Why do patients discontinue antidepressant therapy early? A qualitative study

Mariesha Jaffray*, Amanda H Cardy, Ian C Reid, Isobel M Cameron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Current guidelines for antidepressant prescribing are that treatment should be continued following the resolution of symptoms: six months after a first episode and for at least two years for those with previous episodes. Despite this, sub-optimal treatment duration still predominates. Patients have negative and positive views on antidepressants, which change throughout their treatment journey.

Objectives: To explore views and experiences of patients recently initiated on antidepressants (within six months), and to consider the influences on early discontinuation.

Methods: A qualitative interview study was used in four general practices in the North East of Scotland. A purposive sample of primary care patients, newly initiated on antidepressants, was interviewed to explore views and experiences with antidepressant therapy. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was conducted using a consensus coding frame developed by two researchers.

Results: Twenty-nine patients participated. Three main factors influencing discontinuation were identified: ownership, knowledge and support. The treatment journey was characterized by four important time points where health care intervention may be helpful.

Conclusion: Health care professionals would benefit from exploring patient knowledge and views on depression and antidepressants at an early stage in treatment. Patients would welcome active involvement in treatment decision making, the provision of information and ongoing support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-173
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of General Practice
Issue number3
Early online date25 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • general practice
  • depression
  • stigma
  • attitudes
  • antidepressants
  • adherence
  • CANMAT clinical guidelines
  • major depressive disorder
  • Canadian network
  • management
  • beliefs
  • mood


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