Although doctors still aren’t completely sure of all the reasons antidepressants work to relieve depression, one fact is for certain–treating depression with antidepressants is a journey you should be on with your physician from beginning to end, especially in the end. In a previous blog, we discussed why your primary care provider should be your first stop in treating depression, but we didn’t share why your provider should also be your first stop in ending antidepressant treatment.
There are two main reasons why people stop taking antidepressants.
1) They worked. 2) They didn’t.
Let’s break down those reasons a bit more.
If your antidepressant treatment is working and you are no longer depressed, you may feel you are ready to stop treatment, especially if you’ve been taking medication for the better part of a year or more. Though you may indeed be in remission from depression, stopping your medication cold turkey can send you into a tailspin that lands your right back in the heap of your illness. Symptoms of stopping antidepressants cold turkey include insomnia, withdrawal symptoms and suicidal thoughts.
Quitting your antidepressant because it doesn’t appear to be working for you may seem like a wise decision, but, again, quitting cold turkey without help from your doctor isn’t so smart. Your depression symptoms could worsen even more and you may be better served by changing antidepressants rather than quitting them altogether.
There’s one other reason people quit antidepressants and that’s the side effects. In this circumstance, your antidepressants may be working to treat depression but the side effects you feel, such as weight gain, nausea and loss of libido, are not worth the treatment, at least in your eyes. Again, in this case, changing medications rather than stopping them may be a better option.
All of the reasons you may want to quit antidepressants are the same reasons you shouldn’t quit without help from your doctor. Your doctor can help you decide if another antidepressant would work better or if you are truly ready to stop taking treatment. If your doctor does agree that you’re ready to stop treatment, they’ll develop a plan to taper you off your medication rather than stop it cold turkey.
If you are currently under treatment for depression and feel you are ready to stop or need a change in your medication, seek help from your primary care provider immediately.