Antidepressants get to work immediately to lift mood, contrary to current belief, UK researchers say.
Although patients may not notice the effects until months into the therapy, the team say they work subconsciously.
The action is rapid, beginning within hours of taking the drugs, and changes negative thoughts, according to the Oxford University researchers.
These subtle, positive cues may add up over time to lift the depression, the American Journal of Psychiatry reports.
It may also explain why talking therapies designed to break negative thought cycles can also help.
We found the antidepressants target the negative thoughts before the patient is aware of any change in feeling subjectively
Lead researcher Dr Harmer
Psychiatrist Dr Catherine Harmer and her team at Oxford University closely studied the reactions of 33 depressed patients and 31 healthy controls given either an antidepressant or a dummy drug.
The depressed patients who took the active drug showed positive improvements in three specific measures within three hours of taking them.
These patients were more likely to think about themselves in a positive light, rather than dwelling on their bad points, the researchers said.
They were also more likely to see the positive in others.
For example, if they saw a grumpy person they no longer internalised this to think that they must have done something wrong to upset the person.
This was despite feeling no improvement in mood or anxiety.
Dr Harmer said: \"We found the antidepressants target the negative thoughts before the patient is aware of any change in feeling subjectively.
\"Over time, this will affect our mood and how we feel because we are receiving more positive information.\"
She said the findings could help scientists looking for new drugs to treat depression.
Dr Michael Thase, a psychiatrist from the University of Pennsylvania, said the findings challenged conventional wisdoms and were potentially \"paradigm-changing\".
But he said much more research was needed.
\"The highest research priority is to confirm that the rapid effects observed in this study are predictive of eventual clinical benefit.\"
He said it was possible that switching off the negative thoughts was a crucial part of the therapy.
Alternatively, it might merely be a sign that the drug was beginning to work at the cell level in the brain.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: \"This research may contribute to our understanding of how our bodies respond to antidepressants, but the changes recorded can't always be felt by patients and it can be some weeks before they begin to feel the symptoms of depression easing.
\"We must also remember that the side-effects of medication can often be felt straight away long before the benefits really kick in, and this will always affect people's experiences in the initial stages of treatment.\"
Kind of late to post to this, but I found it to be true. I started on Prozac for Major Depression years ago and found that it started to work very quickly. The 4th day of taking it, I remember the exact feeling I had. It was instantaneous, like a light switch going on.
That being said, over time drugs can become less effective. My dosage has been tripled over the last 24 years. I can't cite the source, but I remember reading that depression can worsen with age.
Antidepressants may help some people, but I've never had any luck with them!
The first one made me high as a kite and I was doing stupid things without realizing it(like putting can of fly spray in the fridge), others have made me more depressed and one had me feeling like I was going completely crazy and I ended up at the hospital begging to be admitted to the Psych Ward!
I was told it can take years to find the right medication, I prefer to go without, for me it's safer, I live alone now, so there is no one to keep an eye on me and help if necessary!
Since moving back to my home town, I'm under less stress, so it's easier for me to cope, I just deal with one day at a time, and when I have a bad one, I just stay inside and ignore the world, that's the good thing about not having to work anymore, I don't have to put on a brave face and try to be cheerful when I'd rather just crawl into a hole!
Hey, you know if your having a bad day just come on here and I'm sure one of us motely crew will put a smile back on your face. You don't have to be a lone that is the point of this site we are all in this together, we are like the disabled musketeers one for one and one for all! Try putting that picture in your head that will make you laugh a zillion disabled people trying to put a sword in to the middle.
I read all the posts on anti-depressants with interest. For me they never worked and the medics spent years treating me for a physical problem which they deemed to be mental and emotional. Like one of your contributors I too was over the years on the maximum dose of SSRI with no effect. I had periods of complete despair whilst on them and tried to take my life three times to no avail thank god. It took me years to wean myself off them and as I emerged from the fog I began to feel again, see the colours in the world and like myself again. I don't say that anti-depressants can't help people but a word of warning. If you have physical symptoms explore and have these thoroughly tested first to make sure that it is not a disability like MS.or Parkinsons etc.Mine was physical and I wasted years trying evvery thing I could. Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Herbalism , talking therapies etc. etc. to overcome the so called depression to no avail. I now feel vindicated but nevertheless I am disabled physically. Obviously anti-depressants are a life-line for some but not always. Listen to those you really trust. Listen to your body. Believe in yourself and if like me the antidepressants don't work for you look elsewhere. It's very easy for medics to give anti-depressants to alleviate the miseries of life and they do want to help but they are not miracle pills although if you are cloaked in depression they often do have a place. A friend said they turned her life around and made life worth living again and they have for her but just be aware especially if you are young. If you do decide to come off the tablets let your medics know and that you want to remain on some or at least be able to up the dose again if life becomes intolerable. Maybe I had an addictive personality but I did find it very hard to wean myself after some years of use. And be kind to yourself. We've all been there some time.
I've been taking an antidepressant since 1991 (and probably should have long before that). I remember trying several before getting the right one. And over the years I've had to adjust the dosage.
As one gets older, depression can get worse, according to articles I've read over the years. Also, only some 40% of people treated with an antidepressant will have symptom relief. Not good enough for a disease that could cause you to take your life.
Everyone wants instant relief, but from my experience it takes time for the drug to build up in your body. Some are quicker than others. Some you have to start at a lower dose and build it up over a period of days or weeks. Also, a combination of drug and talk therapy works the best, at least in the beginning of treatment.
Certain Anti-depressants actually stop sleep! So maybe it's worth seeing your G.P and seeing if you need your medication tweaking. I actually take an anti-depressant to help me relax and fall asleep so certain ones do help you relax, chill and help you with getting to sleep. But sometimes it's your mind that is stopping you going to sleep so you need to find a way to get your head cleared so you can go to sleep. Here are some sites with tips on helping you prepare yourself for sleep:-