsened over time (Saha et al., 2021).

Antidepressant therapy tends to show positive effects after a few weeks. As that happens, the body may begin to experience secondary symptoms that these drugs can cause. This could be a factor in cases of patients who take antidepressants and feel worse.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that these medicines induce changes in the body, and it takes time to adjust to them. Fortunately, many of the side effects that may occur are only temporary reactions and will go away over time.

One useful recommendation is to ask a psychiatrist about what possible side effects could occur and how long they’re expected to last if they appear. In this way, the patient is aware of what could happen to their body and mood.

The effectiveness of antidepressants

Another factor to consider is the effectiveness of these drugs. A systematic review published in The Lancet concluded that antidepressants produce improvement in 60 percent of cases. The research authors compared the efficacy of 21 common antidepressants with placebos to reach this conclusion.

However, it must also be considered that the response to antidepressants varies depending on the drug and the individual’s body. The above study claims that 40 percent of patients don’t achieve a significant improvement. This could suggest that they’re not taking the right antidepressant or that these particular drugs are not the solution for them.

Is stopping antidepressants the answer?

If you’re taking antidepressants and feel worse, should you stop taking them? The answer is no. Indeed, under no circumstances is it recommended that patients stop taking medicines if not advised by a specialist. Doing this could lead to other problems even more unpleasant than any possible side effects.

In this case, the best thing you can do is to maintain constant communication with your psychiatrist and tell them about how you feel. They’ll be able to make certain decisions such as reducing or increasing your dosage or changing the drug. You’ll be able to discover which medication works best for you and how you should take it for it to be effective.

Worried woman thinking
Before discontinuing a pharmacological treatment, it’s essential to speak to a psychiatrist.

The importance of psychotherapy

When it comes to mental disorders, it’s important to remember that they never respond to a single cause. Therefore, it can’t be expected for a single treatment to produce complete improvement in someone suffering from depression. Ideally, antidepressant therapy should be accompanied by psychotherapy and lifestyle changes. This means the effects of the drug will be enhanced and the chances of improvement will be increased.

In conclusion, the approach to depression and other disorders with psychoactive drugs is a complex issue. Frequent contact with a medical specialist is essential for safe treatment. Therefore, talking to an expert is one of the keys to ensuring that an intervention has the desired effect.

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  • Cipriani, A., Furukawa, T. A., Salanti, G., Chaimani, A., Atkinson, L. Z., Ogawa, Y., … & Geddes, J. R. (2018). Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. The Lancet, 16(4), 420-429.
  • Saha, K., Torous, J., Kiciman, E., & De Choudhury, M. (2021). Understanding side effects of antidepressants: large-scale longitudinal study on social media data. JMIR mental health, 8(3), e26589.