Guidelines for Taking Antidepressants

If antidepressant medicine is prescribed for you, these guidelines will help you get started. The guidelines also give suggestions on when to call your doctor about the medicine.

Getting Started

Note: If you're breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, talk with your doctor. He or she will talk with you about how to take your medicine while breastfeeding and might want to prescribe a different medicine if you're pregnant or become pregnant.

Follow these steps when you start an antidepressant medicine. These steps will help you succeed with treatment.

  • Follow the self-care program.
  • Don't stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor.
  • If you have side effects that bother you, call your doctor and ask for advice.
  • If you are not feeling better after 3 to 4 weeks, contact your doctor.
  • Don't stop taking your medication if you are feeling better. Ask your doctor first.
  • Take your medicine at the same time every day. Make it part of your daily routine. For example, take it at meals or when you brush your teeth.
  • Plan to check in with your doctor (in-person visit, phone visit, secure messaging on Kaiser Permanente member website) after 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Schedule a follow-up visit with your doctor about 4 weeks after starting the medicine.

If you stop taking your medicine too soon, you increase your risk for becoming depressed again (known as a relapse.) Also, you might have side effects if you suddenly stop taking antidepressant medicine.

When to Talk With Your Doctor

Work closely with your doctor to make sure you have an antidepressant medicine that works well for you. Call your doctor any time you:

  • Have questions about your treatment, the medicine, or side effects.
  • Feel you are getting worse.
  • Think you can't stick with the treatment program.

You also need regular follow-up with your doctor to talk about your medicine. Talk with your doctor about what kind of follow-up is right for you (by phone, secure message, or in person).

You should be in contact with your doctor:

  • At least 2 times in the first month.
  • In about 4 weeks for a follow-up visit to make sure the medicine is working well for you.
  • Every few months after that.

For some people, tapering off medicine after 6 or 8 months is a good idea. People who have more severe or long-term depression should continue taking medicine for longer. Talk with your doctor about how long you should continue.

Clinical review by Greg Simon, MD
Kaiser Permanente
Reviewed 03/01/2014