Natural remedies for antidepressant withdrawal

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Antidepressant withdrawal may have associations with antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Therefore, under the advice of a doctor, a person should reduce or taper their medication gradually. Symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal can include flu-like symptoms and occur within 2–4 days after drug stoppage.

Ceasing antidepressant medications without slowly reducing them can lead to a number of symptoms, most of which are mild. These symptoms do not necessarily signify a relapse into depression but are instead due to antidepressant withdrawal.

Possible reasons to stop taking antidepressants include:

  • wanting to become pregnant
  • reducing a person’s reliance on medication
  • the circumstances surrounding the initial depression have improved

Withdrawal symptoms can vary according to the individual, the dose of medication they are taking, and the length of time involved. These symptoms may include:

  • flu-like symptoms, including headache, lethargy, aching, fatigue, or sweating
  • insomnia, which may include nightmares or dreams
  • imbalance, which may involve vertigo, lightheadedness, or dizziness
  • nausea, which may include vomiting
  • hyperarousal, including irritability, aggression, anxiety, mania, jerky movements, or agitation
  • sensory disturbances, including sensations similar to tingling, an electric shock, or burning

Treatment for antidepressant withdrawal will vary according to the individual. While the associated symptoms may resolve themselves and are not life threatening, complementary therapies may help ease them. However, speak with a medical professional before reducing or stopping any medication.

This article explores what natural remedies can help with symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, how a person can use them, and the outlook for people attempting to discontinue antidepressant medications.

Several natural remedies might ease a person’s symptoms when they experience antidepressant withdrawal.

Nutrition

A number of studies have established an association between diet and mood. A 2020 study linked a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables with better mental health compared to a diet high in refined carbohydrates and fats. A suitable diet may include the Mediterranean diet.

While the researchers acknowledged not all studies agreed with their findings, they indicated that generally increasing a person’s intake of fresh fruit and vegetables would lead to improved health and mood.

However, a person considering changing their diet should consult with their doctor before making these changes.

Exercise

Exercise is likely to be effective for people with mild-to-severe depression.

Regular exercise improves physical fitness and mental outlook. A person can also engage in physical activity alongside medication with no side effects.

Exercise can improve motivation, energy, and overall depression symptoms. One 2017 study suggested that regular weekly physical activity could help prevent depression. Additionally, exercising as part of a group may motivate a person more than exercising alone.

However, consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program.

Acupuncture

A person with depression may consider acupuncture to help with their symptoms.

A 2018 review of acupuncture studies suggested this technique could result in a moderate reduction in depression severity, but further studies are necessary to follow up in the medium and long term. However, the review does note that improvements in reporting on a person’s risk of adverse events were necessary.

An individual interested in acupuncture as part of their depression treatment should search for an experienced and qualified practitioner.

Yoga and mindfulness

A person with depression can experience decreased depression and anxiety if they take part in yoga sessions or mindfulness sessions regularly.

A 2016 study of college students found there was a reported decrease in the effects of anxiety or depression when engaging in either activity.

A person is also likely to practice more effectively if they attend a group to help them learn the right techniques with a qualified and experienced teacher.

Therapy

Psychotherapy and other talk therapy types may help with depression.

Talk therapies can help a person identify the thoughts, emotions, and behavior associated with depression and change them.

Talking therapy can take place in a one-to-one situation with a licensed, trained professional or in a support group setting with people who have experienced similar events.

Individuals can use talking therapies alongside medication or as an alternative. Talking therapies can also include cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy. They can also help create a safety plan for a person who has self-harming thoughts.

St John’s wort

St. John’s wort is a herb that practitioners have used in complementary therapies since the ancient Greek ages. People have used it to treat mild-to-moderate depression, insomnia, and other conditions. Individuals can take St. John’s Wort orally or as a topical medicine they apply to the skin.

Several studies have examined the effectiveness of the herb for depression and how it interacts with other medications.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, studies have shown that St. John’s wort can cause dangerous interactions with other medications and lead to life threatening circumstances in rare cases.

Some research has shown it to be as effective as standard antidepressant medications for a short period, but there is no proof that it will be as effective for severe depression or in time periods lasting longer than 12 weeks.

A person considering taking St. John’s wort in place of antidepressants should always speak with a doctor first.

When experiencing withdrawal symptoms or antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, increasing physical exercise or changing the diet to include more fresh food may help ease symptoms by making a person feel reinvigorated and less lethargic.

Some studies have demonstrated a link between mental health and gut health, with nutritious diets boosting energy levels and reducing depression symptoms.

When a person experiencing depression practices yoga or mindfulness, they may discover strategies to help keep their symptoms in check.

Psychotherapy can also help a person understand the root causes of their depression if they relate to their circumstances or specific thoughts or behaviors.

Depression is individual to each person, and the therapies that are effective will also be individual to these people.

It is possible to support antidepressant withdrawal with complementary therapies. A person also should taper off their medication gradually under the supervision of a doctor and support their medicine withdrawal with the therapies that best suit their situation.

Individuals should also keep their doctor or mental health professional informed about their choices. People with withdrawal symptoms also need to understand how to withdraw their antidepressant medication gradually and what effects this may have.

As long as a person does not stop taking their medication abruptly but instead follows their discontinuation plan, they will likely experience fewer and more manageable withdrawal symptoms.

A person wishing to withdraw from taking antidepressants should speak with a healthcare professional before stopping these medications.

Medical professionals recommend reducing the dosage gradually or tapering off when an individual has been taking the medication for more than 1 month.

A person could find complementary therapies useful in reducing symptoms while withdrawing from the medication. People who are reducing their medication should also consult their healthcare provider if they experience unusual symptoms.



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