13. Stopping Your Meds May Bring Withdrawal Symptoms
You will experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking your antidepressants abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, aggression, mood swings, dizziness, clumsiness and muscle spasms. There are other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and flu-like symptoms. So it’s never advisable to stop taking your antidepressants suddenly without the guidance of a doctor.
It is possible to go off your antidepressants, but it is vital that you do it safely. In addition, one of the most frequent outcomes of stopping is the return of your depression symptoms. So, you must wean off your meds slowly, or you’ll be back to square one. If you and your doctor agree that you should stop taking antidepressants, they will advise you to do so incrementally.
A slow reduction of your daily dose is the safest way to do it. This means you’ll be coming off your medication for a long time. Often, doses are reduced for a period of six weeks. Thereafter, there will be another dose reduction for six weeks, and so on. So don’t rush the process.
If you feel you’re not coping well, see your doctor immediately. They may consider leaving you on the current dose for a longer time. Also, avoid stopping your antidepressants if you are experiencing a stressful situation such as moving, divorce or exams. If you’re experiencing a life-changing event or there is stress in your life, try to wait.
The timing may not be right because going off your medication is not as easy as it sounds. If you do it at the wrong time, it could have disastrous implications. So, it may be worth your while to wait for a time that is better before stopping them.
14. The Risk Factors of Taking Antidepressants
Like all medications, there are risk factors that make certain groups of people more vulnerable to the side effects and interactions of antidepressants. These are the four main groups of people who should be extra cautious before taking antidepressants:
- People Over 65: Studies have shown that antidepressant medications, especially SSRIs, increase the risk of falls and fractures among senior citizens. They also account for some bone loss.
- Teens: When teenagers take antidepressants, there is a greater risk they will experience the effects. In fact, there is an increased risk of suicide among teens who take these medications. So they need to be in the care of an experienced professional. Their parents should understand the warning signs, too. Many parents find out too late that their teen was feeling suicidal, which is a great tragedy.
- Bipolar Patients: Those with bipolar disorder should not take antidepressants. They can make the bipolar disorder worse or trigger a manic episode, which can be dangerous. This is where the care of a psychiatrist is essential. A GP with little experience of mental health treatment may prescribe antidepressants to a bipolar person because they don’t know the difference. So their best intentions may lead to a patient’s worsening condition.
- Pregnant Women: Prescribing antidepressants to pregnant women also carries some risk. While on the one hand, the patient needs the medication for her daily survival, there is also the baby to consider. Most antidepressants have labels that read, “untested for pregnancy.” And there is no research on their effects on the brain development of a fetus or whether they cause birth defects. Also, when women take SSRIs during pregnancy, their babies may experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.
15. The Stigma of Depression and Antidepressants
Despite the enlightened times we live in, some people are still in the dark when it comes to depression. In certain religions, cultures and countries, they don’t recognize depression as an illness. People marginalize and label depressed people as being crazy. Even some doctors don’t acknowledge the condition and treat it. And some families regard mental illness as a mark of shame on their honor.
How much you decide to share with those around you is up to you. It will depend on you as a person, and the relationships you have with people around you. But regardless of how careful you are, there will always be that one person who will tell you to smile and get over it. The important part is to know that such statements come from a place of ignorance. If the person truly understood what you were going through, they’d never make statements like that.
When you’re strong enough, try to be an advocate for other sufferers. Stand tall and don’t let others judge you. Choose to educate them about your condition and what triggers it. Explain why you take antidepressants and what they do. Persist in the face of their judgment, and don’t take it to heart.
This may not be easy at the beginning of your recovery, but it will seem possible later. When more people can be open about their struggles with depression, it will become less of a stigma. This will lead to less finger-pointing and whispering, leaving you free to focus on your recovery. As a sign of solidarity for those suffering but afraid, stand up and be counted.
These are the things you should know about antidepressant medications before taking them. Perhaps you know some of the already, but hopefully, you learned some new ones. If you are suffering from depression, there is hope. So talk to your doctor to see what your options are before you feel even worse.