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decision pointShould I stop taking my depression medicine?

Consider the following when making your decision:

  • When you take an antidepressant, it may be 1 to 3 weeks before you start to feel better.
  • Most side effects of antidepressants are more bothersome than serious. They can often be managed.
  • If you feel you cannot afford the medicine, your doctor may be able to prescribe one that costs less.
  • You cannot become addicted to antidepressants.
  • At least half of people with depression have a relapse. Sticking with your medicine may help lower the chance that you will have a relapse.
  • If you plan to stop taking your medicine, ask your doctor if you need to do it gradually. Stopping your medicine suddenly may cause side effects.
  • Seeing a counselor works well to help people with depression feel better.
  • Depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is a medical condition, not a character flaw.

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 of taking antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by 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 different ones 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.

At least half of those who have depression once will get it again (relapse). 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 these medicines even longer.

How does therapy work?

Seeing a counselor works well to help people with depression feel better. Therapy may also help stop your depression from coming back after you have stopped taking your medicine.1

The types of counseling most often used for treatment of 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. This type of therapy can be provided individually or in a group setting.
  • Interpersonal therapy, which focuses on social and personal relationships and related problems.
  • Problem-solving therapy, which focuses on the problems you are currently facing and on helping you find solutions.
  • Family therapy, a type of counseling involving the entire family.

What are the benefits of stopping your antidepressants?

  • There are no more side effects.
  • If your medicine isn't covered by insurance, or if you have no insurance, you will no longer have to deal with that expense.
  • You won't have to worry about avoiding certain other medicines because of a possible drug interaction.

What are the risks of stopping your antidepressants?

  • Your depression may return. At least half of people with depression have a relapse. But people who keep taking their medicine are less likely to have a relapse.
  • If you don't taper off under your doctor's supervision, you could suffer withdrawal symptoms.

If you need more information, see the topic Depression.

Your choices are:

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

The decision about whether to stop taking your depression medicine takes into account your personal feelings and the medical facts.

Deciding about depression medicine

Reasons to stop taking your depression medicine

Reasons to keep taking your depression medicine

  • You have been taking antidepressants for at least 7 months, and you feel better.
  • The side effects make you feel worse than your depression did.
  • You do not want to keep taking medicine if you don't need it.
  • You are going to counseling and feel like that is enough.

Are there other reasons you might want to stop taking your depression medicine?

  • You still feel depressed.
  • The side effects do not bother you.
  • The idea of taking medicine for a long time does not bother you.
  • Taking your medicines even after you feel better can help keep you from getting depressed again.

Are there other reasons you might want to keep taking your medicine?

These personal stories may help you make your decision.

Use this worksheet to help you make your decision. After completing it, you should have a better idea of how you feel about taking your depression medicine. Discuss the worksheet with your doctor.

Circle the answer that best applies to you.

My symptoms of depression have gone away. Yes No Unsure
The side effects of my medicine do not bother me much. Yes No NA*
I have had depression before, and it has come back. Yes No NA
Counseling has helped my depression. Yes No Unsure
The side effects of the medicine make me feel worse than my depression did. Yes No NA
I have talked to my doctor about stopping my medicine. Yes No NA
My family and friends are very supportive of my fight against depression. Yes No Unsure
I can go back on my medicine if my depression comes back. Yes No Unsure
I just am not comfortable taking medicine for my depression. Yes No Unsure

*NA = Not applicable

Use the following space to list any other important concerns you have about this decision.

 

 

 

 

 

What is your overall impression?

Your answers in the above worksheet are meant to give you a general idea of where you stand on this decision. You may have one overriding reason to stop taking your medicine or to keep taking it.

Check the box below that represents your overall impression about your decision.

Leaning toward stopping my medicine

 

Leaning toward staying on my medicine

         

Citations

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Practice guidelines for the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder (revision). American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(4, Suppl): S1–S45.

Author Jeannette Curtis
Author Paul Lehnert
Editor Katy E. Magee, MA
Associate Editor Terrina Vail
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Hauser, MD - Psychiatry
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Updated March 13, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 13, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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