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What is Involved in Stopping Antidepressants?

Lainie Petersen
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Stopping antidepressants can be a complex process, requiring the close supervision of a physician. Many individuals who take antidepressants may experience both physical and psychological side effects when stopping antidepressants or transitioning from one antidepressant drug to another. Individuals who are stopping or changing antidepressants should speak with their doctor and pharmacist about potential side effects and the actions they or their loved ones should take if these side effects manifest themselves. In many cases, individuals engaging in antidepressant discontinuation should reduce their use of antidepressants slowly and remain in regular communication with their health care practitioner during the process.

Individuals may need to stop antidepressants for any number of reasons. Some may feel that they have sufficiently recovered from their depressed mood and no longer need to take their drugs. Some women who wish to have children may decide to cycle off their antidepressants to prevent the possibility of harm to their fetus. In some cases, a doctor may recommend ceasing use of the drug because the patient is experiencing negative side effects or because the antidepressant is no longer working well and the doctor wishes to prescribe a new drug.

While these are all legitimate reasons for stopping antidepressants, any sudden withdrawal from or change of antidepressant can cause side effects ranging from mild to severe. These may include physical symptoms such as nausea, headache, or tremors. Some people who are in the process of stopping antidepressants may even wonder if they have a cold or the flu. Psychiatric symptoms can include irritability, anxiety, and, in some severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

While stopping any type of antidepressant may produce side effects, there is some indication that withdrawal from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants can have more significant side effects, sometimes known as serotonin withdrawal syndrome. Individuals experiencing SSRI withdrawal may feel as though electrical zaps or shocks are coursing through their body. They may also experience more typical side effects of stopping antidepressants, such as moodiness and digestive discomfort.

To ease the process of stopping antidepressants, doctors and patients should work out a plan for the patient's slow withdrawal from the drug. Family members, friends, and therapists or caseworkers may likewise need to be included in the patient's plan for antidepressant discontinuation, as it may be difficult for the patient to accurately observe psychological symptoms. Those close to the patient can make the patient aware of any unusual behavior that they observe so that the patient can take steps to address the problem with his doctor.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen , Former Writer
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.

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Lainie Petersen

Lainie Petersen

Former Writer

Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
Learn more
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