The decision to go on, stay on, or stop taking medication is highly personal. There are many people who manage mental illnesses without medication. Some use medication early on to kickstart their recovery, then taper off as they start to see results from therapy and lifestyle changes. And others prefer to stay on their medications, because they have made their lives more manageable or taken away their most critical symptoms.
Compare taking medication for mental illness to recovery from a physical illness. For some people, medication is like crutches; you use them until you are strong enough to walk on your own. For other people, medication might be like a wheelchair; you use it for a long time or for the rest of your life. It also depends on the type of medication you are taking.
If you are suddenly feeling better after you have been feeling down for some time, you should think carefully about going off medication. “Feeling good” may be a sign that the medication is doing its job! If you are experiencing unpleasant side effects, you might consider trying a different medication, or a different dosage.
Making medication changes safely
It’s important to note that it can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking medications without the guidance of your doctor. Any changes in medication, whether it’s adding, decreasing, or stopping, should be done in consultation with your prescribing doctor. However, your treatment team should have an open mind about your medication. If they are not open to discussing changes to or stopping your medication, consider finding a different provider.
If you do decide to stop taking medication on your own, reduce the dose gradually—for example, by splitting a pill in half or taking it every other day instead of every day. This will minimize withdrawal effects. Make sure you continue using your other coping skills, such as therapy, journaling, getting enough sleep, and staying in touch with your support system.
At the end of the day, there is no one right answer for every person. Your recovery is about you doing what works for you and having the tools to live your best life possible.