January 9, 2023

How Do You Know Antidepressants Aren't Working?

When a doctor prescribes a medication we tend to think that it’s going to be a quick fix that solves our ailment. Sometimes that’s the case, but if the medication is an antidepressant that’s far from a guarantee. 


Antidepressants are used for a number of mental health conditions beyond depression. They are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety, PTSD and obsessive compulsive disorder. A doctor may even prescribe antidepressants for a patient that is dealing with chronic pain. They are so common that 1 in 10 Americans take antidepressants


There are three primary types of antidepressants:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Zoloft and Prozac)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (Cymbalta and Effexor)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Remeron)


While we still don’t know entirely how antidepressants work and affect the brain, we do know that these types of medications take time to work. And even with time antidepressants don’t work for 40-60% of people.  


If you’re taking an antidepressant it’s important to know when to expect results as well as the signs that indicate the medication isn’t working. 

Timeline for Antidepressant Effectiveness

One of the drawbacks of antidepressants is they take time to work. It’s easy to think that they aren’t working if you aren’t aware of the timeline that it takes. The doctor prescribing the antidepressants should explain that it takes 6-8 weeks to feel the full effects of many antidepressants. In some cases, it can take up to 12 weeks. 


At a minimum it will take at least a week or two for antidepressant to begin making a difference. Antidepressants take a while to become effective because the dosage is low to begin with, and it takes time for the medication to build up in your system. 


It’s no surprise that many people who take antidepressants question their effectiveness right from the start. That makes a person more prone to missing dosages, which only delays the potential effects. 


It should also be noted that antidepressants actually work better when depression is severe or chronic. Mild or moderate cases are less likely to see profound effects from antidepressants no matter how long the medication is taken. 

Indicators Antidepressants Aren’t Working

Doctors know that antidepressants work better in some situations than others. But because of the timeline, it can be hard to know if antidepressants are making a difference. So how do you know if an antidepressant hasn’t kicked in yet or simply isn’t working? Here are some key indicators to look for:


  • The clearest sign that an antidepressant isn’t working is feeling no relief from your symptoms of depression after six or more weeks of consistent use.
  • If symptoms of depression increase that is another clear indicator the medication isn’t working. 
  • You feel foggy headed. This indicates that the antidepressant dosage is too high, or that it isn’t having an effect on the depression.
  • You experience a surge of energy early on without symptom relief. This is actually a dangerous combination, and patients should notify their doctor if the symptoms occur.
  • You have bad mood swings. Antidepressants should reduce mood swings, not make them worse. 
  • The side effects outweigh the benefits. Like other medications, antidepressants can have unwanted side effects that inhibit use.  
  • You aren’t acting like yourself. Antidepressants are supposed to make you more like yourself, just without the weight of depression. If you have a change in behavior or don’t feel like your normal self it’s a sign the antidepressants aren’t having the intended effect. 


The first solution may be to increase the dosage of the antidepressant to see if it reduces depression symptoms without increasing side effects. The doctor may also use another antidepressant or a combination of antidepressants to see if symptoms lessen. It may take a number of combinations to get it right, but for some people antidepressants simply aren’t the solution.

What to Do When Antidepressants Don’t Work

If you’re among the many people who don’t find relief through antidepressants don’t lose hope. Today there’s another option for people who are battling treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine therapy has proven to be a highly effective treatment for patients that don’t see improvements with antidepressants or no longer feel their effects. 


The fact that ketamine therapy can make a difference when antidepressants fail is one reason why doctors are so excited about expanding its use. They see ketamine as an essential lifeline for patients that would otherwise have no treatment options for depression. 


Better still is that ketamine begins working almost rapidly. There’s very little time between the treatment and feeling the benefits of the medication. Many patients will note a positive difference within a few hours of treatment. For those with severe depression, reducing the time it takes to feel the initial effects from months down to just hours is crucial and potentially lifesaving. 



Find out if ketamine therapy for depression is right for you. Take the confidential online assessment to discover whether you’re eligible for at-home ketamine treatments.