Many people in the UK take antidepressant medication, and some take antidepressants for a long time.
Antidepressants help patients cope with their depression or anxiety by altering their mood and changing their patterns of thinking from negative to more positive. However, many individuals are on antidepressants for a long time, even after they have recovered from depression, which is not ideal given their negative side effects, such as nausea and sleep problems.
It is estimated that up to half of patients could safely stop their medication once they have recovered, but we also know that withdrawal is linked to a small increase in the risk of relapse compared with staying on medication.
What we want to learn from this study
We currently lack the evidence to be able to tell who could withdraw without getting depressed again and who might be better to continue taking medication. Research has shown that antidepressants help improve mood and positive thinking, but very few studies have looked at what happens when people stop taking them.
As a first step toward providing this evidence, we are investigating the effects of antidepressant medication withdrawal on mood and symptom changes. We will compare data from people that decide to stop taking their medication with data from those who continue taking their medication as normal.
We are also interested in looking at the effects of antidepressant withdrawal on cognition - how we think and react to emotional and social information. By examining changes in the way people process emotional and social information during antidepressant withdrawal, we hope to improve our understanding of how antidepressants work.