05-19-2020 Your prescriptions

Signs Your Antidepressant Has Stopped Working

Depression is a common mental health disorder that affects millions of Americans each year. According to the CDC, more than 8% of American adults reported suffering from depression between 2013 and 20161.  

Fortunately, there are many successful treatments for depression. Often, individuals can recover through a combination of talk therapy and medications like antidepressants. Antidepressants are also prescribed for other mental health conditions, including anxiety and trauma disorders. Common antidepressants include:

While antidepressants are often a very effective treatment, they can stop working for some patients. If you experience changes in your mood, or your depression worsens, you should immediately consult with your physician or psychiatrist. We’ll share the most common signs that your antidepressant may not be working anymore.

Your Depression Returns or Worsens

If your depression returns or becomes worse, this may be a sign your antidepressant has stopped working. While this can happen to anyone taking an antidepressant, it often occurs to people who have been taking an antidepressant for longer than six months. 

Symptoms of returning depression can occur abruptly or gradually over time. For some individuals, symptoms may include agitation, irritability, or a loss of motivation. Any unusual changes in mood may be a sign of returning or worsening depression. 

If you are taking an antidepressant, it’s important to closely monitor how you feel. You should also regularly talk with your doctor about any changes you experience. If you start to notice a worsening of your depression symptoms, report this to your physician or psychiatrist right away. 

You’re Experiencing Increased Side Effects

Like any medication, antidepressants can have side effects. Most subside after several weeks of taking the medication; however, some might persist for months or even years. Common antidepressant side effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Sexual problems such as lower sex drive

If you have been taking an antidepressant for more than several months and notice a change in your reaction to the medication, this may be a sign it is not working as effectively as before. 

Much like changes in mood, increased side effects can occur suddenly or gradually over time. If you experience new or returning side effects, let your physician or psychiatrist know right away. They may want to discuss what changes you are experiencing and might decide to revise your treatment.

Why Do Antidepressants Stop Working?

Your antidepressant can stop working for many reasons. Common causes can include your age, interactions with other medications, and the advent of new medical conditions.

New Medications

Medications can interact with each other in a number of ways. Drug interactions are fairly common, and not every interaction is fully understood. In some cases, starting a new medication can interfere with the effectiveness of other medications that you’re already taking - this includes antidepressants. When you start any new medication, it is generally a good idea to speak with your doctor about any possible interactions.

Another Medical Condition

Some medical conditions can cause hormonal changes in the body and alter how medications work. As an example, hypothyroidism may cause or worsen depression2. In turn, these conditions can cause your antidepressant to be less effective. When you are diagnosed with a new condition, please speak with your doctor about how it might affect the medication you are currently taking.

Increased Tolerance

Similar to other medications and substances, it is possible for individuals to build a tolerance to antidepressants3. Researchers are still investigating how exactly tolerance is built and ways it can be prevented. 

Tolerance generally takes time to build, so in most cases, only individuals who have taken an antidepressant for a significant period of time are at risk of developing tolerance. If you believe you have developed a tolerance to any medication you are taking, speak with your doctor about alternatives.

Age

As we grow older, our bodies undergo many changes. These can cause hormonal shifts and imbalances. Neurological changes can also occur in our brain as we age. Together, these changes can impact our mood and how we think. In turn, medications that affect the brain, including antidepressants, may begin to work differently or less effectively. Speak with your doctor if you feel as if your age is affecting how your medication is working.

What to Do If Your Antidepressant Stops Working

If your depression symptoms worsen or you begin to experience increased or new side effects while taking an antidepressant, you should first contact your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medication before consulting with your doctor. Doing so may cause withdrawal symptoms and/or increased depression.

After an evaluation, your physician or psychiatrist may try several solutions. What they recommend may depend on:

  • How long you have been taking your current medication
  • Your past history with other antidepressants 
  • Other health conditions you may be experiencing 

Based on your evaluation, your healthcare provider may explore a number of options with you. Common options include altering your dosage, trying new medications, or adding augmentative therapies. We’ll explain each option in further detail.

Increasing the Dosage of Your Current Antidepressant

Often, your doctor may start you on a lower dose of an antidepressant in order to determine the right therapeutic amount. If this proves ineffective or if your depression symptoms return after some time, your doctor may increase your dose. 

Incorporating Therapy

In some cases, your psychiatrist may recommend that you incorporate therapy into your treatment plan. Therapy is often helpful if recent life changes are the root cause of your increase in depression. 

Changing Your Medication

If you have been taking the same antidepressant for several years, you may build a tolerance. In these cases, your healthcare provider may try a different medication. Switching from one antidepressant to another may require you to gradually taper off from one before increasing dosage of the other. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions when changing to a new antidepressant.

Adding an Augmentation Drug

Augmentation, sometimes known as combination therapy, involves prescribing another antidepressant or similar drug to help treat depression. Your doctor will prescribe a second drug with a different mechanism of action. This allows both drugs to treat your depression in two separate ways. 

While this option may seem more effective than other options4, it comes with an added risk of potential interactions. If a second antidepressant is added to your treatment, it’s vital to regularly update your doctor on your condition.

Another downside to this solution is additional cost. Taking another medication means you may have added out-of-pocket costs. Fortunately, there are several ways you can save on your prescription medications, including the America’s Pharmacy Rx discount coupons

Save On Your Antidepressant Medications

If you’re currently taking an antidepressant or are switching to a different one, see how much you can save on your medication with our Rx pricing tool. You can also get a free America’s Pharmacy prescription card or prescription coupons to start saving on your antidepressant medication immediately.

Save on Your Medication

Sources: 

1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db303.htm 

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3246784/ 

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278584610002927

4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/augmentation-strategies-for-depression