Why People Stop Taking Anti-Depressants: Part 2

Psychiatry_Psychology2.jpgIt’s not unusual for people to stop taking their anti-depressants. And while this can be confusing and frustrating to others, a careful consideration of the reasons behind this common occurrence can help end this cycle.

Called non-compliance, researchers have concluded that people stop taking medication because of negative side effects, delayed improvements in their condition, and lack of knowledge regarding the possible effects of the medicine.

Yet there is another reason I believe people don’t continue taking their medication. I won’t call it stigmatization, I’d call it confusion. You see, there is a very cloudy line between depression as a biological disorder and depression as an emotional disorder. And if you think that people with depression don’t care what “type” of depression they have, you’re wrong.

Take a look at the types of depression patients there are:

First, there’s the regular; the person who will be on anti-depressants for life (or until some wonderful medical advances make depression obsolete!). These people need medicine because the chemicals in their body are consistently off-kilter. Usually a genetic issue, without medication, they are physically unable to produce what their body needs for “normal” functioning.

Then there’s the drop-in. These are the people who become biologically off-kilter during a short period of time, maybe during an extended period of stress. Therefore, they take the medicine, get their brain chemicals back in balance, and never look at an anti-depressant again.

Then there are the people who never really needed drug therapy at all. They are depressed because they have a negative belief system or unresolved issues or an inability to express their true emotions. While the depression is still real, still painful, their problems can be alleviated with psychotherapy or depression studies and groups. The cause of their illness is not physical.

Now I know that this is a simplified and unscientific way to classify people with depression. I also realize that a genetically depressed person will probably have negative belief systems or other ways of thinking that only make their depression worse. But with genetic depression, the depression will exist, even with better beliefs and other lifestyle changes.

The unfortunate thing about the types of depression is that it’s very difficult to get an iron-clad explanation of where your depression came from, what category you belong to. Sure, if there’s a family history of depression, it’s likely genetic. Yes, if you’ve just experienced a death in the family and never had a problem with depression before this, you probably don’t have major depressive disorder. But unlike most, if not all, physical illnesses, there’s no test that can answer give you the answer. So, the type of depression you have is really just an educated guess by an educated person.


Aleccia, JoNel. Think twice before you dump antidepressants. MSNBC. 2008.

Associated Press. Experts: Troubled patients may go off meds. MSNBC. 2008.

Cavendish, Camilla. If it’s all in the mind, fine. TimesOnline. 2008.

If Anti-Depressants are so wonderful – why do people stop taking them? Aetna Pharmacy. 2006.

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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