Effects of Antidepressant Medications: How Do You Know if it is Working?

How will antidepressants make me feel? How do I know if it is working? Before starting antidepressant medications it’s important to know what to expect; both with potential side effects but also what to look for when assessing if there is a benefit. Antidepressant medication is slow to take effect so the benefits can creep up on the person. You will not suddenly be a different person from the effects of antidepressants (and if you are then you are likely having a side effect your physician needs to know about). Antidepressants are not “happy pills”…but will hopefully treat depression so that you can get back to your normal self.

How do antidepressants make you feel when they are working?

This is a frequent question I get when initiating antidepressant treatment. Although one could dismiss this question with a simple answer “You will feel better!” it is a great question and worthy of a more detailed explanation.


Antidepressants gradually take effect over 3-5 weeks (on average) from when a therapeutic dose is reached (this dose varies between different people). The benefits will creep in slowly so that sometimes it isn’t until reflecting back on a moment that a person realizes they are starting to feel back to their baseline.

Effects of antidepressants: When an antidepressant works



When getting better, often people begin to respond to situations in different ways than they would have while depressed. They may catch themselves laughing, realize they went a day without crying, or they find themselves resuming activities they used to enjoy.

It is not uncommon for family members to be the first to notice a difference in a person. Because change is gradual it is sometimes harder for the person to recognize the difference in themselves.


Before a follow-up appointment with your doctor, I recommend asking people close to you if they have noticed any differences. You might be surprised by the feedback!

What antidepressant medication won’t do:

Don’t expect the antidepressant to:


  • Change your personality,
  • Make you not sad about sad things (unless you get a side effect that causes emotional flattening. You may still feel sad but have a harder time crying. Discuss this with your doctor if you get it!),
  • Immune to stress.

As you feel better it may be easier to let stress roll off you and not feel as overwhelmed. This still requires adequate self-care to improve resiliency, however, will be easier to do when feeling less depressed. Also, if you aren’t viewing everything in life thru the lens of depression, more options and subsequent hope will continue to present.

Taking antidepressant medications:

It can be intimidating to take antidepressant medication and people worry they will be changed in uncomfortable ways or it will change their personality. Antidepressants don’t change the fundamental parts of what makes you “you” but hopefully will help you get back to your non-depressed baseline so you can live the life you are meant to.

What do you remember noticing when an antidepressant medication started to work in yourself or someone close to you?

Because depression is so common, and not everyone is able to see a psychiatrist for their treatment, I have written much about depression. Here are my most popular articles:


11 Effective Interventions for Depression

30 Healing Mantras For Depression

Treating Depression with Exercise

Seasonal Affective Disorder? Light therapy can help!

Journal Prompts For Depression and Anxiety

Suicide Prevention Plan: 5 Tips to Deal With Thoughts of Suicide

A Psychiatrist’s Take on Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Prevention

Will You Have Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms?

2 Reasons Your Antidepressant Medication Doesn’t Work

6 Questions You Must Ask Before Choosing an Antidepressant


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