Discontinuing antidepressants may increase relapse risk in anxiety patients, says study

Anxiety disorders are a common problem in the United States, with more than 18.1 percent of its population suffering from it. Unfortunately, most people tend to relapse during or after the treatment. Now, a study titled “Risk of relapse after antidepressant discontinuation in anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder” has found how anxiety disorder patients who responded to antidepressants showed reduced relapse rates.

The researchers also observed that such patients took more time to relapse to previous symptoms with continued depression treatment during one year of follow-up during the study. In the study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in September 2017, the researchers suggested how relapse rates could be unrelated to the kind of anxiety disorders affecting patients.

Effects of antidepressants on anxiety patients

The study authors carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of trials aimed at preventing relapse from the date of its commencement to July 2016 with details from 28 studies and clinical trial registers. The research was carried out on 5,233 participants from PubMed, Cochrane, Embase among other clinical trial registers.

The researchers chose trials that observed patients with myriad anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, agoraphobia, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (as per DSM-5, OCD and PTSD do not form part of anxiety disorders family). The study also included patients affected with co-occurring disorders. The researchers found that 2,625 respondents belonged to the antidepressants group and 2,608 in the controlled group.

Antidepressant use and relapse rates

The participants were treated with antidepressants and were then indiscriminately allocated in a dual-blind fashion to either continue being treated with antidepressant medicines or turn to controlled methods. The authors of the study contrasted the relapse rates and time taken to relapse in both the groups. Till a year of follow-up, the patients who had refrained from seeking antidepressant treatment had more relapse rates when compared with those who had continued to take medicines for treating symptoms of depressive disorder. In addition, the researchers observed how the time taken to relapse to old symptoms were lower when patients had discontinued taking antidepressants.

The findings of the study indicated total relapse rates to be 36.4 percent in the placebo group and 16.4 percent in the respondents included in the antidepressant group. The rates, however, differed greatly across studies, most likely owing to distinctions in the duration of follow-up of the research. The observations revealed how the relapse rate and time taken to relapse did not get affected owing to the type of anxiety disorder, length of prior treatment procedure, extent of follow-up, method of discontinuation, simultaneous or zero psychotherapy.

Choosing recovery as an essential option

These findings are important as treatment of anxiety and related problems involve the risk of relapse in most cases. Though it indicates the positive aspect of using antidepressants, caution must be exercised while considering the findings as a benchmark for terminating antidepressant use after a year. Before discontinuing antidepressant as treatment, the doctors must consider factors like pervasiveness of relapse tendencies subject to the seriousness of anxiety disorders in addition to side effects of their grievousness and patient preference. Treatment should be customized in accordance with the needs of each patient.

In case you or a loved one is grappling with a mental problem, such as depression or anxiety disorders, contact Sovereign Health, a leading mental health care provider. Our facilities are reckoned as the top anxiety disorders treatment centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online for more information about our facilities providing anxiety disorder treatment in California.

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