7 Things to Consider Before Stopping Antidepressants

If you’re thinking about coming off antidepressants, here are some things to consider.  Whilst it may seem tempting to just stop taking them, stopping suddenly can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and put you at risk of a relapse.  It may then take you longer to recover.


Discuss stopping antidepressants with your GP

The first rule before doing anything is to discuss coming off antidepressants with your GP.  Reducing antidepressants is always best done gradually and he or she can advise the safest way to do this.

NICE guidelines recommend taking medication for a least 6 months after remission, extending to 2 years for those at risk of a relapse.  Everyone is different and how long you will need to take them depends upon many factors such as the severity of your illness and how well you have responded to treatment.


Are you stopping for the right reasons?

Is your depression in remission?  If you’ve been feeling well for some time then it may be safe to come off medication (as long as you have spoken to your GP)

Not feeling any better?  It takes a few weeks before you will start to notice a difference.  If you have already given it a few weeks then discuss this with your GP.  It could be that another type of antidepressant would suit you better.

Finding the side effects too much to cope with?  The side effects should subside once your body adjusts to the medication.  Overall the benefits of taking medication and feeling better should outweigh the side effects.


Is it the right time?

Consider the TIMING.

If you are under considerable stress or have a significant life change coming up then it may not be the right time.  If you find your mood is worse in winter when there’s little sunlight you may find it better to wait until spring to give yourself a better chance of success.


Do You Have a Plan?

Antidepressants can help beat depression.  But there are other ways you can fight back:

These can all help emotional wellbeing and reduce the chances of a relapse.  This is best started BEFORE medication is reduced.  Begin gradually by taking small steps and you are more likely to stick at it.  Involve a close friend and ask them to keep an eye on your mood – they may notice a problem before you do.


Have You Worked Through any Problems?

There are many different things which can trigger depression including life events, chronic stress, bereavement, relationship breakdown and illness.  You can however, improve your chances of relapse by getting support from a good therapist.  Counselling may help you to identify negative patterns of thinking and equip you with new ways of coping.


Do you have realistic expectations?


Reducing your medication will take time and of course, there is no guarantee you won’t get depressed again.  There’s a lot you can do though.  Start by making small lifestyle changes to look after your emotional wellbeing and be aware of the early warning signs that you may be getting depressed again.



Be aware of possible withdrawal

Everyone is different.  The withdrawal process depends upon the type of antidepressant you are taking, the dosage and how long you have been taking it for.  Gradually reducing under the guidance of your GP gives your body a chance to adapt more slowly.  Of course you may still get withdrawal symptoms but being aware of this and what to expect may help.


Antidepressants either have a long half-life or short half-life.  This is the amount of time it takes for your body to reduce it by half.  A short half-life can mean more withdrawal problems.  And a long half-life can mean less withdrawal problems.  If withdrawal symptoms are a problem then it may be an option to switch to an antidepressant with a long half-life first.


Further Resources:
The Mind website has a useful page on antidepressants, how they work, side effects and information about withdrawal –https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/antidepressants/#.Wg7LNEx2tWw
The Mental Health Foundation has a series of free, downloadable publications about looking after your mental health using mindfulness and exercise, sleeping better and managing stress – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications





7 Things to Consider Before Stopping Antidepressants

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