Choosing an Antidepressant

How to find an antidepressant that is likely to suit you

If you have decided with your doctor that treatment with an antidepressant medicine would be best for you, there isn’t much to choose between them in terms of how well they work – they are all similar to one another. On average, about 6 in 10 people with depression will respond to treatment with an antidepressant. Of the 4 in 10 who don’t respond, about 6 in 10 of those will respond to a second antidepressant. The most important thing is to take them for long enough for them to start to work – usually between 3 and 6 weeks, and a little longer in elderly people.

The important differences between antidepressants are in their side effects, so the best bet is to pick an antidepressant that is least likely to cause the side effects that you would prefer to avoid.

It’s important to remember that all medicines have side effects, so there has to be a trade-off somewhere about which side effects might be acceptable, and which ones definitely wouldn’t.

The important thing to remember is that although all medicines have side effects, not everybody gets them. Most side effects affect only a minority of the people who are taking a particular medicine, though that’s not always the case. You should always bear in mind that you might be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t get a particular side effect, or who is affected only in a mild way.

Below is a list of the common side effects caused by antidepressants. By clicking on the side effects below you can get two bits of information:

  • Click on the graph to get an explanation of the side effect, a description of what it’s like, and information on what you can do about it
  • Information about how many people were affected by this side effect in clinical trials for the most commonly used antidepressants in the UK

How to make a choice

Pick two or three or more side effects that you think would be the most difficult for you to put up with. Click on a side effect to get links to an explanation and to find out which of the commonly used antidepressants in the UK would be least or most likely to cause these side effects. You could make a note on a piece of paper and take it with you next time you go to see your doctor or pharmacist to use in a discussion about which antidepressant would be most likely to suit you. As an example – if you drive a car or operate machinery, or, in fact, work at any task which needs you to concentrate, you wouldn’t want to feel sleepy during the day. If you click on the ‘sleepiness’ links, they will give you information about the side effect and also show you which antidepressants are least likely to cause the problem.

Antidepressant Side Effects