Skip to content

Depression Health Center

Select An Article

Stopping Antidepressants: Is it Withdrawal?

Font Size

Your doctor prescribed an antidepressant to help boost your mood or ease your anxiety. But, as soon as you feel better, you figure you no longer need the medicine. So you stop taking it.

And suddenly, you feel like you have the flu, or a stomach bug, or perhaps you find it hard to think and have disturbing thoughts.

Recommended Related to Depression

Postpartum Depression: More Common Than You Know

Tina Merritt, now 39, of Virginia Beach, Va., had heard of postpartum depression when she was pregnant seven years ago. But when she gave birth to her son, Graham, she expected nothing but joy as she and her husband welcomed the baby boy who would be the first grandchild on both sides of their families."It took me a while to get pregnant, and it was a huge deal for everyone," Merritt says."I worked right up to the end of my pregnancy and felt great. I'd planned so long for this baby, I really...

Read the Postpartum Depression: More Common Than You Know article > >

You’re probably having discontinuation symptoms.

When antidepressants that affect the brain chemical serotonin are suddenly stopped, the body may respond with physical and emotional symptoms caused by the sudden absence of increased serotonin levels that occur while taking the antidepressant. These symptoms are not technically the same thing as physical "withdrawal" from a drug. Physiological withdrawal happens when someone is taking a drug that can be addictive. This leads to craving and drug-seeking behavior. Antidepressants are not addictive or habit-forming. Unlike drug withdrawal, antidepressant discontinuation effects are not related to addiction but can reflect physiological consequences of stopping a drug, just as when someone with diabetes stops insulin. About one in five people who take an antidepressant for six or more weeks may experience discontinuation symptoms if they suddenly stop taking the medicine. Tapering down your medication gradually under the supervision of your health care provider can help avoid or minimize symptoms. However, it is still possible in those who decrease their dose too rapidly or sometimes even slowly quit the medicine.

Your doctor may diagnose you with antidepressant discontinuation symptoms if:

  • You suddenly develop symptoms days after stopping an antidepressant.
  • Symptoms rapidly go away when you start taking the antidepressant again.

What Causes Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome?

There's no way to predict if you will have discontinuation symptoms after quitting an antidepressant. Scientists are not exactly sure why some people develop antidepressant discontinuation syndrome while others do not.

Antidepressants help restore the normal function of naturally occurring, mood-regulating substances in the brain, called neurotransmitters, including serotonin and norepinephrine. Some mental health experts theorize that abruptly stopping an antidepressant simply does not give your brain time to adjust to the rapid changes.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

contemplation
Differences between feeling depressed and feeling blue.
light therapy
What are the symptoms?
 
depressed man sitting on hallway floor
Learn the truth about this serious illness.
Sad woman looking out of the window
Tips to stay the treatment course.
 
unhappy teen boy
Health Check
woman relaxing with exercise ball
Article
 
Pills with smiley faces
Article
Teen girl huddled outside house
Article
 
Depressed man sitting in hospital hallway
Article
antidepressants slideshow
Article
 
pill bottle
Article
Winding path
Article