Withdrawal symptoms are often worse than people think, especially when they’re starting. So it’s important to know what you’ll be going through to prepare yourself for the process and make sure it doesn’t become too overwhelming or complicated.
Withdrawal from antidepressants is a common occurrence. In some cases, it can become severe and lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors. This article talks about how the FDA requires information on antidepressant withdrawal symptoms to know what they are going through during their recovery period.
The “phases of SSRI withdrawal” blog discusses the different phases of antidepressant withdrawal. The article has an extensive list of symptoms experienced by people who have been on antidepressants for a long time and are trying to come off them.
The New York Times published an article in April of 2018 titled “Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit.” They spoke with several patients experiencing significant antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. As a result, they discovered that a rising number of consumers and doctors are concerned about antidepressant reliance — and how difficult it is to quit using these potent psychiatric medicines.
These anecdotes reaffirm what many of us who have studied natural health for years already know: antidepressants (and many other psychoactive medicines) are much too harmful (see my article on antidepressant side effects) and ineffective to justify their widespread prescriptions in today’s environment.
If you’re taking an antidepressant (or know someone who is), you’ll need this knowledge to make informed choices about your mental and physical health. Read on to learn about the most frequent antidepressant withdrawal symptoms and how to mitigate them if you decide to stop taking your medication.
What Are Antidepressants?
Antidepressants are a kind of brain-altering medicine used to treat depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, they were developed on the incorrect assumption of the chemical imbalance fallacy, which holds that simple chemical imbalances cause mood disorders.
As time passes, it becomes clear that antidepressants aren’t nearly as effective as the general population believes. According to experienced doctors and researchers, the advantages of these medications are overshadowed by their main adverse effects, which include antidepressant withdrawal symptoms.
Indeed, a study of several clinical trials found that antidepressants’ “real medication impact” is only approximately 10–20 percent, implying that 80–90 percent of patients in these studies either reacted to a placebo effect or did not respond at all.
Antidepressants are divided into many types, the most common of which are SSRIs or “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.” These, along with SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), are the more contemporary antidepressants that most physicians prefer over the “outdated” tricyclics (TCAs).
Some antidepressant medications do not fall into these categories. Instead, they are often used as backup therapies when “preferable” choices fail or to boost the effectiveness of the primary prescription antidepressant. They may also be used “off-label,” which means your doctor can lawfully prescribe a depression medicine that the FDA hasn’t authorized.
The most common antidepressants are:
- Fluoxetine is a drug that is used to treat depression (Prozac)
- Citalopram is a kind of escitalopram (Celexa)
- Sertraline is a drug that is used to treat depression (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine is a drug that is used to treat a (Paxil, Pexeva, Brisdelle)
- Escitalopram is a kind of escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Vortioxetine is a kind of vortioxetine that is (Trintellix)
- Venlafaxine is a drug that is used to treat depression (Effexor XR)
- Duloxetine is a drug that is used to treat a (Cymbalta, Irenka)
- Reboxetine is a kind of reboxetine that (Edronax)
- Cyclic is a kind of cycle (tricyclic or tetracyclic, also referred to as TCAs)
- Amitriptyline is a kind of tricyclic antidepressant (Elavil)
- Amoxapine is a kind of amoxapine that is (Asendin)
- Desipramine is a drug that is used to treat depression (Norpramin, Pertofrane)
- Doxepin is a drug that is used to treat a (Silenor, Zonalon, Prudoxin)
- Imipramine is a drug that is used to treat depression (Tofranil)
- Nortriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant (Pamelor)
- Protriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant (Vivactil)
- Trimipramine is a kind of antidepressant (Surmontil)
- Maprotiline is a kind of maprotiline (Ludiomil)
- Rasagiline is a kind of rasagi (Azilect)
- Selegiline is a drug that is used to treat depression (Eldepryl, Zelapar, Emsam)
- Isocarboxazid is a kind of isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- Phenelzine is a kind of phenelzine that is (Nardil)
- Tranylcypromine is a kind of tranylcypromine (Parnate)
- Bupropion is a drug that is used to treat depression (Zyban, Aplenzin, Wellbutrin XL)
- Trazadone is a drug that is used to treat a (Desyrel)
- Rixulti (brexpiprazole) (antipsychotic used as adjunctive therapy for major depressive disorder)
Many individuals believe that antidepressants are only intended for short-term usage, confirmed by the American Psychological Association’s practice recommendation from 1993.
When these medications were initially produced and examined, however, the duration of usage was not a worry – and there was no information available to explain what occurs when you stop taking an antidepressant. Only a few studies have gone beyond a two-year monitoring period. Plus, figuring out how short-term the pharmaceutical businesses selling these treatments can make their goods isn’t particularly lucrative.
Symptoms of Antidepressant Withdrawal
“Discontinuation syndrome” is the established medical name for the phenomena of antibiotic withdrawal symptoms.
Only slightly more than half of patients who were going off antidepressants could stop taking them, according to a 2017 study entirely. Nearly three-quarters of those who responded said they wished to quit taking these prescriptions because of the pills’ long-term adverse effects, and 54 percent said their withdrawal symptoms were “severe.”
It’s crucial to remember that these symptoms, especially when stopping SSRIs, usually appear during the first one to four days after stopping the medication and linger for around a month for most individuals. However, as reported in the New York Times, some patients discover that tapering off the drugs completely takes months, if not years.
Others, like the respondents in the 2017 poll, give up and choose to continue taking their meds despite the risks because antidepressant withdrawal symptoms are just too tough to handle.
As Carey and Gebeloff both point out:
There are no scientifically supported recommendations, no method to evaluate who is most at danger, and no way to customize suitable measures to individuals that the medical profession has to provide to people trying to quit using the medicines. “Some individuals are simply being parked on these medicines for the sake of convenience since getting them off is tough,” said Dr. Anthony Kendrick, a primary care professor at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
The medical literature is split on a complete list of these symptoms; nonetheless, I’ve included the ones that have been reported most often in studies and anecdotal accounts below.
1. Sleep Disturbances and Fatigue
Chronic tiredness is a frequent withdrawal symptom of antidepressant cessation, even when the drug is weaned off carefully. Having vivid dreams, nightmares, or other sleep disruptions is another sleep-related symptom of antidepressant discontinuation, which may add to daytime lethargy and sleepiness. In some studies, sleeplessness is classified as an antidepressant withdrawal symptom.
2. Paresthesia and Brain Zaps
Brain zaps and paresthesia are neurological antidepressant withdrawal symptoms that are sometimes used interchangeably.
“A burning or prickling sensation that is generally felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but may also occur in other regions of the body,” according to the definition of paresthesia. The feeling is characterized as tingling or numbness, skin crawling, or itching, and it generally occurs without notice.” Paresthesia has been linked to the withdrawal of different SSRIs.
The phenomena of brain zaps, on the other hand, is a separate but comparable sort of experience. They’re also called “brain shocks,” “brain shivers,” “electric brain thingies,” “brain flips,” “head shocks,” or “cranial zings,” and are most strongly linked to SSRIs and one MAOI, phenelzine.
The sensation of electricity in the brain that causes a loss of consciousness and bodily movements is known as a brain zap. Patients who feared they’d had a stroke and whose symptoms went gone after stopping antidepressants are described in two case studies.
Although the origins of these “zaps” have yet to be fully explained or identified in medical literature, one doctor characterizes his hypothesis as “some random discharge of nerve impulses in the brain.” Although most traditional medical practitioners advocate resuming the medicine that produced this withdrawal symptom, there is no recognized cure for brain zaps.
Some researchers have connected the symptom to Lhermitte’s sign, a neurological condition associated with multiple sclerosis and ecstasy use.
Dr. Tom Stockman of East London (a psychiatrist) and Deacon Shoenberger, Ph.D., experienced brain zaps and paresthesia when detoxing off antidepressants and published personal descriptions of their experiences. Both reports are noteworthy since they both saw patients and prescribed antidepressants. “I heard some individuals had withdrawal responses,” Stockmann tells the New York Times, “but I had no clue how difficult it would be.”
3. Impairment of cognition
Various types of cognitive impairment are connected to antidepressant withdrawal, including mobility difficulties, mood concerns, and anxiety. In addition, hallucinations, delusions, delirium, impaired memory, poor stress tolerance, reduced concentration/memory, disorientation, and cataplexy.
The fourth item on the list is uncontrolled muscular paralysis and weakness caused by emotional highs, which commonly include laughing but is considered a neurological condition since it originates in the brain.
4. Suicidal Thoughts
Antidepressants have a well-known adverse effect of increasing the risk of suicidal thoughts. Did you know that when individuals stop taking antidepressants, suicidal thoughts become more common? Recurrent suicidal thoughts may also signify a relapse back into depression, so this is another problematic symptom to deal with.
5. Mood Issues and Irritability
It’s common to suffer anger and mood swings when detoxing off antidepressants. These are referred to as “mood swings,” “agitations,” and “restlessness” in other sources.
The contrasts between an “acute withdrawal phase,” which lasts up to six weeks, and a “post-withdrawal phase,” which starts after drug withdrawal and may last for years, were examined in an online patient survey research. “Symptoms that linger after true withdrawal has been finished and may endure for years and arise after 6 weeks of drug withdrawal, seldom dissipate spontaneously, and are sufficiently severe and debilitating to have patients returned to prior drug therapy,” according to the authors.
According to this study, many patients reported experiencing depressive illnesses, such as manic depression and mood swings, when the medicine was removed from their system. It’s especially tough to treat since it’s impossible to distinguish between relapses and depression as a post-withdrawal symptom.
Many individuals who stop taking antidepressants have headaches. These might vary in severity from minor to severe.
7. Sexual Dysfunction
A case report was given in one symptom survey regarding a guy who “experienced hypersensitivity of the genitals and early ejaculation” after stopping citalopram.
8. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Antidepressant withdrawal may cause various gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach discomfort and loose stools/diarrhea, in addition to nausea and vomiting.
9. Movement Disorders
Tardive dyskinesia is a movement disease usually linked to antipsychotic treatments since it is a typical side effect of these therapies. During antidepressant withdrawal, however, variants of this may occur. Similar phenomena are described as akathisia, movement abnormalities, unsteady gait, and dystonic responses in other sources.
These symptoms may not go away in a few weeks; there is some indication that movement abnormalities are long-term post-withdrawal symptoms.
10. Anxiety and Mania
While anxiety and Mania may occur after discontinuing various antidepressants, they are more severe in individuals quitting MAOIs. These might be post-addiction symptoms that continue longer than the drug’s half-life.
Making Antidepressant Withdrawl Easier
The following are the safest methods to stop taking antidepressants:
- Contact with friends and family, especially those who have gone through the withdrawal process from antidepressants.
- In addition, maintaining communication with your prescribing physician
- gradually reduces doses.
Certain antidepressants, especially those with shorter half-lives like fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and clomipramine, have been linked to severe or more extended withdrawal symptoms, so keep that in mind if your doctor recommends starting one of these medications in the first place.
It may be tough to wean yourself off antidepressants. However, this should never be done cold turkey, and it should always be done under the supervision of a trained practitioner.
One polled patient expressed surprise at the lack of information provided, a sentiment echoed by several descriptions of the process:
I was never adequately informed of all short and long-term adverse effects. I’ve retained all of the information I’ve received when I’ve been given. I’m just now learning about the long-term effects of medicine that the doctor knew about but didn’t inform me about. I would not have taken the drug for a long time or at all if I had been well told.
The following are some of the most common antidepressant withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep disorders and fatigue
- Paresthesia and zaps in the brain
- Impairment of cognition
- Suicidal ideation
- Irritability and depression
- Sexual dysfunction is a common problem.
- Problems with the digestive system
- Disturbances in movement
- Anxiety and Mania
- Anorexia nervosa is a kind of anorexia.
- a stuffy nose
- Sweating excessively (diaphoresis)
- Changes in speech
- Vomiting and nausea
- Sensory input difficulties (like tinnitus)
- Aggressive or impulsive behavior
- Bedwetting is a condition in which a person we (nocturnal enuresis)
- Blood pressure drops
- Muscle weakness or discomfort (myalgia)
Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms may be managed safely and naturally by being educated, communicating with your physician, and being a part of a healthy support system.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which antidepressants have the worst withdrawal symptoms?
A: Well, the worst withdrawal symptoms typically come from a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. The drugs that have the worst withdrawal symptoms are Paxil and Prozac. Of course, there is more to it than this, but this answer will give you some idea.
How long does it take for your brain to adjust after stopping antidepressants?
A: It takes approximately 6 weeks for your brain to adjust to no longer requiring antidepressants. However, this varies depending on the individual and how long they were taking them in the first place.
- antidepressant withdrawal relief
- SSRI discontinuation syndrome lasting months
- SSRI withdrawal derealization
- discontinuation syndrome mirtazapine
- serotonin withdrawal symptoms
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