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West London NHS Trust > Patients and carers > Treatments and medication > Medication > Antidepressants

Antidepressants

Antidepressants work by creating the right balance of the chemical serotonin and thereby relieve the symptoms of depression.

There are many different families of antidepressants. Sometimes, a combination of different families of antidepressants is used for severe depression. Examples of antidepressants include Citalopram, Fluoxetine, Sertraline, Mirtazapine and Venlafaxine.
Antidepressants are usually taken in tablet form. When they’re prescribed, you’ll start on the lowest possible dose thought necessary to improve your symptoms.
Antidepressants usually need to be taken for around seven days (without missing a dose) before the benefit is felt. It’s important not to stop taking them if you get some mild side effects early on, as these effects usually wear off quickly.
If you take an antidepressant for four weeks without feeling any benefit, speak to your GP or mental health specialist. They may recommend increasing your dose or trying an alternative medication.

Side effects

Different antidepressants can have a range of different side effects. Always check the information leaflet that comes with your medication to see what the possible side effects are.
In general, the most common side effects of antidepressants are usually mild. Side effects should improve within a few days or weeks of treatment, as the body gets used to the medication.
It’s important to continue treatment, even if you’re affected by side effects, as it will take several weeks before you begin to benefit from treatment.
More information about side-effects

Find out more

For more information and up to date advice about medication, including side effects, visit the Choice and Medication website.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has published leaflets about medication and mental health problems. You can access the information free of charge on their website www.rcpsych.ac.uk.