Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.
Antidepressants are not addictive. You don't get cravings for them or need to keep increasing the dose to get the same effect.
However, all psychiatric drugs change your brain and body chemistry, and if you have been taking them for a while, your body will have adjusted to them. This means that you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking them – especially if you've been taking them for a long time.
For this reason, it's always advisable to reduce the dose slowly instead of just stopping taking them. (See our page on coming off psychiatric drugs for more information).
"I was worried about not being able to come off them... My doctor helped me to come off them in a controlled way, and apart from one dip just after I stopped taking them, I've been pretty OK since."
Watch Katherine from our Information team give her top 5 tips for when you want to come off your medication.
Below are possible withdrawal effects associated with different types of antidepressants. You won't necessarily get any of these symptoms, but many people do experience some of them.
For information on the specific withdrawal effects associated with a particular drug, you can look up the name of the drug in our antidepressants A–Z.
"[When] I thought I should try to manage without the antidepressant, I did not manage to come off them, which I was incredibly harsh on myself about… I was then on [an antidepressant] until I had been well for a number of years, and then, with the help of my GP, I reduced and stopped the medication."
If you've been taking a drug with a short half-life, and are having problems with withdrawal symptoms, it might be possible for you to switch to a related drug with a longer half-life, which should be easier to come off.
For example, the SSRI with the longest half-life is fluoxetine (Prozac). If you are taking an SSRI with a short half-life, it may be helpful to talk to your doctor about switching to fluoxetine and withdrawing slowly from that.
To compare the half-lives of all antidepressants, see our page on comparing antidepressants.
Withdrawing from antidepressants can be hard to do. For more information on how to come off your medication safely, see our pages on coming off psychiatric drugs.
This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2019.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.