Going Off Antidepressants
19 Dec, 2023

Hey there, fellow readers! Today, let's dive into a topic that many of us might be familiar with – the decision to bid farewell to those little mood-enhancing pills we call antidepressants. You know, the ones that have been a saving grace when life felt like a joyless marathon. But as you start feeling the sunshine again, you might be wondering, "How long should I keep popping these pills?"

Around 10% of women aged 18 and over are on antidepressants, and if you're one of them, you've probably pondered the idea of going off them at some point. Those initial side effects that you were willing to tolerate, like the occasional headache or the vivid dreams, can become less bearable over time, especially when you feel like you're on the road to recovery.

So, should you keep renewing that prescription indefinitely, or is it time to say goodbye to the little helpers? Well, the decision isn't one to be taken lightly. Going off antidepressants requires careful consideration and the support of your physician or therapist to avoid the risk of a depression relapse.

Consider psychotherapy, Medway offers a wide range of psychotherapists that you can choose - and we'll schedule your online sessions with them. Now, let's get into the nitty-gritty. Why do antidepressant withdrawals happen? These medications work by tweaking the levels of neurotransmitters, those chemical messengers that influence activity throughout our nervous system. When you suddenly stop taking your antidepressant, your neurons might throw a bit of a tantrum, leading to what's commonly known as antidepressant withdrawal or discontinuation syndrome.

If you're on the newer antidepressants like SSRIs or SNRIs, you might be more prone to withdrawal symptoms. These can range from physical discomfort like dizziness and flu-like symptoms to mood swings, anxiety, or even weird sensations like "brain-zaps." But here's the thing – experiencing these symptoms doesn't mean you're addicted to your antidepressant. It's just your body adjusting to the changes.

But how do you know if what you're feeling is withdrawal or a relapse of depression? Well, withdrawal symptoms kick in pretty quickly after you stop the medication, whereas a depression relapse takes its sweet time. Also, discontinuation symptoms often come with physical complaints like dizziness or abnormal sensations, which aren't typically found in depression.

Now, the big question: how to go off antidepressants. It's not a sprint; it's a marathon. Rushing the process can lead to a rollercoaster of emotions and unwanted symptoms. Experts generally recommend staying on the medication for six to nine months before even thinking about quitting. And if you've had multiple rounds of depression, they might suggest sticking with it for a couple of years.

Communication is key here. Talk to your clinician about the pros and cons of discontinuing your antidepressant in your specific situation. Make a plan together, and don't rush it. Going off these meds usually involves a gradual reduction in dose over weeks or even months, depending on your specific circumstances.

Consider psychotherapy, Medway offers a wide range of psychotherapists that you can choose - and we'll schedule your online sessions with them. Throw some therapy into the mix. Psychotherapy can be a game-changer in preventing relapses and aiding in the recovery process. Stay active, too. Exercise has been proven to have a powerful antidepressant effect, so lace up those sneakers and get moving.

Throughout the process, stay connected with your clinician. If you experience any physical or emotional symptoms related to discontinuation, keep them in the loop. And hey, don't hesitate to involve a friend or family member in your journey. Their support can make a world of difference.

As you near the finish line and that last pill becomes a distant memory, check in with your clinician. A follow-up appointment will ensure that discontinuation symptoms have eased, and there are no signs of the depression making a comeback.

Remember, it's your journey, and everyone's path is unique. If you're considering going off antidepressants, take it one step at a time, surround yourself with support, and don't forget to celebrate the small victories along the way. You've got this!