How Long Do I Have To Take Medication For My Anxiety Disorder, And Can I Stop If I No Longer Have Symptoms?

Dr. Mark Pollack answers the question: 'Stopping My Anxiety Disorder Meds?'

ByMark Pollack, M.D., Dir., The Ctr. for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders, Massachusetts General Hospital
April 15, 2008, 6:10 PM

— -- Question: How long do I have to take medication for my anxiety disorder, and can I stop if I no longer have symptoms?

Answer: It's very common when people are on medication for treatment of anxiety disorders to wonder, "Am I going to have to be on this the rest of my life?" The truth is we don't yet have definitive answers for a lot of people in terms of how long they have to stay on medication. General guidelines for treatment suggest that for a first treatment episode, keeping people on medication once they fully respond and are essentially free of symptoms for somewhere around a year or two years seems prudent and reasonable. And then, if the individual wants, to try to taper them off their medication and see how they do.

For patients who, whenever they've tried to come off medication in the past, have relapsed or had retuning symptoms, for those individuals, longer durations of treatment maintenance therapy, probably over a course of years, is certainly warranted. With cognitive behavioral therapy -- psychosocial treatments -- for some people, a single course of 12 to 15 sessions will help them feel better, and they may continue on without necessarily requiring more treatment. But here, too, it's not uncommon for people to require ongoing treatment even with cognitive behavioral therapy to maintain their benefit.

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