July 15, 2024

3 Ways to Manage Antidepressant Withdrawal

Antidepressant withdrawal can occur if you stop taking your antidepressant medication, especially all of a sudden. It can cause sickness, trouble sleeping, tiredness, and body aches. That’s why it’s essential to stop taking an antidepressant with the help of your doctor.

This guide will show you how to stop using antidepressants safely and how to get effective mental health treatment.

What Is Antidepressant Withdrawal?

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Antidepressant withdrawal, also known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, may occur if you stop taking an antidepressant after using it for six weeks or more. It’s more likely if you stop suddenly instead of slowly with your doctor’s help.

Antidepressant withdrawal causes symptoms like trouble sleeping, feeling sick, and flu-like feelings. These usually last less than two months.

Withdrawal usually isn’t harmful, but it can feel bad. Also, stopping an antidepressant can make the problem it was treating, like depression or anxiety, come back.

Antidepressants change the levels of chemical messengers in your brain called neurotransmitters. These messengers attach to nerve cells and affect how they work. Your nerve cells get used to these new levels. If you stop taking the medication suddenly, the levels change too quickly and can cause symptoms that can be mild or distressing. These symptoms are usually not dangerous but can be uncomfortable.

Newer antidepressants, like SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), affect the serotonin system. Stopping these drugs suddenly can trigger withdrawal symptoms. Antidepressants like bupropion (Wellbutrin), which affect norepinephrine and dopamine instead of serotonin, seem to cause fewer problems. However, some people may feel very irritable when they stop taking them.

If you want to stop taking your antidepressant, talk to your doctor to avoid these symptoms.

What Are Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach problems
  • Brain zaps
  • Unsteadiness
  • Mood changes

Withdrawal symptoms usually start within 5 days of quitting the medication and last 1 or 2 weeks. Some people have severe symptoms that last for several months or more.

See your doctor if you get severe withdrawal symptoms after stopping antidepressants. Your doctor can help by reintroducing another antidepressant from the same group and reducing the dose more slowly, or by stopping completely and managing your symptoms.

Symptoms may include depression and anxiety. These might be the same reasons you were given antidepressants to manage. If these feelings come back, it might mean you need more treatment. Here’s how to tell the difference between discontinuation symptoms and a relapse:

  • Symptoms show up within days or weeks of lowering the dose or stopping the medication. Relapse symptoms take longer to develop and happen more gradually.
  • Symptoms may include physical problems like dizziness, flu-like symptoms, and strange sensations that aren’t usually found in depression.
  • Symptoms go away quickly if you take another dose of the antidepressant. Treating depression with medication takes weeks to work.
  • Symptoms get better as your body adjusts. Depression continues and may get worse.

If your symptoms last a month or more and worsen, it might be a relapse of depressive symptoms.

image of woman representing antidepressant withdrawal symptoms

How Long Does Antidepressant Withdrawal Last?

Antidepressant withdrawal usually starts within a few days after you stop taking the medicine. For most people, these symptoms last 1 to 2 weeks. However, some people may have withdrawal symptoms for several months or even longer.

The length of time can depend on:

  • How long you were taking the antidepressant
  • The dose you were taking
  • How quickly you stopped taking the medicine

If you have severe or long-lasting symptoms, talk to your doctor. They can help you manage these symptoms and find the best way to stop taking the medication safely.

3 Tips That Help with Antidepressant Withdrawal

If you’re thinking about stopping antidepressants, follow these tips to make the process easier and safer:

Tip 1: Don’t rush the process

It can be tempting to stop taking antidepressants as soon as you feel better, but this can cause your depression or anxiety to return. Doctors usually suggest staying on the medication for six to nine months. If you’ve had depression three or more times, you might need to stay on it for at least two years. Make sure you feel stable and can handle any negative thoughts before you start to taper off. Avoid trying to quit during stressful times, like starting a new job or dealing with an illness.

Tip 2: Make a plan

Work with your doctor to create a plan for reducing your dose slowly. Tapering usually involves lowering your dose in small steps over several weeks or even months. This helps your body adjust gradually and reduces the chance of withdrawal symptoms. Typically, you might reduce your dose every two to six weeks. Your doctor will give you specific instructions and prescribe the right dosage pills to help with this process. Keep a mood tracker where you rate your mood each day. This lets you and your doctor see how you’re doing and adjust the plan if needed. Discuss what to do if you experience severe withdrawal symptoms or a return of your depression or anxiety. Your doctor might suggest retaking a small dose and tapering more slowly.

Tip 3: Stay active and seek support

Good nutrition, regular sleep, stress-reduction techniques, and physical activity are important. Exercise can help improve your mood and make it easier to stop the medication. Try to exercise three times a week or more. Stay in touch with your doctor during the process. Let them know about any symptoms you have. If symptoms are mild, they may be temporary. If they are severe, you might need to adjust your dose more slowly. Involve a friend or family member. Let them know you are stopping your medication so they can support you and notice if you show signs of depression coming back. It’s easier to manage this process with someone to talk to and help you.

Antidepressant Withdrawal | FAQs

What is the hardest antidepressant to get off of?

The hardest antidepressant to get off of is often considered to be Paxil (paroxetine). It can cause strong withdrawal symptoms. Always consult your doctor before stopping any medication.

How long does it take for your mood to stabilize after antidepressant withdrawal?

It can take a few weeks to a few months for your mood to stabilize after taking antidepressants. Everyone’s body is different, so the time can vary.

Is it okay to stop my antidepressants?

No, you should not stop your antidepressants without talking to your doctor. Stopping suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms and make you feel worse.

For Addiction or Withdrawal Help, Call Addiction Hotline

If you need help with withdrawal or addiction, calling an addiction hotline can be a valuable first step.

Hotline staff can answer your questions on depression, addiction, and recovery. Call toll-free and speak with an expert in complete confidence.

At Addiction Hotline, we can refer you to detox centers and support groups across California. We can also help you find inpatient or outpatient rehab for ongoing treatment.

Call our recovery experts today at 855-701-0479.

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