A revision of the British Association for Psychopharmacology guidelines for treating depressive disorders with antidepressants was undertaken in order to specify the scope and target of the guidelines and to update the recommendations based explicitly on the available evidence. A consensus meeting, involving experts in depressive disorders and their treatment, reviewed key areas and considered the strength of evidence and clinical implications. The guidelines were drawn up after extensive feedback from participants and interested parties. A literature review is given which identifies the quality of evidence followed by recommendations, the strength of which are based on the level of evidence. The guidelines cover the nature and detection of depressive disorders, acute treatment with antidepressant drugs, choice of drug versus alternative treatment, practical issues in prescribing, management when initial treatment fails, continuation treatment, maintenance treatment to prevent recurrence and stopping treatment.