The Risks of Going off an Antidepressant Too Quickly


People think about going off their antidepressants for many different reasons.

They might be feeling better, do not think it is working, do not like their medication’s side effects, worry about extended use, wonder what life would be like drug-free, or want to try an alternative treatment.

Whatever the reason, wise individuals do not go off antidepressants quickly, or cold-turkey. Abruptly stopping an antidepressant is a jolt the body does not appreciate and will likely let an impatient individual know this via withdrawal symptoms.

If you are on an antidepressant and want to discontinue, talk to your prescribing psychiatrist or physician first. He or she may have reasons for you to stay on the medication that you should at least consider, and this person can also help you go off the antidepressant slowly and safely if that is your decision.

Why Slow Discontinuation Is Best

Not every person who quits an antidepressant abruptly has withdrawal symptoms, but there is no way of knowing who will or will not ahead of time.

  1. If you want to stop an antidepressant because you feel better, realize you may feel better because the antidepressant is working. By abruptly stopping the medication, you may abruptly end your good feelings as well. Going off the antidepressant gradually will allow you to notice any small shifts in your mood and thinking.
  2. People frequently experience uncomfortable flu-like symptoms when they quit cold-turkey. These symptoms include nausea, stomach spasms or cramps, vomiting, headache and dizziness.
  3. Other withdrawal symptoms from quick discontinuation are fatigue, anxiety, problems sleeping, nightmares, coordination problems and disturbing thoughts or images.
  4. It can take trial and error to discover which antidepressant works for you. The medication you are on now might be a disappointment, but another type of antidepressant may bring symptom relief.
  5. If you become pregnant, do not assume you need to stop your antidepressant. Talk to your prescribing doctor and obstetrician.
  6. If you have other medical conditions, untreated depression may make it more difficult to manage them. For instance, managing symptoms of diabetes or multiple sclerosis is difficult enough when enjoying a good mood. Having an untreated depressed mood can make these manageable illnesses seem impossible or hopeless.
  7. When antidepressants are stopped abruptly, depressive symptoms can return just as abruptly, and restarting the antidepressant may not supply immediate relief. You will likely have to give the medication time to work, as when you first started taking it.

It Is Always Your Choice

Antidepressants are not a cure, but they do bring symptom relief to many people. Some individuals who go on antidepressants report knowing what it means “to feel good” for the first time in their lives. That is quite a statement.

Still, as with most medications, risks are involved. Each individual needs to weigh those risks and make a choice. There are cautions involved in abruptly going off the same medications as well. For the sake of our mental and physical health, we need to weigh these risks before making our decision.


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