Unfortunately, UNLESS YOU TAKE THE ANTIDOTE, modern research repeatedly shows that after one episode of depression (especially if it was prolonged), your lifetime risk of a relapse is about 50%.  If you have had 2 episodes of depression, your risk of relapse is about 75%.  If you have had 3 or more episodes of depression, relapse is almost inevitable.  Stresses, medical illnesses and unknown factors can trigger these relapses.  Each relapse progressively increases the chance your symptoms will eventually not fully respond to treatment, leaving you with permanent problems.


Therefore, while well-meaning friends and “common sense” may tell you to stop the medication once you are feeling well, current research would strongly advise the opposite.  You should take as much antidepressant as you can tolerate, for as long as you can tolerate (for 1 year after your first episode, for 3 years after a second episode, for life after a third episode, we now believe).  If you see your antidepressant medication as a coat of armour over your chemistry, you want your protection to be as thick as possible, provided it does not make you too tired (or have intolerable side effects).  If you accept your condition is equivalent to diabetes or controlled cancer, your decision will make the difference between a minor nuisance in your life, requiring ongoing medication, or a potentially disastrous cycle of relapsing and more severe illnesses, which will put intense strain on you and on those close to you.


Please do remember:

  1. Antidepressants are not addictive, unlike tranquillisers
  2. There are no known long term side effects
  3. You may need to reduce the dose slightly when you are well and under less stress if the medication makes you drowsy or unable to think clearly
  4. If your symptoms start to return at times of stress, you may have to increase the dose slightly.


Important Disclaimer:  This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.

One thought on “Long term prevention

  1. Sam says:

    This is really helpful because I feel like my antidepressant is a shield that keeps me in balance, I still have to do the personal effort with a psychologist and also take my ADHD medication for motivation and to work and hold down a job. I have had more than two episodes of moderate depression in my life but only twice taken an antidepressant once I found one I can tolerate and I was thinking about whether I would need to stay on it for the rest of my life, it feels like a medication that keeps me stabilised and without it the depression and anxiety comes back and I want to go back on. I was concerned about longterm effects as I’m only 29 but this has made me feel better because I’d rather not have to come off and my psychiatrist says stay on it because I don’t have any bad side effects other than tiredness but the ADHD medication helps with that.

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