If you feel that your antidepressant no longer helps with your depression symptoms, there are a few steps you can take to remedy it.
Sometimes, medications don’t offer the relief they once did. Maybe your body has changed, or your needs are different than they used to be.
Although rare, it’s possible that your antidepressant stops working for you. Working with a healthcare professional can help you develop a new plan that takes your current physical health and life experiences into account.
It’s important, though, that you don’t discontinue or change your antidepressant before discussing the pros and cons with your healthcare team. This could prevent withdrawal symptoms and other unpredictable reactions from stopping your meds.
Although frustrating and upsetting at the moment, there are many ways to get back on track if your antidepressant stopped working.
The effects of your antidepressant can change at some point. This includes feeling it doesn’t work like it used to.
For most people, though, antidepressants continue to be effective for the duration of treatment.
It’s possible to experience “antidepressant poop-out,” more formally known as antidepressant tachyphylaxis. That’s when an antidepressant that once improved your symptoms doesn’t work as well anymore, or at all.
This can be managed by a healthcare professional, though. It’s important that you don’t stop taking the medication.
Researchers aren’t sure why some antidepressants stop working for some people. It may not have to do with the medication itself but rather a new environment or circumstances in your life.
Possible factors that may result in antidepressant tachyphylaxis include:
- Other prescription medications. Prescription meds for any condition may interact with some antidepressants. If you’re taking a new medication, it may make your antidepressant less effective.
- Substance use. Drinking alcohol or using nonprescription drugs can impact your mood, even if you’re taking your prescription as directed. Substance and alcohol use can make it harder for the antidepressant to work.
- Pregnancy. Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. Some of them may change the effectiveness of your medication. Taking antidepressants when pregnant is safe, but you may require a change in your dose or prescription brand.
- New stress. Life changes. You may be going through events at home or work that are causing you distress or challenging you in some way. This may mean your healthcare professional may need to revisit your dose or type of medication you need.
Should I take a break from my antidepressant?
No. It’s not recommended to stop taking antidepressants “cold turkey.”
The cause of your antidepressant poop-out may not be drug tolerance. A “tolerance break” won’t necessarily make your medication work better. It can actually cause you more distress or withdrawal symptoms.
Instead, and in case you need to stop taking the medication, talking with your healthcare professional may help. They can guide you through a slow tapering process or any adjustments you may need.
There are many ways you can approach your antidepressant not working. These are some suggested steps:
Step 1: Keep taking your medication
Medications to treat depression depend on a delicate balance. If that balance isn’t working for you right now, there are ways to go back to it.
Stopping your medication all of a sudden may create other symptoms that make your experience even more challenging.
It’s a good idea to keep taking your antidepressants even if you feel they’re no longer working for you.
Step 2: Talk with a mental health professional
A mental health professional can help assess your current experience. They can offer advice, support, and strategies on how to feel better again.
They may suggest some lab work. They likely want to gather information about your current life situation too.
Depending on what they determine is the cause of your antidepressant not working, your mental health professional might recommend a change of dose or type of medication. They could also refer you to other health professionals for additional support if you’re having a hard time.
Step 3: Develop a new plan to support your health
Once you discuss your symptoms and your medication with a healthcare professional, they will help you develop a new plan.
A 2019 review of studies on tachyphylaxis in major depressive disorder uncovered some possible strategies to make meds work again, including:
- changing your antidepressant dose
- switching class of antidepressant medications
- medication augmenting or combining
- lifestyle changes and self-care strategies
Step 4: Practice self-care
Whether your antidepressant is or isn’t working, self-care is important when living with depression.
Here are some options that may help:
- eating a nutrient-dense diet and limiting sugar consumption
- engaging in light or moderate exercise, like walking or yoga
- working on your support network and reaching out for help
- practicing meditation and mindfulness exercises every day
- rearranging school or work commitments to decrease levels of stress
- spending time in nature
You may not be able to do all of these every day. But even small steps can help ease your symptoms as you continue to manage depression.
Sometimes antidepressants stop working, or you may feel they don’t work as they used to.
Even if you no longer feel their effects, it’s highly advisable that you continue to take your medication and talk with a healthcare professional.
Stopping antidepressants abruptly can bring on withdrawal symptoms and intensify your depression.
You can work with a healthcare professional on new management strategies. This may include changing your dose or medication, or starting talk therapy if you haven’t.
Adjusting your antidepressant medication so it starts working again can be done. Managing depression may be a long-term process, but it’s possible to do it effectively.