Even though antidepressant medications may begin to normalize the brain's chemistry immediately, you probably won't begin to feel better for a few weeks. Most people feel better in 4 to 6 weeks. Some of your symptoms may disappear early in your treatment. For example, you may feel less tired and be able to sleep better. Other symptoms, such as your sad mood, may take longer to change. You may look better before you feel better. Don't feel disappointed if others comment that you look better when you still don't feel your best. Feeling better will likely come later, over time.
In most cases, antidepressants are prescribed for a minimum of several months. Treatment may last a year or more. It's important not to stop taking antidepressant medication too soon, even if you feel better. Stopping medications too soon is associated with high rates of relapse - as high as 80%. That means that if you stop taking your antidepressant medication too soon, you have an 8 in 10 chance of becoming depressed again. Experts say that's because while the medication has returned brain cells to a more normal state, early in treatment, the cells are unstable and can return to an abnormal state without medication. After at least 6 months of medication treatment, gradually going off the medication helps the cells remain stable, and the relapse rate drops to a mere 10%. If you have had recurrent episodes of depression, you may need to take maintenance antidepressants on an ongoing basis under the supervision of your doctor.