Lots people have complicated feelings about medications. If you’re feeling better now, it’s probably because the medication worked! That’s a good thing.
On the other hand, maybe the medication gives you side effects. Or maybe you just feel weird about being “dependent” on medication. In either case, it can be really tempting to just stop taking your meds. Sometimes going off your medication can be the right decision—but it’s really important to think hard about it, and to do it the right way.
Think about why you’d want to stop
If you’re experiencing unpleasant side effects, you might consider trying a different medication, or a different dosage.
The medication is probably doing something for you. If you stop taking the medication, you’ll stop getting the benefits. That might be okay—have you been going to therapy for a long time, or working hard on developing new life skills that help you cope? Maybe you really are better off now than when you started taking the medication, and maybe you’ll be fine.
But if the medication is helping you, and the side-effects aren’t bad, it’s okay to keep taking meds. Some people need to take medication their whole lives, and that’s perfectly fine. Life is hard enough as it is—there’s no need to make it even harder by going off your meds. If someone is making you feel bad about taking medication, remember that your well-being is more important than other people’s opinion about something that’s none of their business anyway!
The decision to go on, stay on, or stop taking medication is highly personal. Many people do manage their mental health without medication. Some use medication early on to kick-start 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 make their lives more manageable and take away their most critical symptoms.
Compare it to a physical health problem. 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.
Making medication changes safely
It can be dangerous to suddenly stop taking medications. You should always talk to your doctor about any changes in medication—whether it’s changing the dosage or stopping entirely. However, your doctor should have an open mind about your medication. If they’re not willing to listen to your side of the story, consider finding a different provider.
If you do decide to stop taking medication, reduce the dose gradually—for example, by splitting a pill in half, or taking it every other day instead of every day. You’ll experience less severe withdrawal effects. You’ll have more time to adjust to the new dosage. And if things start getting worse, you’ll be able to catch it early and get back on your meds.
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.