When taking a mental health medicine, one of the most common questions that people ask is how they can tell when their medicine is working.

The answer is that there is no exact science on this. However, there are some things you can look out for – as this might inform you on the success levels of your medicine.

It can be difficult to tell when your medicine is working

A general feeling of positivity

Many people find that they feel better very gradually. Sometimes it is a case that you may have a sudden realisation that you are feeling better than when you started the medicine.

Often, the changes are so gradual that are not aware of your mood changing in a positive direction. So it is very much a case that each patient generally has the most accurate idea on when their medicine is working.

Equally, many people find that family members or friends are the ones who notice. They may see an improvement in the mood and motivation of the patient.

Each major type of mental health medicine – including antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilisers and benzodiazepines – will typically have different things to look out for.


Antidepressants are designed to improve a patient’s mood, increase motivation and boost energy. Because they are used for such a huge range of conditions, it can be difficult to say when they are working.

But generally, it can take anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks for antidepressants to take effect. People find that when their mood improves, their sleep is better and they have more energy and motivation – that the medicine is working.

Antidepressants do require time to work, but many people will find that their life can change dramatically when their antidepressant takes effect.


Antipsychotics are primarily used for any condition that involves psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. This includes Schizophrenia or Psychosis Disorders.

Antipsychotics will often take around a month to work. It can take around two months for their full benefits to be felt. People typically react in different ways.

Patients are able to find that when they feel more “in touch with reality” that their medicine has taken effect. This is normally seen through the absence of symptoms like delusions or hallucinations.

Mood Stabilisers

Mood stabilisers are a class of medicines that lessen mood swings and regulate mood. The aim is to stop depressive periods, and contain any episodes of mania.

Mood stabilisers can take up to a few weeks to work. Lithium – the best known and most widely-used stabiliser – can take up to 3 weeks to work.

Most people find that their mood is much more regulated with fewer periods of highs and lows. When a patient reaches this point, it can be considered that their medicine is working.


Benzodiazepines are a class of medicines that act as sedatives. They usually slow down the body and brain, making a patient calmer.

As a result, benzodiazepines normally work within a couple of hours of the medicine being taken. Their rapid onset is very helpful to those in a state of extreme anxiety or a mental health crisis.

Benzodiazepines should not be used on a long-term basis however. This will be made very clear by the prescribing doctor.


Often, there is no way of knowing when a medicine is working – but in theory, the patient should see an improvement in their symptoms.

But in general, most patients will see an improvement in their symptoms over a few weeks. While the timeframe differs dependent on the type of medicine involved, most will see an improvement in their mental health.

If a patient finds that they are struggling with medication, then there are many methods they can try. Failing that, there are a range of alternative and complimentary mental health treatments that they can try.

See Also



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