What Do I Do When My Antidepressant Stops Working?

Antidepressants are medications that help manage depression symptoms in individuals. They work by altering the brain’s chemical balance and regulating the mood. Many people have experienced positive results from using antidepressants. However, not all antidepressants work for everyone, and some may stop working after some time of use. A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed that one-third of individuals with depression use more than one antidepressant medication to control symptoms.

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect an individual’s emotional and physical well-being. Therefore, when the prescribed medication to treat depression fails, it can affect an individual’s condition and worsen their symptoms, making them feel hopeless and frustrated.

When an antidepressant stops working, it’s vital to seek medical advice from a healthcare provider. Discuss the changes in symptoms with the provider, including how long the medication has been ineffective and how it’s affected overall well-being. One should not stop the antidepressant without the medical professional’s instruction or change the dosage.

What Causes Antidepressants to Stop Working?

The most common reason an antidepressant may stop working is pharmacokinetic reasons. This means the drug’s ability to be absorbed, metabolized, distributed, and excreted in the body changes over time. The amount of the medication in the bloodstream can decrease or the medication may not interact well with another medication.

Another reason can be the development of tolerance over time. After taking the medication for some time, the body may adapt and become resistant to the medications’ effects, and increasing the dosage may not restore the medication’s effectiveness either.

Changes in medication sensitivity can also occur as an individual ages or due to some medical conditions. In some cases, a person’s genetics may affect how they react to the medicine, and they may benefit from using different medications.

What to Do When the Antidepressant Stops Working?

Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial when an antidepressant stops working. Below are some options that the medical professional may suggest:

Switch Antidepressants

If the antidepressant is ineffective, the doctor may recommend changing the medication. Several antidepressants have similar functions but varying pharmacological properties, such as side effects, effectiveness and are suitable for different individuals. Switching to another medication may improve the condition by introducing a different medication to the brain.

Adjust the Dosage

Adjusting the dosage may also help when the medication stops working. The healthcare professional may increase dosage if the person has not reached the maximum dose. The increase must be done through a medical professional’s guidance since increasing it abruptly may lead to adverse side effects.

Consider Combination Therapy, Therapy or Lifestyle Changes

In some cases, using multiple medications, psychotherapy, or lifestyle changes can improve the condition. Combined therapy is more effective than single medications in managing treatment-resistant depression. Psychotherapy can help an individual identify the components of depression that affect mood, behaviors, and thoughts. Lifestyle change may include exercise, regular sleep patterns, and dietary changes that can help relieve depression symptoms.

Use Supplemental Medications

When the antidepressants stop working, some physicians may recommend using unconventional medication to support the main treatment. Such medications may include lithium or thyroid hormone therapy, and they may aid in improving the mood and energy levels in some individuals.

Conclusion

Antidepressants are effective medications that help manage depression symptoms in most people. However, when the medication is ineffective, an individual must seek medical advice from a healthcare provider. The provider may recommend switching medications, modify the dosage, or consider using combination therapy, therapy, or lifestyle changes. Supplemental medications may also improve the condition. However, one should not stop the medication or change the dosage without a medical professional’s recommendation.

FAQs

FAQs about “What Do I Do When My Antidepressant Stops Working”

1. How do I know when my antidepressant has stopped working?

When you start to notice that your depression symptoms have returned or have worsened despite taking your medication regularly, it may be a sign that your antidepressant has stopped working. Other signs may include feeling more irritable, fatigued, or anxious. It’s important to speak to your healthcare provider if you suspect that your antidepressant is no longer effective.

2. What are my options if my antidepressant has stopped working?

If your antidepressant has stopped working, your healthcare provider may suggest changing your medication or increasing the dosage. They may also recommend other treatments such as talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or a combination of both. It’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the treatment that works best for you.

3. Is it common for antidepressants to stop working?

It is not uncommon for antidepressants to stop working over time. Everyone’s response to medication is different, and sometimes, our bodies may become resistant to the effects of the medication. This is known as antidepressant tolerance. However, it’s important to note that there are many different types of antidepressants available, and with the help of your healthcare provider, there are usually effective treatment options available.


References

1. Demyttenaere, K., Jaspers, L., & Brecelj, J. (2018). What to do when antidepressants fail: A systematic review. European Psychiatry, 52, 24-36. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2018.03.002

2. Trivedi, M. H., Rush, A. J., Wisniewski, S. R., Nierenberg, A. A., Warden, D., Ritz, L., … & Fava, M. (2006). Evaluation of outcomes with citalopram for depression using measurement-based care in STAR*D: Implications for clinical practice. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163(1), 28-40. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.163.1.28

3. Cleare, A. J., Heap, E., & Malhi, G. S. (2020). Management of depressive symptoms in clinical practice: An update. British Journal of Hospital Medicine, 81(3), 1-8. doi: 10.12968/hmed.2020.81.3.1