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Search Health Information    Depression: Should I Stop Taking My Antidepressant?

Depression: Should I Stop Taking My Antidepressant?

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Depression: Should I Stop Taking My Antidepressant?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Stop taking your depression medicine.
  • Keep taking it.

Key points to remember

  • The best reason to stop taking your antidepressant is because you feel better and you and your doctor believe that you will stay well after you stop taking it.
  • An antidepressant needs time to work. You may need to take it for 1 to 3 weeks before you start to feel better and for 6 to 8 weeks before you feel much better.
  • Most side effects of antidepressants are more bothersome than serious. They can often be managed. Or your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.
  • If you feel you can't afford the medicine, your doctor may be able to prescribe one that costs less.
  • At least half of people who have depression will get it again. This is called a relapse. But if you keep taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that you will have a relapse.
  • If you plan to stop taking your medicine, talk with your doctor first about how to do it safely. You may need to stop slowly over time. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects, such as flu-like symptoms and dizziness.
  • Seeing a counselor works well to help people with depression feel better.
  • Depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's a health problem, not a character flaw.
FAQs

How do antidepressants work?

Antidepressants help restore the normal balance of brain chemicals. When these brain chemicals are in proper balance, your depression gets better.

You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start taking the medicine. But you may need to take it for 6 to 8 weeks to get the full benefit and feel much better. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you don't feel any better in 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.

There are many medicines for depression. If the first one you try doesn't work, a different one usually will. You may need to try several medicines before you find the one that works best for you.

If the side effects bother you, talk to your doctor. There are many things you can do to reduce side effects. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.

How long will you need to take medicine for depression?

Taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better can help keep you from getting depressed again. If this is not the first time you have been depressed, your doctor may want you to take your medicine for an even longer time. But don't worry—no matter how long you take an antidepressant, you can't become addicted to it.

The best reason to stop taking your antidepressant is because you feel better and you and your doctor believe that you will stay well after you stop taking it.

If you plan to stop your medicine, talk with your doctor first about how to do it safely. You may need to stop slowly over time. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause problems, such as flu-like symptoms and dizziness.

Does counseling work for depression?

Seeing a counselor works well to help people with depression feel better. Counseling may also help prevent your depression from coming back after you have stopped taking your medicine.

The types of counseling most often used to treat depression include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of counseling that teaches you how to become healthier by changing some of your thought and behavior patterns. You can get this therapy one-on-one with a counselor or in a group.
  • Interpersonal therapy, which focuses on social and personal relationships and related problems.
  • Problem-solving therapy, which focuses on the problems you are facing now and on helping you find solutions.
  • Family therapy, a type of counseling that involves the entire family.

What other things can you do to treat depression?

You may want to try other ways to help treat or prevent depression.

General health

Taking care of your overall health can help you treat depression. You can:

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Get exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Seek support from friends and family.
Complementary medicine

The herb St. John's wort may help treat mild depression. But it may cause problems with other medicines that you're taking, so you need to talk to your doctor before you take it.

Why might your doctor recommend stopping your antidepressant?

Your doctor might recommend stopping your antidepressant if:

  • You're feeling better, and you and the doctor agree that it's time to stop.
  • You have been taking the medicine for at least 6 months.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?









What are the benefits?









What are the risks and side effects?









Stop taking your antidepressant Stop taking your antidepressant
  • You and your doctor agree that you're feeling good and will stay well if you stop taking the medicine.
  • Under your doctor's care, you slowly reduce your dosage of medicine until you stop.
  • You may have counseling to help you cope with problems and help change how you think and feel.
  • You won't have to take a pill every day.
  • You won't have side effects from medicine.
  • You won't have the cost of medicine.
  • You won't have to worry about avoiding certain other medicines because of possible drug interactions.
  • Your depression could come back.
  • If you suddenly stop taking the medicine, you could have problems such as flu-like symptoms or dizziness. You need to reduce your dosage slowly over time, under your doctor's care.
Keep taking it Keep taking it
  • You keep taking your medicine as your doctor recommends.
  • You may have counseling to help you cope with problems and help you change how you think and feel.
  • You can make a plan to stop taking the medicine when you and your doctor think you're ready.
  • Your depression is less likely to come back.
  • Depression medicine can have side effects, which may include headaches, dry mouth, nausea, or problems with sex drive or ability.
  • The medicine can cost a lot.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about stopping depression medicine

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

I stopped taking my depression medicine a year ago. I had been on the medicine for a year, and my symptoms were under control. I felt really good. I wanted to see if I could stay healthy without the medicine. I am still going to counseling, though, and I hope that will be enough to keep my depression from coming back.

Azim, age 40

My symptoms were really bad. I even tried to kill myself once. Thank goodness my doctor finally found a medicine that makes me feel just about normal. I've been on the medicine for a while, but there's no way I'm going to stop taking it until my doctor thinks I'm ready. I definitely do not want to go back to feeling the way I did before treatment.

Walker, age 23

I've been on antidepressants for 9 months, and my depression symptoms are gone. But each of the three different drugs I've tried has side effects that I don't like, especially not having a sex drive and not being able to sleep well. My depression symptoms weren't all that bad in the first place. For me, the treatment is worse than the disease was.

Inez, age 35

My medicine is working really well now, and the side effects don't really bother me. Taking the pills is just not that big a deal for me, so why stop a good thing? Especially if it means I'm less likely to get depressed again in the future.

Rachel, age 29

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to stop taking your antidepressant

Reasons to keep taking it

I'm feeling much better.

I don't feel as good as I would like.

More important
Equally important
More important

I feel confident that I can keep feeling good with counseling and self-care.

To stay well, I need more help than counseling and self-care can give me.

More important
Equally important
More important

I can't stand the side effects of my medicine anymore.

I can manage the side effects.

More important
Equally important
More important

I just don't want to take medicine.

I don't mind taking medicine.

More important
Equally important
More important

I want to try over-the-counter medicine like St. John's wort.

I want to keep taking a prescription medicine.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Stopping the medicine

Staying on the medicine

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.

What is the best reason to stop taking depression medicine?

2.

How long do you need to take a depression medicine to lower the chance that your depression could come back?

  • A couple of weeks No, that's not right. If you take your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that depression will come back.
  • A couple of months Sorry, that's not right. If you take your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that depression will come back.
  • At least 6 months That's right. If you take your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that depression will come back.
  • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." If you take your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that depression will come back.
3.

What is the best way to stop your depression medicine?

  • Talk to your doctor first That's right. You need to ask your doctor how to stop your medicine safely. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects.
  • Suddenly No, that's not correct with some medicines. You need to talk with your doctor first about how to stop your medicine safely. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects.
  • It doesn't matter Sorry, that's not right. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects. You need to talk with your doctor first about how to stop your medicine safely.
  • I'm not sure It may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." Talk to your doctor first before stopping your medicine. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects.

Decide what's next

1.

Do you understand the options available to you?

2.

Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.

Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.

How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure
3.

Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Your Summary

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision  

Next steps

Which way you're leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts  

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act  

Patient choices

Credits

Credits
Credits Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

Depression: Should I Stop Taking My Antidepressant?

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the facts

Your options

  • Stop taking your depression medicine.
  • Keep taking it.

Key points to remember

  • The best reason to stop taking your antidepressant is because you feel better and you and your doctor believe that you will stay well after you stop taking it.
  • An antidepressant needs time to work. You may need to take it for 1 to 3 weeks before you start to feel better and for 6 to 8 weeks before you feel much better.
  • Most side effects of antidepressants are more bothersome than serious. They can often be managed. Or your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.
  • If you feel you can't afford the medicine, your doctor may be able to prescribe one that costs less.
  • At least half of people who have depression will get it again. This is called a relapse. But if you keep taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that you will have a relapse.
  • If you plan to stop taking your medicine, talk with your doctor first about how to do it safely. You may need to stop slowly over time. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects, such as flu-like symptoms and dizziness.
  • Seeing a counselor works well to help people with depression feel better.
  • Depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's a health problem, not a character flaw.
FAQs

How do antidepressants work?

Antidepressants help restore the normal balance of brain chemicals. When these brain chemicals are in proper balance, your depression gets better.

You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks after you start taking the medicine. But you may need to take it for 6 to 8 weeks to get the full benefit and feel much better. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you don't feel any better in 3 weeks, talk to your doctor.

There are many medicines for depression. If the first one you try doesn't work, a different one usually will. You may need to try several medicines before you find the one that works best for you.

If the side effects bother you, talk to your doctor. There are many things you can do to reduce side effects. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.

How long will you need to take medicine for depression?

Taking your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better can help keep you from getting depressed again. If this is not the first time you have been depressed, your doctor may want you to take your medicine for an even longer time. But don't worry—no matter how long you take an antidepressant, you can't become addicted to it.

The best reason to stop taking your antidepressant is because you feel better and you and your doctor believe that you will stay well after you stop taking it.

If you plan to stop your medicine, talk with your doctor first about how to do it safely. You may need to stop slowly over time. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause problems, such as flu-like symptoms and dizziness.

Does counseling work for depression?

Seeing a counselor works well to help people with depression feel better. Counseling may also help prevent your depression from coming back after you have stopped taking your medicine.

The types of counseling most often used to treat depression include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of counseling that teaches you how to become healthier by changing some of your thought and behavior patterns. You can get this therapy one-on-one with a counselor or in a group.
  • Interpersonal therapy, which focuses on social and personal relationships and related problems.
  • Problem-solving therapy, which focuses on the problems you are facing now and on helping you find solutions.
  • Family therapy, a type of counseling that involves the entire family.

What other things can you do to treat depression?

You may want to try other ways to help treat or prevent depression.

General health

Taking care of your overall health can help you treat depression. You can:

  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Get exercise.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Seek support from friends and family.
Complementary medicine

The herb St. John's wort may help treat mild depression. But it may cause problems with other medicines that you're taking, so you need to talk to your doctor before you take it.

Why might your doctor recommend stopping your antidepressant?

Your doctor might recommend stopping your antidepressant if:

  • You're feeling better, and you and the doctor agree that it's time to stop.
  • You have been taking the medicine for at least 6 months.

2. Compare your options

  Stop taking your antidepressant Keep taking it
What is usually involved?
  • You and your doctor agree that you're feeling good and will stay well if you stop taking the medicine.
  • Under your doctor's care, you slowly reduce your dosage of medicine until you stop.
  • You may have counseling to help you cope with problems and help change how you think and feel.
  • You keep taking your medicine as your doctor recommends.
  • You may have counseling to help you cope with problems and help you change how you think and feel.
  • You can make a plan to stop taking the medicine when you and your doctor think you're ready.
What are the benefits?
  • You won't have to take a pill every day.
  • You won't have side effects from medicine.
  • You won't have the cost of medicine.
  • You won't have to worry about avoiding certain other medicines because of possible drug interactions.
  • Your depression is less likely to come back.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • Your depression could come back.
  • If you suddenly stop taking the medicine, you could have problems such as flu-like symptoms or dizziness. You need to reduce your dosage slowly over time, under your doctor's care.
  • Depression medicine can have side effects, which may include headaches, dry mouth, nausea, or problems with sex drive or ability.
  • The medicine can cost a lot.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about stopping depression medicine

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

"I stopped taking my depression medicine a year ago. I had been on the medicine for a year, and my symptoms were under control. I felt really good. I wanted to see if I could stay healthy without the medicine. I am still going to counseling, though, and I hope that will be enough to keep my depression from coming back."

— Azim, age 40

"My symptoms were really bad. I even tried to kill myself once. Thank goodness my doctor finally found a medicine that makes me feel just about normal. I've been on the medicine for a while, but there's no way I'm going to stop taking it until my doctor thinks I'm ready. I definitely do not want to go back to feeling the way I did before treatment."

— Walker, age 23

"I've been on antidepressants for 9 months, and my depression symptoms are gone. But each of the three different drugs I've tried has side effects that I don't like, especially not having a sex drive and not being able to sleep well. My depression symptoms weren't all that bad in the first place. For me, the treatment is worse than the disease was."

— Inez, age 35

"My medicine is working really well now, and the side effects don't really bother me. Taking the pills is just not that big a deal for me, so why stop a good thing? Especially if it means I'm less likely to get depressed again in the future."

— Rachel, age 29

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to stop taking your antidepressant

Reasons to keep taking it

I'm feeling much better.

I don't feel as good as I would like.

More important
Equally important
More important

I feel confident that I can keep feeling good with counseling and self-care.

To stay well, I need more help than counseling and self-care can give me.

More important
Equally important
More important

I can't stand the side effects of my medicine anymore.

I can manage the side effects.

More important
Equally important
More important

I just don't want to take medicine.

I don't mind taking medicine.

More important
Equally important
More important

I want to try over-the-counter medicine like St. John's wort.

I want to keep taking a prescription medicine.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Stopping the medicine

Staying on the medicine

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1. What is the best reason to stop taking depression medicine?

  • Because you feel a little better
  • Because you've been on it for 3 months, and that's long enough to get better
  • Because you feel better, and you and your doctor think you'll stay well when you go off the medicine
  • I'm not sure
That's right. You want to feel better AND feel confident that you will stay well after you stop taking it.

2. How long do you need to take a depression medicine to lower the chance that your depression could come back?

  • A couple of weeks
  • A couple of months
  • At least 6 months
  • I'm not sure
That's right. If you take your medicine for at least 6 months after you feel better, you may lower the chance that depression will come back.

3. What is the best way to stop your depression medicine?

  • Talk to your doctor first
  • Suddenly
  • It doesn't matter
  • I'm not sure
That's right. You need to ask your doctor how to stop your medicine safely. Suddenly stopping some medicines may cause side effects.

Decide what's next

1. Do you understand the options available to you?

2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I'm ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document some Information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

Last Revised: January 11, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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