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Coming off antidepressants after 10 years (Ultimate Guide)

Here’s the scenario…

 Your doctor has agreed to wean you off your antidepressants, so now you’re worried.

Your antidepressants have been your lifeline for the last ten years...

How do you ensure you don’t relapse back into depression once the antidepressant is no longer in your system?

Do you achieve this by sheer will power?

Or do you achieve this by following a specific set of practical steps?

Well, you’re in luck, as that is what I intend to reveal in this article today.

I will be revealing the step by step process you must follow to get off your antidepressants without ever getting depressed again.

This strategy will work for you if you have been on antidepressants for six months, five years, ten years or 30 years.

This strategy will work for you regardless if you are on Zoloft (Sertraline), Lexapro (Escitalopram), Prozac (Fluoxetine), Celexa (Citalopram), Paxil (Paroxetine)… Or any other type of antidepressant.

But before I dig into the steps, I have a slightly weird question to ask you.

Do you believe that your depression is treatable?

A few days ago, I asked this question on a few Facebook pages, and some of the pages literally exploded with comments.

I’ve collected a few of these comments to share with you because they highlight a crucial point you must consider when trying to stop taking antidepressants.

Here are the comments…

8 Common mindsets that could keep depression permanently alive in your life 

 Comment 1: Depression will always be there.

Depression will always be there. Coping mechanisms and support keep it under control, but it is a delicate balance between coping and slipping. Everyone is so very different though. It hits people in varying ways, and we all cope differently. We all have triggers, we deal/fight with our minds daily, sometimes we cope, sometimes we don’t.”

(The sentiments here is that depression will always be lurking, no matter what you do)

Comment 2: “Not within the confines of my current life situation.”

 In other words... This individual believes his life situation makes it impossible to break free of depression.

 Comment 3: I used to think it was untreatable. 

 “I used to think it was untreatable until I met a woman called Sasha. She is my rock!!”

 This person believes that the woman in his life made it possible for him to avoid depression.

 Comment 4: You can only learn to cope with it

 “I believe over years you can learn to cope with it. Have coping mechanisms in place, know your triggers etc.”

This individual feels convinced that all you can do with depression is to manage it.

 Comment 5: “I have had it for over 30 yrs. I feel it will never go”.

For this person, the knock backs over the years appeared to have convinced her that depression is untreatable.

 Comment 6: My situation is different

 “Like most invisible illnesses it depends on the person. What works for you might not work for me. Don’t think I’ll ever be 100% free of it. Mine is currently under control, but who knows when it will flare up again.”

This is the classic belief that my situation is different; my depression is untreatable even if yours is treatable.

 Comment 7 & 8: it’s a burden I will carry until the end 

 “Sometimes I think that it’s a burden I will carry until the end of my life.”

“No. Always there, just below the surface. Like a cancer.”

Both people here feel resigned to the faith that they can do nothing about their depression. 

Now, you might wonder...

What prompted me to ask such a question?

Well, the other day, I invited some people who were struggling with depression to a seminar on how to come off antidepressants without getting depressed again. 

And very few people opted in to attend. 

This made me realize that...

Too many people believe that once depression has tainted them, it’s impossible to live their lives without antidepressants.

 Because if your experience is that, for the last 30 years, whenever you come off your antidepressants, you gradually go downhill again, it can be pretty easy to believe that you’re stuck with depression for life.

 But I would like to advise you to avoid this belief as it could make you waste the next 70 years of your life battling depression when you do not have to.

Why am I saying this very confidently?

Because time and time again, many of my clients have succeeded at overcoming their depression and have been able to live the happy lifestyle they wanted despite still having stress in their lives.

The other day, I got an email from a former client updating me about her progress. 

She informed me that she is still not on any medication and has not had a relapse in the last two years.

Two years ago, after her therapy with me, this was the initial testimony she gave.

“The sessions have helped me to stop over analyzing everything. 

 I am now not getting overly stressed, which has had the effect of helping me manage my depression better. I have been able to wean myself off my antidepressants, obviously with my doctor’s guidance.

Now for the first time in ten years, I have been off my antidepressants for almost a month, and I am still feeling better than I have ever felt in a long while. In the past, my depression would come back with full force 

 within just one week of stopping my meds.

 What’s strange is that my anxiety is also reduced even though I have been stressed beyond belief. My sleep has improved too...”

 But was my client’s experience just a fluke?

‍How to prevent yourself from getting depressed repeatedly

 My experience has been that I have worked with people with varying experience of depression.

From working with people who have only been depressed for a few months. To people who have been depressed for 30 to 50 years.

And these individuals all learnt to drop elements in their lives that were propping their depression up. Once they did this, they all became free of depression. What’s more, this type of result is not limited to my clients.

I see similar results with clients who my psychotherapist friends treated.

So, please permit me to say, if you keep relapsing whenever you come off your antidepressants, the truth is that you are doing something incredibly wrong.

And I don’t mean this as a criticism. I would just like to help shed light on some crucial things many people get wrong in how they relate to their depression.

What did my client do that you are not doing?

Well, here it is...

To stop yourself from getting depressed again after quitting your antidepressants...

You’ll need to live a lifestyle that prevents your body from going into drastic self-healing modes.

What does this mean practically?

I will break this down for you now, step b step.

How to come off antidepressants successfully without becoming depressed again

Book a consultation with Adewale

I must stress that I am not advocating that you ditch your antidepressants against your doctor’s wishes. It would be best to make any medication change with the help of a qualified medical professional. Failure to do so will most likely result in the relapse of depression.

But let’s imagine that you now feel well enough to come off your antidepressants, and your doctor agrees to discontinue the medicine, and you’ve started the process. Or you’re about to begin the process. Then the content of this article will be essential for you to follow.

So going back to my earlier statement...

To stop symptoms of depression from returning after stopping your antidepressants...

You’ve got to live a lifestyle that prevents your body from going into drastic self-healing modes.

You see, recently, scientists have realized that depression is the body’s drastic process of repairing itself. Just google depression and inflammation, and you’ll come across a lot of research papers on this.

Here’s the layman’s explanation...

When you’re under a lot of pressure and stress for too long, this causes damages to your cell’s leading to inflammation and pain in various parts of the body. At this stage, your body intervenes by bringing the process of depression.

This phenomenon is a bit like how fever works. If you catch a cold and you experience fever, the fever feels uncomfortable. It feels distressing in and of itself, but that fever is doing your body a lot of good. 

As the fever causes your body to heat up, it encourages the flow of fresh healing blood, which fights the infection for you.

So you could say depression is like a fever that the body is using to fight the cause of internal inflammation. It’s the body’s drastic process for repairing itself.

And that is why living a lifestyle that prevents your body from going into this drastic healing process also prevents you from getting depressed. Once you achieve this lifestyle, you will no longer need to take antidepressants to survive.

How do you practically prevent the body from triggering a drastic healing process that pushes you into depression?

Before I can explain what you need to do, I must first clear up another common misconception about depression because this links directly to how you can cope better without the medication.

This misconception relates to how we think about situational depression and clinical depression.

Some professional most likely told you that your clinical depression is due to a natural fault in your brain.

And the defect causes insufficient production of happy chemicals ( low serotonin levels, low dopamine levels, low neural epinephrine levels).

Meaning you have to live off antidepressants for the rest of your life. You have no choice in the matter. (This Idea feels more factual because most people diagnosed with clinical depression can’t pinpoint a trigger for their depressive moments.)

These professionals then tell you that situational depression is purely from becoming depressed because of the negative situation’s you encounter (like a family death or marriage breakdown).

As such, once negative situational is over, your situational depression should stop as well.

Now, suppose you listen to these viewpoints and take them as gospel truth. In that case, you run the risk of believing that the reason your depression keeps returning when to stop taking antidepressants must be because you’ve certainly got the clinical form of depression.

 But if this your conclusion, you’d be wrong.

Why?

Because it’s not that clear cut, both situational depression and clinical depression make your body produce less happy chemicals naturally.

But then, how do these two forms of depression differ?

Medically, a person can only be diagnosed with clinical depression if their situational depression doesn’t resolve after a long time.

To elaborate this further, I’d like to introduce the analogy of resilience thieves.

Resilience thieves are things you do that appear to help on the surface. However, they make your depression worse. They steal your ability to remain resilient.

Let’s consider an example.

Mistakes that make you transition from situational depression to clinical depression (major depression)

Brendon wife died from cancer.

This incidence creates the first layer of depression.  

In layer one, Brendon misses his wife so severely that it feels like his life is over. He simply cannot exist without his wife, and this causes him to get depressed.

Essentially, this negative experience triggers situational depression. But how does this relate to clinical depression?

If Brendon’s situational depression prolongs into clinical depression, this would be primarily due to the second layer of things. 

Meaning that Brendon is impacted first by the loss of his wife (the first layer), then in the second layer, Brendon begins to feel worthless because he can’t get rid of his depression. 

The feeling of worthlessness results in Brendon overcompensating. He keeps trying hard to make people around him happy so he can feel valued. People-pleasing becomes a vital part of Brendon’s lifestyle, which negatively impacts his energy levels. This new people-pleasing behaviour becomes Brendon’s resilience thief.

So the pressure started by the first layer, which is kept alive by the second layer, driven by Brendon’s resilience thieves, keeps his depression going for years.

If you introduce antidepressants into the situation, the antidepressants make it easy to cope with the problem that triggered the depressive experience. The antidepressants put a subtle coat over depression so that the sense of worthlessness about depression is not so overwhelming for Brendon.

Antidepressants give Brendon space in his head to think a bit clearer. Yes, he feels a bit like a zombie, but he is more functional with the medicine.

Now, if you now remove antidepressants, the pain of the first level plus the second unresolved level, in addition to the energy drain from Brendond’s adopted lifestyle with all its resilience thieves, all return with a heavy, uncontrollable bang. So Brendon gets depressed again.

So if you can relate to Brendon’s experience and your depression keeps returning whenever you come off antidepressants, the bottom line is that, like Brendin, you also have something in the background that is depleting your system.

And as long as this thing exists, you will always get depressed if you come off your antidepressants.

How do we ensure that you can maintain good mental health when you come off your antidepressants?

My answer is in three parts.

To maintain good mental health without any depressive symptoms, you must be mindful of...

  1. What you do before you come off, 
  2. What you must do as you come off  
  3. What you must do after coming off antidepressants

Essential things to do before coming off antidepressant to maximize success.

This is the most important of the three. And if you can get this right, then everything else you do will fall in place.

So what is this thing?

It is to know what your resilience thieves are. And then build your relapse prevention plan around them.

 Whilst there are many resilient thieves causing depression, In the last 22 years of working in mental health, I have come across three common ones that hold people down in long term depression.

The first resilience thief is: Protecting yourself from negative or distressing emotions.

Now you might be wondering, am I not supposed to protect myself from negative feelings?

Yes, I know; this might feel like the correct action to do, maybe because you believe that allowing other people to see your negative emotions would make it hard to relate to you. Allowing yourself to show negative emotions might make you appear unlovable and challenging to be around.

Or perhaps you believe that Allowing yourself to experience negative emotions will overwhelm and break you. 

So because of this, you get into the habit of blocking away distressing feelings.

But the problem with this is that trying to push down your negative emotions pushes down all your positive emotions. Doing this pushes you to that place where you feel flat and empty.

It breaks down your energy, and that is why I call it the resilience thief. Because of the body’s biological makeup, You cannot do one without experiencing the other.

The second resilience thief is:  Protecting yourself from positive emotions.

You might wonder what would make a person wants to protect themselves from positive emotions.

But if you feel threatened by being happy or think that expressing happiness could jinx you and cause something terrible to happen, you’ve become a victim of this second resilience thief. 

A significant problem that causes this resilience thief to be so powerful is the belief that falling from the happy place because of something terrible happening is so much more painful to cope with that it feels better not to allow yourself to be happy in the first place.

Sadly the more you deny yourself from feeling happiness, the more depressing the flat life will become. 

The third resilience thief is: Protecting yourself from failure.

Nobody indeed wants to fail. However, if you measure your value In terms of your achievements or your success, that means you’d be prey to this resilient thief.

And because you put so much effort into avoiding failure, your moods become volatile and unpredictable.

Hopefully, looking at these three examples of resilience thieves, you can begin to see why coming of medication without first dealing with them would cause you to break down with depression again.

Your resilience thieves are why you get depressed over and over and over again.

So how do you practically prevent resilience thieves from sabotaging your recovery?

The only three steps for managing resilience thieves successfully.

Step one: Figure out what resilience thieves make you vulnerable.

Step two: Figure out the things these resilience fees make you do.

Step three: practice doing The opposite to what you’re resilience a thief wants you to do.

I’ll elaborate using the three resilient thieves described above.

The first rest resilience thief we mentioned was to block yourself from experiencing negative feelings because you don’t want to feel bad. 

In this case, the opposite action would be to allow yourself to feel negative emotions whenever you want to avoid them.

Because the side effect of this resilience thief is to block out positive emotions, allowing yourself to experience negative emotions like this generates an ability to start feeling positive emotions to

Similarly...

The second resilience thief, which was to protect yourself from positive emotions, naturally feeds depression.

But unknown to many people, this resilient thief also causes a tremendous amount of anxiety. Why? The more you avoid being happy, the more anxiety happiness generates.

This cycle then makes you think you are abnormal for not feeling satisfied when everybody else finds it easy to be satisfied with similar positive things you have in your life.

For this second resilience thief, the opposite reaction would be to allow yourself to feel positive emotions and test out your negative predictions about being happy.

The outcome of this is that you begin to train your brain to feel safe with happiness, naturally enabling you to experience the joy already available in your life which you can now tap into easily.

The third resilience thief, which avoiding failure, the more you avoid failure, the more threatening it grows.

And as a result, this will make you avoid essential experience that you need for achievement, success and growth, thereby perpetuating the cycle of depression.

For this third resilience thief, The opposite reaction would be to expose yourself to more failures. This exposure allows you to have more successes, promoting good self-esteem and generating a positive life cycle.

I hope these three examples clarify how to deal with resilience correctly.

To help you identify what resilience thief might be holding you down in depression, I have written an article called 36 positive habits that crank up your anxiety and depression.

This article details 36 resilience thieves, many of which people don’t even know exists. 

The sad thing is not knowing they exist will not stop them from affecting you Negatively. So go through the list and figure out which resilience feeds you fall for, and follow the process as I have described above.

The next thing is to 

Create your relapse prevention plan. 

Because once you’ve worked on your resilience thieves, You recognize that reducing reliance on them enables you to maintain improved moods a lot easier.

 Your relapse prevention plan is then just to list all of your resilient thieves.

Write out a description of what they make you do, and create a plan for reducing reliance on them consistently. But not too much! Just enough to create a balance.

Following this plan will ensure that you do not become depressed again once you’re off your antidepressants.

Click this link to complete a free questionnaire. Discover your most damaging resilience thieves and get a free action plan with step-by-step instructions on how to rely less on them.

So, those are the things you must consider before actually coming off your antidepressants. Moving on to what you must do whilst you are in the process of coming off your antidepressants.

Essential steps to take whilst coming off your antidepressants

Prevent antidepressant withdrawal

The first important thing to consider when coming off psychiatric medications is to never go cold turkey on them. Because if you do that, a lot of things can go wrong.

Here are some antidepressant discontinuation symptoms

  • Brain zaps. (Electric shock sensations)
  • Intense suicidal drives.
  • Increased mood swings.
  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Vomiting.
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Dizziness, balance problems and even vertigo.

And the list goes on...

So the better approach is to prevent withdrawal effects by working with your medical professional to reduce the medication slowly.

For example, if you take 250mg, start a dose reduction by cutting 20 mg off every two weeks, depending on the drug itself and your doctor’s instructions.

Prevent the sudden resurgence of depression symptoms

The second essential thing you must do whilst coming off antidepressants Is to acclimatize yourself to the reality shift that happens when you are no longer on antidepressants.

Failure to do this acclimatization could shock you right back into being depressed.

I’ll elaborate...

You know that feeling you get when you’ve been in a dark room, and someone suddenly switched on the lights, and it just blinds you but great intensity? A similar thing happens as you come off your antidepressants.

The antidepressant has been shielding you from many negative thoughts, But now as you come off the medication, the painful emotional symptoms negative thoughts begin to flood back.

And the faster you come off the drug; the more jarring the experience will be. This jarring experience could then knock you back down again before you realize it.

So to prevent this negative side effect of reducing your medication, as you slowly taper them off, engage in cognitive-behavioural strategies and mindfulness strategies that can help your mind and body become stronger at tolerating negative thoughts.

This way, you can mitigate the negative impact of the reality shift caused by the changes you are undergoing.

Moving on to things you must do after coming off your medication.

Essential steps you must follow after coming off your medication.

Make regular appointments with yourself ( And treat this like you would treat a doctors appointment)

This step is so crucial, but sadly it’s the first thing everyone omits once they get discharged from their doctor.

But imagine for a second that you had a flourishing business. And because this business was flourishing, you decided to ban all team meetings. Because you felt they were an unnecessary waste of time and money. 

What would the impact of this decision be on your business?

Your business would most definitely collapse!

The truth is that every business needs to run regular meetings to determine what problems have developed, what progress exists, and how to move the business forward whilst maintaining positive gains.

The same goes for your life. You’ve got to have regular meetings to determine what’s working and what’s not working. Regularly having these appointments with yourself is the only way you can maintain emotional progress. 

And my recommendation would be to start off doing this once weekly. And then to taper this off gradually as your mind naturally takes on the habits of self-reflection.

Once fully internalized, this natural self-reflection, Will enable you to adopt a lifestyle that prevents you from becoming unwell again without working hard.

Keep your biological battery fully charged.

 Your body is like an engine that needs regular filling up with gas to function correctly.

Even if you did nothing at all and just spent all your days lying down in bed without eating anything, you will still lose bucket loads of weight.

If you are not putting resources into your body, it will find the resources even if it has to eat up all your cells, muscles, and fats to achieve this.

And If you regularly eat unbalanced meals, you can cause your body to become so deficient in specific nutrients, vitamins and minerals that it can cause fatigue, mood swings, and depression. 

So, make sure to eat a balanced meal regularly. Preferably three times a day until your moods have remained balanced for at least six months.

Don’t forget to have fun.

As you get better at maintaining a good diet, don’t forget to have fun... Don’t forget to relax... Don’t forget to exercise.

Engage in your hobbies. Engage in socializing. Engage in doing the things you love as this is essential to helping you bring back a sense of purpose and meaning to your life. 

Having a strong sense of purpose and meaning in your life is one of the most powerful antidotes to depression. It’s not just about feeling good but about having a reason to feel good in the first place. 

It’s important to stay engaged in the things you love to do, but it’s equally important to make sure that those things align with your values. If you’re not doing the things you love, then you’re not living the life you want to live.

But the more time you spend doing what you love, the better moods you’ll experience. 

How to make sure you never need another antidepressant again.

Depression is a serious issue, and I hope you don’t feel I have diminished it in any way.

But, it’s essential to know that depression is treatable, and if you’re suffering from depression, you don’t have to suffer in silence. 

Be mindful of the mindsets that trap you in a lifestyle of despair, and take steps to prevent your body from triggering the drastic healing process that pushes you into depression.

Take the actions revealed in the article to avoid mistakes that make you transition into long term clinical depression. 

Imagine a life without depression—a life where you can live in the moment and engage in activities that bring you joy. 

Imagine a life where your depression has been under control for such a long time that your doctor tells you he no longer needs to see you for a medical review.

You are now free forever. 

No more depression... 

No more antidepressants.

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa
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Twice a month I hop on a conference call to teach, answer questions, and give feedback to members of the Take Back Control Program.

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