Maybe you’ve heard of them: antidepressants. The name might give you an idea, but what are they exactly, what are they used for and how long can you use them? Read more about it in this blog.

What are antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medicines that are used to reduce signs of depression, and are administered in tablets, capsules or liquid form. Antidepressants restore the balance of certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain. They have an effect on the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved with the regulation of the mood and emotions. Research has shown that a shortage of these two neurotransmitters can lead to depression, among other things. What exactly causes such a shortage is a lot more complex. Several factors including genetic, social and environmental factors play a role in this.

A helping hand

Antidepressants aren’t miracle drugs that can cure depression or depressive symptoms. Depression rarely has only one cause, let alone a biological one that is easily remedied with a medicine. It is better to consider antidepressants as a helping hand. They are used to reduce your complaints, so that you have more energy to deal with other aspects of your life. Therefore, antidepressants are often prescribed in combination with therapy, in which you can work on the underlying causes of your complaints.

How quickly does it take effect?

Keep in mind that it can take several weeks before you can notice of the antidepressants. Research has shown that the biggest effect occurs between the third and sixth week of treatment. If not even the slightest improvement has occurred in the first four weeks, it makes little sense to continue treatment with the same antidepressant. Then it may be wise to try a different type of antidepressant.

How long can you use antidepressants?

After you have recovered from a depression through therapy and medication, you often receive the advice to continue using your antidepressants up to one year. This is very important and needed to prevent a relapse of your depression.

How to take medication correctly for a longer period of time?

It’s a lot harder than you might think to take medication correctly for a longer period of time. This is especially the case when complaints have disappeared for some time, but the advice is to keep on using the medicines. It helps to integrate the medication into your daily routine, for example by always taking them with dinner or before brushing your teeth.

When and how can you stop taking antidepressants?

If it’s the first time you’ve had a depression the dose can be gradually reduced six months after your recovery. Have you had a depression before, then the usual term is 12 months after your recovery. However, phasing out antidepressants isn’t a “one size fits all”. There are no fixed rules, except that it should be done gradually.

Would you like to know more about quitting antidepressants? In my next blog I will give ten tips that may be helpful.

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression. Read more about it in this blog.

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Daniëlle Coenjaerts

I work as a nurse specialist GGZ at NiceDay. I like working on your goals in an approachable way and appreciate honesty and openness. Besides my job I love spending time in nature with my family and my dog.

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