How long does it take for antidepressants to work for anxiety?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How long does it take for antidepressants to work for anxiety? We will also talk about the 4 types of antidepressants and what side effects they have. Keep reading to learn about alternatives to antidepressants and what to do while taking this type of drug. 

How long does it take for antidepressants to work for anxiety?

It may take several weeks for antidepressants to work for anxiety, and this is often a cause of frustration and despair for some people. 

This question arises because despite being able to consider these drugs as magic pills that allow your brain to rebuild neurotransmitters, the truth is that they are not immediate. When you suffer from depression or anxiety, the functioning of the brain is altered and the antidepressants (some and in some cases) try to return it to its normal functioning. And this logically cannot happen the first day or overnight.

The most common is that antidepressants begin to take effect from the second week. You may have to wait until the third or fourth week to notice some improvement. Does it seem like a long time? Maybe it’s not what you expected. Maybe you were expecting something like the immediate effect of a pain reliever to take away the headache.

Antidepressants are intended to correct the chemical imbalances in the brain responsible for changes in mood and behaviour. In general, and depending on each type, they act by increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in the brain, preventing them from being ‘recaptured’.

The studies carried out to date show that they are very effective, since according to data from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, between 50 and 65% of people who take them improve significantly after three months of treatment, compared to 25% who do not receive treatment. However, this effect is not immediate, but it takes several weeks for patients to notice improvements in their mood.

For this reason, antidepressants can not be stopped suddenly, but gradually and always following the doctor’s instructions. Besides, its use should be prolonged, at least six months after the symptoms of depression have disappeared.

Types of antidepressants

As its name suggests, antidepressants are used to combat the symptoms of depression when it is moderate or deep, which can be many and very varied, such as prolonged sadness, loss of interest in life, inability to enjoy life, lack of concentration or insomnia among many others.

Antidepressants are also indicated in other types of mood disorders such as severe anxiety and panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic pain, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are almost 30 types of antidepressants, but, according to the American Psychiatric Society, they can be classified into four types:

SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

They are the most widely used and the ones that are usually prescribed first because they are the ones that produce the least side effects. They work by inhibiting the reabsorption of serotonin, without affecting other neurotransmitters. Among these antidepressants, we find fluoxetine (the famous Prozac) and others like paroxetine, sertraline or citalopram.

SNRI (Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors)

In addition to inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, they also act on norepinephrine, preventing its reuptake. Some examples are duloxetine, venlafaxine, or desvenlafaxine.

Tricyclics. They act very similar to the previous two but can affect other neurotransmitters, causing more side effects. Since the previous two appeared, they are used much less, just in case the previous ones do not work and in severe cases of depression.

MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors). They are the least used because of the serious side effects they can produce, more even than tricyclics, and because they interact with many drugs, so they are only used in the most severe and resistant cases. They work by blocking the effects of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine.

Depending on each patient, the symptoms and disorders they suffer and their circumstances, the psychiatrist will recommend one or the other, since each person responds differently to antidepressants.

What side effects do they have?

Antidepressants do not cause as much dependency as anxiolytics, mainly because their effects are not immediate. Even so, it is never recommended to leave them without a prescription or suddenly, as they can produce symptoms similar to that of withdrawal syndrome, such as anxiety, dizziness, stomach upset and flu-like symptoms. 

Also, nootropics are considered as a treatment for the cognitive symptoms of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. If you’re interested in trying nootropics to better manage your anxiety disorder, try the Best Nootropics for Anxiety.

Also, during treatment, especially at the beginning, there may be side effects, which will depend on the type of antidepressant taken.

SSRIs and SNRIs, the most common types, can produce:

  • Dizziness and anguish
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Memory problems
  • Urination problems
  • Irritability
  • Weight changes
  • Increased blood pressure
  • In severe cases, suicidal thoughts, although no increase in attempts.

In the case of tricyclics, the effects are more frequent and serious:

  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Sexual dysfunction

MAOIs, very little prescribed today, are also those that produce more unwanted effects:

  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • They can interact with foods rich in tyramine, such as walnuts, some fish and meat, cheeses …
  • Hypertension

Both tricyclics and MAOIs are very dangerous in cases of overdose.

Is there an alternative to antidepressants?

Many people are reluctant to take antidepressants, either because of the social stigma caused by their use and depression, or because of fear of side effects and dependency. 

However, these medications, always taken strictly following the indications of psychiatrists, are very helpful and even essential in case of major depression. 

And, although according to the American Psychiatric Society, 4 out of 5 depressions would end up improving without treatment after several months, not treating them would put people with resistant and chronic depressions at serious risk, in addition to increasing the risk of relapse. 

Antidepressants do not treat triggers of depression or eliminate it, therefore they are more effective when combined with:

Psychotherapy: There are different types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural or interpersonal therapies. In the medium and long term, they are very effective in the case of mild and moderate depression and to prevent relapses, since they help to cope with negative thoughts, self-knowledge, to face certain problems and to manage anxiety and stress.

Healthy habits, such as a good diet, eating fruits full in vitamins and minerals, not taking drugs or alcohol, exercising outdoors …

Light therapy, in case of seasonal affective disorder.

St. John’s wort or hypericum. It is a natural remedy widely used in countries like Germany, which is effective in the event of mild depression. It can be a good alternative since antidepressants are not indicated in the case of mild depression unless it is persistent. The doctor should be consulted first, as it can interfere with some medications.

What to do while taking antidepressants?

If these tips are followed, taking antidepressants will be easier:

Be patient and trust the doctor. Since its effect is not immediate, you have to be patient to wait for results.

Do your part. Antidepressants are not going to solve the cause of depression is not the only remedy. Doing your part, combining them with the remedies described above, will make their effects faster.

Ask for help from the nearby environment whenever it is needed.

• If the side effects are too strong or the expected effects do not occur within a few weeks, talk to the doctor so that he may consider changing the medication.

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) is reported to be an effective treatment for anxiety. It is an FDA-approved, prescriptive, noninvasive electromedical treatment that has been shown to decrease anxiety, insomnia, and depression significantly.

Here is a quick list of the Best cranial electrotherapy stimulation devices that can lower symptoms of anxiety.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusions

In this blog post, we answered the following question: How long does it take for antidepressants to work for anxiety? We also talked about the 4 types of antidepressants and what side effects they have. We discussed alternatives to antidepressants and what to do while taking this type of drug. 

It may take several weeks for antidepressants to work for anxiety, and this is often a cause of frustration and despair for some people. Despite being able to consider these drugs as magic pills that allow your brain to rebuild neurotransmitters, the truth is that they are not immediate!

While taking antidepressants, remember to ask for help from the nearby environment whenever it is needed. And if the side effects are too strong or the expected effects do not occur within a few weeks, talk to the doctor so that he may consider changing the medication.

If you have any comments or questions on the content, please let us know!

FAQ on How long does it take for antidepressants to work for anxiety?

Why does it take so long for antidepressants to work?

It takes so long for antidepressants to work because of their mechanism of affecting one’s nervous system. The drugs used to combat depression are (SSRIs), which means selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  Generally, when you start this drug treatment, it takes several days or even weeks to take effect and this is often a cause of frustration and despair for some people. 

Is it possible for antidepressants to work right away?

No, it is nos possible for antidepressants to work right away. Most of them take between 1 to 4 weeks to start working. You have to be patient and combine the treatment with psychotherapy methods. 

Why do antidepressants make you feel worse before better?

Antidepressants make you feel worse before better because the drug’s side effects occur before your depression symptoms can improve. You have to have a lot of patience with the treatment for depression.

Will antidepressants make me happy?

Antidepressants will not make you extremely happy, but they will help relieve the symptoms of depression and associated anxiety. What happens with depression drugs is that they prevent the neuron from picking up again the serotonin found in the synaptic space to increase the amount of serotonin between the neurons themselves. 

Further reading

The Anti-Depressant Book: A Practical Guide for Teens and Young Adults to Overcome Depression and Stay Healthy, by Jacob Towery MD 

Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope, by Johann Hari  

The Pill That Steals Lives – One Woman’s Terrifying Journey to Discover the Truth About Antidepressants, by Katinka Blackford Newman 

The Antidepressant Solution: A Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Overcoming Antidepressant Withdrawal, Dependence, and “Addiction”, by M.D. Joseph Glenmullen M.D. 

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Course

  • With over 50,000 participants, this anxiety course may be just what you need to regain control of your life.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

References

psychologytoday.com – Number One Reason SSRIs Take Four to Six Weeks to Work

Sciencedaily.com – Why do antidepressants take so long to work?

Cambridge.org – Why do antidepressants take so long to work? A cognitive neuropsychological model of antidepressant drug action

Sane.org – Antidepressant medication

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