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Signs Your Antidepressant Dose is too Low or High

When someone is depressed, finding the right prescription medication can be a real game changer for them. Antidepressant drugs can help minimize many symptoms of depression and help people feel better about themselves and improve their ability to enjoy life. But what if the individual is not taking the right amount of their medication? It may not always be apparent, which makes it important to recognize signs your antidepressant dose is too low or high.

What are Antidepressants? 

To begin understanding how to look for signs your antidepressant dose is too low or high, it’s important to understand what these drugs are all about. Antidepressants are a type of prescription medication that can alleviate symptoms of depression. They are not meant to cure occasional bouts of the blues, but rather diagnosed depressive disorders that interfere with a person’s life because they cannot regulate their emotions. These drugs are also sometimes incorporated into treatment for people who have anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some eating disorders, and other mental health conditions. 

Types of Antidepressants 

In the 1950s, research began into the development of prescription medications to treat depression. That work led to the creation of five main types of antidepressants:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Researchers noticed that medication that was used to treat people who had tuberculosis had the side effect of improving patients’ moods, appetites, and sleep patterns. As a result, physicians began to use a version of this medication, iproniazide, to help people who had major depressive disorder.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): The first tricyclic to receive approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of major depression was imipramine in 1959. One of the primary improvements associated with TCAs was that these medications were less likely to cause the side effects that many people experienced when they took an MAOI.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): The first SSRI to be approved by the FDA was fluoxetine in 1974. Common brand-name SSRIs that continue to be used today include Paxil, Zoloft, and Lexapro. 
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): With the approval of Effexor (venlafaxine) in the early 1990s, healthcare professionals now had another type of medication to help people who were not responding to SSRIs or older antidepressants. Other brand-name SNRIs that remain in use include Cymbalta and Pristiq.
  • Atypical antidepressants: The category of atypical antidepressants includes Wellbutrin, Trazodone, and esketamine. As had previously been the case with the creation of SNRIs, the development of these medications offered the potential for relief among people whose symptoms were not alleviated by other antidepressants.

Signs Your Antidepressant Dose is Too High 

If you are taking a dosage of your antidepressant that is too high, signs to look out for include:

  • You develop persistent fatigue and feel tired even after you have gotten an appropriate amount of sleep.
  • You have trouble falling asleep, and when you do, you do not get restful sleep. You may also have disturbing nightmares. 
  • You begin to have mood swings and irritability. While these may be signs of depression, if these symptoms increase after beginning to take an antidepressant, it can be a sign the dosage is too high.
  • You have distressing physical side effects, such as headaches, excessive perspiration, nausea, lightheadedness, or loss of appetite. While these may be the initial side effects of taking an antidepressant, if they persist, you may need to alter your dosage level.
  • You develop physical effects like a racing heart rate, dilated pupils, impaired coordination, rigid muscles, high blood pressure, and diarrhea. These can be signs of serotonin syndrome, also called serotonin toxicity. In extreme cases, this can cause seizures or loss of consciousness. 
  • You develop symptoms of mania, which consists of increased energy, excitability, and a feeling of euphoria often associated with a symptom of bipolar disorder.

Signs Your Antidepressant Dose is Too Low 

If you are taking a dosage of your antidepressant that is too low, signs to look out for include:

  • The side effects of the medication disappear, but the symptoms of depression continue.
  • You feel somewhat of an improvement in depressive symptoms, but not a noteworthy amount and feel the medication could be working better.
  • The depression lessens for a while but then returns to its previous levels.

How Can I Determine My Antidepressant Dose Needs Adjustment? 

Sometimes a person suspects that they are experiencing signs their antidepressant is too low or high, but they feel uncertain if they should speak up. If you think your medication needs an adjustment in dosage, talk to the person who prescribed it and let them know what’s going on. You may feel a change is necessary because you aren’t feeling as well as you expected to feel, you feel a sense of emotional numbness, or you are experiencing side effects you want to discuss.

How Often Should My Antidepressants Be Evaluated? 

Whether or not you notice signs your antidepressant dose is too low or high, you should have regular follow-up appointments with the person who prescribed it. This allows them to monitor your progress, see how your symptoms are affected by the medication, and discuss any necessary change in dosage or type of drug being taken. How often the appointments should take place should be discussed with the clinician and may take place more often during the initial stages of beginning to take a medication.

How Long Does It Take for My Antidepressants to Take Effect? 

Antidepressants do not typically take immediate effect, which requires the person taking them to be patient. How quickly they notice a difference depends on the specific medication and the individual taking it. In general, most antidepressants take at least two weeks for the first signs of improvement to begin. It may take several weeks for the person to feel the full effects of their medication. If, after this time, the person does not feel a change, they should talk to their prescriber.

What Factors Influence the Effectiveness of My Antidepressant? 

Not everyone experiences the same level of effectiveness from antidepressants. Influencing factors include the person’s brain chemistry, the severity of their depression, the medication they are taking, and the dosage they take. As well, the presence of other mental health disorders or medical conditions can make a difference. Finally, whether or not the person takes their antidepressant as prescribed helps determine how they feel. This includes taking the prescribed dosage on a regular basis.

Find Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta Today 

Have you been taking a prescription medication to help treat your depression but feel something may be off about it? It may be that you have the right type of drug but the wrong dosage. If you are experiencing signs your antidepressant dose is too low or high, it’s important to discuss this with a mental health professional. Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers a highly effective treatment for depression that includes both residential and outpatient options. Part of our program includes assessing any current medications a person takes and recommending any necessary changes. 

For more information about our program, visit our admissions page now. We can discuss our overall program and see how we can help you overcome depression.