In my previous blog I explained what antidepressants are, and in this blog I will talk more about quitting antidepressants. Where do you start and what should you pay attention to? The following ten tips might be helpful:

1. List the advantages and disadvantages

If you want to stop taking antidepressants, ask yourself the following questions:

– Why am I thinking about quitting antidepressants?

– How well did the antidepressants help?

– Do I suffer (much) from side effects?

– What are other advantages and disadvantages for me?

2. Talk about it with your loved ones

It is not always easy to talk to the people around you about your use of antidepressants, but that does not make it any less important. People who are close to you often have a very good idea of how you’re really doing. Even though they may have an opinion about antidepressants, they often just want you to be happy. So try to understand how your partner, children and close friends think about your use of antidepressants. For example, have they seen that quitting has been unsuccessful in the past, or have they seen up close that antidepressants did or did not help? This information can help you make your decision.

3. Know your facts about antidepressants

To make a good decision about quitting antidepressant, you need to know the facts. If you know the difference between facts and myths of antidepressants, you can make a better decision. Look for reliable sources and independent websites, and discuss them with your healthcare professional or doctor.

4. Quit for the right reasons

Almost everyone who used or uses antidepressants knows the voice that occasionally pops up: “Why can’t you do it yourself? Am I weak for using antidepressants?”. It is a huge misunderstanding that the use of antidepressants is the easy way out. Don’t let yourself be influenced by these negative thoughts when you consider quitting.

5. Pick the right time

Pick the right time to stop your antidepressants. It wouldn’t be wise to stop using them during a stressful period in your life, with little stability. Think about a divorce, relationship problems, stress at work or major financial concerns. It is also not wise to stop if you still suffer from gloomy feelings or anxiety. Wait for a time when you feel stable and have peace of mind.

6. Know what to expect

Always talk to your healthcare professional or doctor when you’re thinking about quitting antidepressants. It is also very important that you know what to expect when you do stop taking antidepressants, because you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Not everyone will, around 20 – 40% of people do.

The most common withdrawal symptoms are flu-like symptoms, such as muscle pain, nausea, headache, sweating, tiredness and dizziness. You can also experience irritability, sleeping problems, anxiety and mood swings. The complaints usually occur a few days after the dose reduction, and usually last about 1 to 4 weeks. Withdrawal symptoms are of course very unpleasant, but that does not mean that quitting antidepressants is always difficult or that it is impossible. This is different for everyone. Beside, it is important to realize that withdrawal symptoms are something other than a relapse.

7. Make a good reduction plan

If you want to stop your antidepressants, a good reduction plan is very important. You should not leave anything to chance. Make sure you are well prepared and discuss this plan with your healthcare professional or doctor. He or she will take into account the type of medicine you use, the duration of the treatment, the amount of the dose and of course your own preference and any previous experiences with quitting.

8. Take your time

I cannot emphasize this enough: take your time when reducing antidepressants. Don’t pressure yourself to stop in a certain amount of time, but allow yourself the space to do it at your own pace.

9. Drops or tapering strips can help

Sometimes it is not possible to stop antidepressants with a good reduction plan and clear agreements alone, for example when you suffer a lot from withdrawal symptoms. In that case, quitting antidepressants “normally” with pills can be difficult. Fortunately, some antidepressants are also available in drop form or tapering strips, which makes it easier to reduce the dose gradually. 

10. Don’t try to stop at all costs

If you’re having difficulty quitting, or when the antidepressant you’re taking is actually making your life a whole lot better, than one of the options is to keep on using it. Don’t rule out this possibility because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. But most of all, if you are considering quitting antidepressants, always discuss this with your doctor or practitioner.

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Daniëlle Coenjaerts

I work as a nurse specialist GGZ at NiceDay. I like working on your goals in an approachable way and appreciate honesty and openness. Besides my job I love spending time in nature with my family and my dog.

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