Description of antidepressant withdrawal symptoms in clinical practice guidelines on depression: A systematic review

Anders Sørensen*, Karsten Juhl Jørgensen, Klaus Munkholm


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Background: Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms may mimic symptoms of depression relapse and can be challenging for patients when tapering or discontinuing antidepressants. We aimed to assess how withdrawal symptoms are described in major clinical practice guidelines on depression. Methods: Systematic review of major clinical practice guidelines on depression from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, and New Zealand. We searched PubMed, 14 guideline registries, and the websites of relevant organisations (last search 10 July 2022). The guidelines were assessed for information and descriptions of antidepressant withdrawal symptoms regarding their type, incidence, duration, severity, onset, and presumed mechanism. Results: We included 21 guidelines, 15 (71 %) of which stated that withdrawal or discontinuation symptoms can occur. None of the guidelines provided an exhaustive list of potential withdrawal symptoms; ten (48 %) guidelines mentioned at least one specific symptom, ranging between four and 39 symptoms. The symptomatic overlap between withdrawal and relapse was mentioned in four (19 %) guidelines. Withdrawal symptoms were generally described as mild, brief, and self-limiting; and severe in a minority of cases. Estimates of the duration, incidence, or expected onset were reported in five (24 %) guidelines, and were in all cases lower than those reported in systematic reviews. Limitations: We included clinical practice guidelines from English-speaking countries only; our findings may not be generalizable to non-English-speaking countries. Conclusions: Clinical practice guidelines provide scarce and inadequate information on antidepressant withdrawal symptoms and limited guidance for distinguishing withdrawal symptoms from symptoms of relapse.

TidsskriftJournal of Affective Disorders
Sider (fra-til)177-186
StatusUdgivet - 1. nov. 2022

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© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


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