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Depression is the most common mental health disorder worldwide. Approximately 13 percent of people over the age of 12 years living in the United States take prescription drugs to treat their symptoms of depression. Findings from a recent study indicate that many people who stop taking antidepressant drugs experience withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal effects of antidepressant cessation can be mild to very severe. Symptoms include anxiety, dizziness, irritability, nightmares, nausea, “brain zaps” (electric shock sensations), and a return of depressive symptoms.

The study’s findings were based on data gathered in an online survey of more than 800 people from 31 countries who had tried (successfully or unsuccessfully) to stop taking their antidepressants. More than half (55 percent) of the people surveyed said they experienced some difficulty in trying to quit taking the drugs. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) reported experiencing withdrawal effects, and nearly half of these (44 percent) were described as severe. Fewer than 1 percent reported having been advised by their physician to expect withdrawal symptoms.

These findings point to the need for providing appropriate advice to patients regarding tapering off antidepressant medications as well as the need for offering support as patients do so.

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