Why you won’t stop taking your antidepressants

Ever tried to stop taking your antidepressants?

Felt worse, but you sure you’re not depressed or anxious now? 

Ever tried to work out why?  

About 15% of the population in England is taking an antidepressant. People are put on them for good reasons, often during difficult times in their lives like unemployment, bereavement or relationships ending.

1. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed

About 15% of the population in England is taking an antidepressant. People are put on them for good reasons, often during difficult time in your life; losing a job, loved one or having a relationship breakdownThey’re easy to start, GPs will write multiple prescriptions daily.Often people don’t feel better that quickly, so the dose gets increased.And before you know it, 6 months or a year has gone by.No one really knows if you feel better any more, but you’d better stay on them, just in case.

2. Neuromodulation – You get used to them

The idea behind most the most common antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – SSRIs) is they make more of the feel good hormone Serotonin available for your brain, making you feel better. This is now disputed on multiple levels, which I’ll discuss another time. There are problems with long term use:

a. You may use up the stores of the building blocks of Serotonin.  One example is Tryptophan, a protein from meats, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.  If there’s less building materials, less can get made.

b. Your nervous system adapts.  It works in balance, so the more Serotonin that’s about, amazingly leads to Serotonin receptors (where it has an effect on a brain cell) being turned off!  You achieve the opposite effect to what was intended.

You end up in a situation over time where you have less Serotonin, and less Serotonin receptors.  Bad news all round.

3. Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

What happens if you try to stop taking them?

    Some people are lucky – nothing. But most after a few days start to feel quite unwell

    The symptoms?  Think FINISH:

    Flu-like symptoms (lethargy, fatigue, headache, achiness, sweating),

    Insomnia (with vivid dreams or nightmares),

    Nausea (sometimes vomiting),

    Imbalance (dizziness, vertigo, light-headedness),

    Sensory disturbances (burning, tingling, electric-like or shock-like sensations)

    Hyperarousal (anxiety, irritability, agitation, aggression, mania, jerkiness).

    4. What do you do to escape antidepressants

    It’s all about balance.

    Being as healthy as you can is a great start

    Then, you have to first restore the stores of Tryptophan, as well as any nutrients that help lead to the creation of Serotonin

    The slowly, very slowly you reduce the dose.  Current guidelines suggest 25-50% reduction. This is too much.  5%-10% every few weeks is more sensible, but everyone needs an individualised approach.

    I’m helping people with this problem now.  

    It’s not easy, but I’m committed to helping them, and you to master your mind by removing the meds.

    If you want to have a free conversation with me to Master you Mind.

    Until next week

    Best wishes

    Ed  

    When you’re ready, I have two ways to help.

    1. My 1:1 Coaching is for you if you have a concerns about your mental health, don’t want to try medications (or are on them and they aren’t working), but don’t know what to do next.  I can suggest an individualised plan which is acceptable to you.  Click for a free 1:1 call to learn more.

    2. My Men’s Mind Compass is a holistic look at your life and mental health.  I show you where you can make improvements to the 10 key areas to improve your mental health, and will support you regularly through this process.  Click for a free 1:1 call with me to explore more.

    If you’re new to the Men’d Mind GP & would like to join Men’s Mind Monday community newsletter, and have found it useful, please sign up here.  It would be great to have you in the team!

    References:

    Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, (Gabriel, Sharma, 2017, CMAJ)

    NHS releases mental health medicines statistics for 2022/2023 in England, NHSBSA, 2023

    Stopping antidepressants, RCPsych, 2023

    Depression in adults, NICE, 2023

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