Antidepressants balance chemicals in the brain that regulate sadness and anxiety. For some people with depression, these drugs can correct a chemical imbalance. Those who have taken antidepressants for over six weeks are more likely to have withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drugs. People taking antidepressants should never stop “cold turkey.” Quitting suddenly throws the brain into a state of imbalance that can be worse than before. The resulting symptoms are both psychological and physical. Medical professionals often refer to withdrawal from antidepressants as “discontinuation syndrome.” This is because “withdrawal syndrome” implies an addiction is present, and antidepressants are considered non-addictive. Discontinuation syndrome and withdrawal both describe the same effects caused by quitting antidepressants. Antidepressant withdrawal is possible if you abruptly stop taking an antidepressant, particularly if you've been taking it longer than four to six weeks. Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal are sometimes called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome and typically last for a few weeks. Certain antidepressants are more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms than others. Having antidepressant withdrawal symptoms doesn't mean you're addicted to an antidepressant. Addiction represents harmful, long-term chemical changes in the brain. It's characterized by intense cravings, the inability to control your use of a substance and negative consequences from that substance use. To minimize the risk of antidepressant withdrawal, talk with your doctor before you stop taking an antidepressant. Your doctor may recommend that you gradually reduce the dose of your antidepressant for several weeks or more to allow your body to adapt to the absence of the medication.
But if you have extremely severe withdrawal symptoms, your doctor may recommend other medicines to relieve them. WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 11, 2017 Sources If you stop taking antidepressants, could you experience antidepressant withdrawal? Do withdrawal symptoms mean you were addicted to the drug?