Why do patients discontinue antidepressant therapy early? A qualitative study

Eur J Gen Pract. 2014 Sep;20(3):167-73. doi: 10.3109/13814788.2013.838670. Epub 2013 Oct 25.


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.

Keywords: adherence; antidepressants; attitudes; depression; general practice; stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attitude to Health
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care
  • Scotland
  • Time Factors


  • Antidepressive Agents