Fast-Working Medications for Depression


Depression can be disruptive to your life and challenging to treat. Antidepressants have proven helpful in treating depression because they affect neurotransmitters, areas in the brain that are often unbalanced. This imbalance is caused by low or fluctuating levels of serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning. When seeking relief for symptoms of depression, you may want to consider taking an antidepressant. When discussing antidepressant use with your doctor or therapist, be aware that some antidepressants work faster than others.

Depressed woman
Depressed woman (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)


Depression symptoms typically persist for more than two weeks and include feelings of sadness or worthlessness, a desire to withdraw or abstain from social activities, feelings of anxiety or mood swings. Other symptoms can vary: insomnia or a desire to sleep all the time, dramatic weight loss or gain. More severe symptoms include impairment at school or work or suicidal thoughts.

Withdrawn woman
Withdrawn woman (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) are the most common antidepressants prescribed for depression. They help regulate and maintain the levels of serotonin in the brain, especially if serotonin levels are consistently low, which may be contributing to depression. Additionally, SSRI’s are not typically prescribed in combination with other drugs.

Cross section image of human brain
Cross section image of human brain (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Fast-Acting Antidepressants

Drugs metabolize differently in each individual's system. The more popular SSRI’s--Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, Luvox and Celexa--generally will not begin to take effect until, at least, after the full second week of ingestion. In some cases, their full effect will not be noticed for four or five weeks. However, adverse effects of depression, like insomnia, may be relieved within a few days or a week.

Pharmacist and patient
Pharmacist and patient (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


Despite its popularity and effectiveness, Prozac generally takes longer to metabolize within the body than other popular SSRI’s. Prozac will take approximately three to five weeks. Unlike the other drugs, one or two symptoms are typically not relieved by Prozac until the drug is fully metabolized.

Prozac bottles and tablets
Prozac bottles and tablets (Image: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Taking Antidepressants

Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, Luvox and Celexa provide the fastest relief for symptoms of depression. Dosages start low and are gradually increased. A plateau level is reached, typically around week three, and often the patient feels better. If more relief is needed, the dosage may be increased.

Taking pills
Taking pills (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Ceasing the Antidepressant

Often, a patient needs to switch from one antidepressant to another until he finds the one that works for him. If the antidepressant you are taking has not been effective within three months, consult your physician, who may suggest you stop taking the drug and try another.

Talking to doctor
Talking to doctor (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Dealing with Depression

Taking a fast-acting drug to help with your depression is typically not enough to fully alleviate your depression, let alone overcome it. Typically, antidepressant use is coordinated with some form of talk therapy. Consult your physician on what's best for you.

Therapy session
Therapy session (Image: Andrea Morini/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

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