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Join our research study about the effects of antidepressant medication withdrawal and maintenance

We’re recruiting volunteers to join our study into the effects of antidepressant withdrawal on people’s mood, side effects and cognition.

About this study

We hope to collect data that will help patients to manage antidepressant withdrawal more effectively, and receive better medical advice about the likely time course of withdrawal effects and mood changes.

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.

Take part in this study

During this study, you will:

  • perform cognitive tasks online
  • complete online questionnaires
  • answer questions on an app several times a day using your mobile phone or tablet (during the first four weeks of the study)

You will also need to attend four online sessions for the duration of the study. These include:

  • week one baseline
  • week four review
  • three-month review
  • a six-month follow-up

Each session will take approximately 30 mins to 2.5 hours.

A close up of a woman's hand holding a smartphone.


We are recruiting people who are interested in stopping taking antidepressants, and people who will continue taking their antidepressants during the study.

To take part in this study, you must:

  • be between 18-65 years old
  • be currently taking an SSRI antidepressant for depression, and have been taking this for at least nine months prior to study entry
  • be well enough to consider stopping your antidepressant medication
  • have access to a mobile phone or tablet with an up-to-date Android or iOS (Apple) operating system for the first four weeks of the study
  • be fluent in written and spoken English
  • have normal or corrected to normal vision

You will not be eligible for this study if you:

  • meet the ICD-10 criteria for depression (this will be assessed by the research team)
  • have bipolar disorder, psychosis, dementia, autism and/or eating disorders
  • have a terminal illness
  • are taking the SSRI drug paroxetine (due to its short half-life and well-established association with negative withdrawal symptoms)
  • are currently receiving treatment for substance misuse
  • are currently receiving any other psychological therapy
  • are receiving care or being referred to secondary mental health services
  • have an intellectual disability or learning difficulties, reading impairments, or any other condition that would prevent you from completing the surveys or cognitive tasks
  • are pregnant
  • are currently taking the following medications that affect emotional learning: Amitriptyline, Pregabalin, Benzodiazepines and any major tranquilizer (such as neuroleptics)

What you’ll get for taking part

By taking part and successfully completing this study, you will:

  • be reimbursed £75 for completing all sessions
  • be able to assess changes in depressive symptoms, mood and cognition as a result of withdrawing or maintaining their antidepressant medication under the observation of our research team

Start and end date

  • Start date: 20 January 2022
  • End date: 31 December 2023

Your data

We will need to use information from you and your GP for this research project. This information will include your initials, name, and contact details. We will use this information to do the research.

Only members of the research team will be able to see your name or contact details. Your data will have a code number instead. We will keep all information about you safe and secure.

Once we have finished the study, we will keep some of the data so we can check the results. However, the information that could identify you such as your name, initials and contact details will be deleted at the end of the study.

We will write our reports in a way that no-one can work out that you took part in the study. No personal data will be shared.

Contact us

If you have any questions about this study, please contact us.

This study has been reviewed by and has received approval from the Central Bristol NHS Research Ethics Committee (REC reference: 21/SW/0163).