The mistake: One in four women in their 40s and 50s now takes an antidepressant. But many new patients don't realize that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can take from four to six weeks to bring significant relief. When taking any prescription drug, about 60 to 70 percent of people will feel some positive effect, says David Hellerstein, MD, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center (great odds, unless you're in the other 30 to 40 percent). In one study of nearly 3,000 patients taking the antidepressant citalopram (Celexa), only about one-third said their depressive symptoms were entirely gone after 14 weeks.
What to try: If you feel only a little better, your doctor might increase your dosage or add another type of med, Hellerstein says. After about 12 weeks with no response, your doc may suggest a different pill (one major study showed that switching to a different SSRI can help one in four people). To help patients in finding a more effective match, the National Institute of Mental Health is funding a $19 million study to search for biomarkers (patterns of brain activity, genes, proteins in the blood, etc.) that will identify who will respond to sertraline (Zoloft), reports the Wall Street Journal (a second stage of the study will analyze responses to a different antidepressant). To learn more about this study (and others) go to depression-nyc.org.
Next: Surprising reasons you're feeling blue