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The Dangers of Abruptly Stopping Antidepressants

Feeling better? Think you’re ready to stop taking your antidepressant? Don’t. It may seem like you no longer need
the medication, but in most cases it is contributing to a happier state of
mind. That’s why it’s important you stick with the
treatment prescribed by your doctor. If you think you’re ready to stop taking an antidepressant, ask your
doctor to create a plan of action that can help your body slowly adjust to
being without the medicine.

Antidepressants help balance brain chemicals called
neurotransmitters. These brain chemicals affect your mood and emotions. An
imbalance can cause major depression or anxiety disorders. Antidepressants
correct this imbalance, but it can take four weeks or more to notice any
improvement.

If you feel like stopping your medicine because of bothersome
side effects, remember that finding the right treatment often takes a lot of
trial and error and some tweaking. Don’t stop taking the
medicine until you have
spoken with your doctor. It might seem like you don’t need the medication anymore, but if you stop taking
your antidepressant the medicine will leave your body and your symptoms might
return. Quitting without consulting your doctor can be dangerous — even deadly. It can also trigger potential side effects,
including withdrawal and relapse. If you relapse and start taking an
antidepressant again, it can take weeks for the drug to re-balance your moods.

Side Effects of Quitting Medication

Quitting “cold turkey” may cause major
withdrawal symptoms. A sudden drop of your medicine may also worsen your
depression, send your symptoms on a downward spiral, or set your treatment back
several weeks or months. Here are some possible effects of quitting your
medication suddenly:

  1. You get sick. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, also called
    antidepressant withdrawal, occurs when a person abruptly quits antidepressants.
    Many people who experience antidepressant withdrawal feel like they have the
    flu or a stomach bug. They may also experience disturbing mental thoughts or
    images.
  2. You set back
    your treatment.
     Untreated depression can set back your treatment plan. It
    can also extend a depressive episode, make relapse more likely, or cause a worsening
    of the disease.
  3. You
    contemplate suicide.
     Not being properly
    medicated may increase your risk of suicidal thoughts — and increases the risk that you’ll act on those thoughts. Ninety percent of people who
    commit suicide are depressed or have another mental health disorder, says the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
  4. Other conditions
    get worse.
     Stopping an antidepressant might worsen other conditions
    you have, such as chronic headaches, chronic pain, or insomnia. Additionally,
    untreated depression can make it harder to treat some conditions. Since your
    doctor has balanced your antidepressant prescription with any other medications
    you’re taking, stopping the antidepressant can negatively
    affect this balance. Additional side effects or complications may result.

Other symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal include:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • nightmares
  • trouble sleeping
  • depression and mood
    swings
  • loss of coordination
  • muscle spasms
  • dizziness
  • difficulty balancing
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • flu-like symptoms
  • headache

Antidepressants and Pregnancy

Just found out you’re
pregnant? That’s no
excuse to stop taking your antidepressants. According to the Mayo Clinic, women who
stop taking antidepressants while pregnant are more likely to suffer a relapse
during pregnancy than women who continue taking their prescribed medication.
Let your doctor know about your change in circumstances. They may decide to
take you off your medication or lower the dosage. You can also take a different
antidepressant, one that’s safer for pregnant women.

Talk to Your Doctor

The best way to stop taking your antidepressant is to
slowly taper yourself from the medication under a doctor’s supervision. This involves slowly lowering the daily
dose of medication until you are completely off the drug. Improving your
overall physical and mental health can help you come off an antidepressant with
few complications. Talk to your healthcare provider about incorporating these
lifestyle changes:

  • exercise
  • meditation
  • getting plenty of rest
  • not abusing alcohol and drugs
  • eating healthy, balanced meals
  • reducing stress

No two people will respond to quitting antidepressants in the same way. Doctors
have no way of knowing who will have withdrawal symptoms and who won’t. Antidepressants help return a balance to
mood-influencing chemicals in the brain. Some people will respond poorly to the
rapid change in chemicals, while others will show almost no response. Talk with
your doctor and don’t
gamble on your health and wellness.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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