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Buckle up; there is no short answer to this query. Exploring the topic requires an examination of factors like effectiveness, dosage, potential over-use, and a better understanding of the causes of depression. Meanwhile, we have plenty of evidence that antidepressant use can go on for years.

Over 60 percent of people over 12 years of age taking antidepressants have been doing so for more than two years. For 1 in 7, that number is ten years or more. For most of these folks, the choice of medication was based on the belief that depression is primarily about brain function. As we learn more, new questions arise.


A Few of the Factors to Consider

  • Depression is a complex condition that cannot be solely attributed to a “chemical imbalance in the brain,” as we discussed earlier. When considering whether to stop taking antidepressants, it’s important to evaluate various personal factors. Have you been able to address and modify the circumstances or stressors that may have triggered or worsened your depressive episode? Consistent engagement in therapy is crucial as it helps develop new, healthier ways of thinking and coping with difficult situations.

    Moreover, consider whether there are alternative treatment options that could be suitable for you, such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Everyone’s experience with depression is unique, and deciding when and if to stop taking antidepressants requires careful consideration of several factors including the type of medication, dosage, the duration you have been taking it, and a period of sustained stability.

    It is also vital to maintain a reliable support network and keep up a healthy, active lifestyle. These elements play significant roles in managing depression effectively.


Are There Risks to Taking Antidepressants?

Simply put, there is no benefit in assigning black-and-white thinking to this situation. Antidepressants have helped people with depression for many years, but, like all medications, they are not without risk.

FDA-approved antidepressants have been found to enhance the brain’s ability to access serotonin or norepinephrine. They also appear to provoke brains to seek out positive thinking. In other words, these medications don’t serve to numb or suppress a person’s emotions. Rather, they work in synch with brain chemistry — whether or not brain chemistry is the root cause.

None of this is meant to cancel out research-based debates or potentially negative outcomes. Rather, it shows that antidepressants can work to help a depressed person and, therefore, should not be reflexively embraced or rejected. As always, more research helps, and it’s vital not to make general assumptions when human health is very much influenced by individual factors.

So, if you’re about to start taking antidepressants or have been doing so, there are some accepted guidelines to follow when thinking about how long such usage will last. 


When Can You Stop?

It’s necessary to factor in how antidepressants typically work. Here are a few important facts:

  • You may need to try a few variations before finding the right antidepressant for you. But it can take at least two or three weeks to gauge effectiveness.
  • From there, full recovery from depression might not be attained for three to six months. 
  • Even so, it’s suggested that patients prescribed antidepressants after their first depressive episode continue taking the medication for at least four months after all symptoms have stopped.
  • And then, there’s always the possibility of a relapse. 

In other words, this is a case-by-case scenario that requires close supervision from a medical professional. Should it be considered wise to stop, this process is again a careful and collaborative process that may involve side effects. 

All the while, you’ll want to continue with talk therapy and maintain diligent daily self-care. 


You Might Be Shaking Your Head Right Now

Yes, there are more questions than answers. That’s why it’s essential to find an experienced and compatible mental health professional. I’d to connect with you to talk more about these important questions.

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