How long do SSRI withdrawal symptoms last?

Synaptic Freedom


This is one of the most common, and hardest to answer, questions about SSRI withdrawal.  Withdrawal from psychiatric medications is still officially a mystery.  According to the manufacturers, SSRI do not cause severe withdrawal.  Instead, symptoms from “discontinuation syndrome” are mild to moderate and last one to three weeks.  This is in direct contrast to some patients that experience prolonged, severe, symptoms.  The disparity between experience and official information causes a lot of confusion for patients.  When we break a bone or pull a muscle, there are long established timelines for recovery.  Individual recoveries can vary in time and intensity.  Overall, most patients follow the timeline and recover close to the time expected.

The lack of information about SSRI may be part of the reason why it is so hard to predict how long withdrawal symptoms will last.  Most studies of SSRI are limited to 8-12 weeks and do not address cessation of the drug.  Manufacturers study their drugs in this manner to gain regulatory approval for sale, not so much to study the effects of the drugs.  Studies of the effects and withdrawal would be more of an academic pursuit and wouldn’t contribute to the commercial application of the medications.  Fewer people would begin prescriptions for SSRI if they knew that there was a chance that they would become dependent on the drug and have to go through an extended withdrawal period when they decide to stop taking it.

From the symptom perspective, it’s very hard to say which patients will experience withdrawal.  Some patients do follow the accepted tapering schedule and are able to stop taking the medication with minimal symptoms, despite taking the drug for a long time.  Other patients experience extended symptoms after taking the drug for a short period.  The underlying predictors of which patients are sensitive to SSRI and which ones aren’t are not well understood.  Without enough knowledge to predict which patients will experience withdrawal, it is even harder to predict how long those symptoms will last.  It becomes a very personal, individual, struggle for each patient.  That being said, there are some ways to gauge progress and predict how long an individual will experience withdrawal.

When a patient first experiences withdrawal symptoms, they can be quite frightening.  Since the mind creates reality in real time, withdrawal can seem like it will become permanent and debilitating.  That is the reality that withdrawal creates, though, not reality as an impartial observer would see it.  We live in a relative state of mind, though, so that’s all we see.  If we could step back from withdrawal symptoms, we would realize that this is a temporary crisis and not a permanent state of mind.  Withdrawal forces the mind to act more on instinct than it normally would.  In normal thought, the intellect regulates instinctual responses, moderating them to match social situations and our own moral beliefs.  Withdrawal disconnects the intellect from its normal regulatory function.  Instead of moderating behavior, anger, fear, and anxiety are allowed to come to the conscious mind.  As an example, take a trip to a supermarket and pay attention to your reactions.  When another shopper blocks an aisle or cuts you off at an intersection, anger is a possible reaction.  Normally, that anger is easily suppressed and you let the incident go without any reaction.  Withdrawal removes that moderating behavior and allows anger to become the acceptable response.  For a person not experiencing withdrawal, it takes a great deal of introspection to even detect the anger that arises from the incident.  It’s almost automatic to suppress the anger because reacting to such a trivial interaction is socially inappropriate.

Reasserting the intellect during withdrawal is the best way to control symptoms and mitigate the power they have.  Being mindful of how you would normally react to a situation and forcing yourself to follow that course of action can help.  It’s easier said than done.  Because of the mental relativism that withdrawal causes, it can be very hard to separate yourself from the immediate symptoms you’re experiencing.  Mindfulness is the process of stepping back from a situation and evaluating the emotions that you are feeling, and then changing your behavior based on what you think rather than your immediate emotions.  Essentially, it’s replacing the automatic moderating behavior that’s suppressed in withdrawal with conscious effort.  It can slow down the flow a conversation quite a bit second guessing every thought, but it’s better than acting out in a way that you might regret later.  It’s not necessary to think your way through every interaction forever, just until the automatic moderating function reestablishes itself.

Taking a longer view of withdrawal can help as well.  It’s very hard to envision how you will feel in two months when you’re living with symptoms minute by minute.  SSRI withdrawal happens in waves and windows.  Those are the names that veterans give to the cycle of withdrawal symptoms.  Waves are periods of time when symptoms are more severe.  Windows are periods when symptoms are not as bad.  As withdrawal progresses, waves come and go.  In the long term, the waves become shorter and milder, while the windows become better and longer.  Eventually, you enter a “window” that doesn’t end.  Mindfulness allows you to see that waves are not permanent and not put too much hope in the permanency of windows.  It sounds fatalistic to acknowledge that windows do not represent a cure, but it’s more realistic.  It’s a delicate balance between hope and pragmatism.  Being aware of how you are feeling during a window is just as important as being aware of your feelings during a wave.  Just as you need to consciously moderate your feelings in a wave, you have to bank the good parts of a window to use when you enter the next wave.  It’s an intrinsic exercise that you can’t really start to practice until you have the experience of a couple cycles behind you.  In the beginning, it’s very hard to see the larger picture because all there is is the immediate symptoms.  Some faith that symptoms will get better is required.  Faith is one of the first things to be shaken in withdrawal.  Family and friends don’t understand, doctors don’t believe it’s withdrawal.  You can’t “suck it up”, either, it doesn’t work like that.  All that can shake anyone’s certainty.  The wave/window pattern is part of withdrawal, though.  Just as you will enter waves during withdrawal, they will also end at some point.

As time goes by and you become accustomed to the cycle of waves and windows, the question becomes less about how long will withdrawal last.  Mindfulness becomes a habit, something that is almost second nature.  It’s something that you can apply to your life after withdrawal.  Most people started taking an SSRI to treat an existing condition.  The decision to stop taking an SSRI usually comes after the drug has lost efficacy or the side effects outweigh the benefits.  That requires some way of dealing with the symptoms of the condition after withdrawal is over.  It’s hard to see the mindfulness that withdrawal forces on you as a benefit of that trauma, but it does give you a good way to handle an existing condition.  In the long term, the goal becomes less about getting off the drug as fast as possible, and more about getting off the drug with as much quality of life as possible.  In a way, a good way, the coping tools you develop during withdrawal will serve you for the rest of your life.  The adage that alcoholics use to describe recovery is apt for people suffering from SSRI withdrawal. “One day at a time” is the best way to approach recovery.

156 Responses to “How long do SSRI withdrawal symptoms last?”

  1. shiraj.ks9 Says:

    nicely said…boosted me from inside…i will defnitely follow this

  2. Ann Kelly Says:

    Very relevant… and a well put together article that really nails the whole fear issues that everyone is up against.

  3. Joe Says:

    I’m roughly 6 weeks out from Zoloft discontinuation (after a 5-6 year period of 50mg/day usage) and I’ve still been experiencing some pretty heavy bouts of anxiety followed by hopelessness and depression. It’s very uncharacteristic of me, yet when these symptoms arise, they are all too real, and they feel as though they are permanent. I’ve spent the better part of an evening browsing the web, looking for some reassuring words that may help me cultivate a frame of mind that will get me through these tough times, and your words have been the most positive and helpful I’ve found thus far. Thank you! My best to you.

    • npanth Says:

      Thanks. Withdrawal symptoms can be very hard to deal with, sometimes. They’re unpredictable and have such a profound effect on the mind that it closes off everything else. They’re not permanent, though. Even though it feels like it will last forever, it will slowly start to get better. Progress can seem uneven at first, but it does become more steady as time goes by.
      If your symptoms increase over the next couple weeks, you might consider reinstating on Zoloft at a lower dose and tapering slowly from there. For people who are sensitive to these drugs, 10% reductions every 4-6 weeks is a good pace to minimize symptoms. It’s a diminishing schedule. For example, 40mg/day, 36mg/day, 32.4mg/day, 29.2mg/day, etc. It takes a long time to get off the drug on this schedule, but it minimizes symptoms. I hope you feel better soon.

      • LilianG Says:

        Hi. 6 weeks ago I took my last dose of Citalopram. I had a two week taper from 30mg. 1 wk @ 20mg, 1 wk @ 10mg . I was then due to have a washout week before starting Sertraline. However, as I felt more ‘alive’ than I had done for years, I decided to stay off medication.
        I had also done some research on supplements eg omega3, vitamin D, and excercise etc.
        The first 2-3 says were fine.
        The next 10 days were horrendous….night sweats, insomnia, nausea, loose bowels, crying etc
        Then up to 5 weeks I felt really good.
        The last week or so,I feel the withdrawal symptoms are returning…night sweats, nausea, crying.
        But…..are these withdrawal effects or are my anxiety/depression returning.

        Do the waves and windows go on for months??

        Any comments would be appreciated.

  4. chris Says:

    As a fellow protracted withdrawal sufferer, now nearing three years, I agree with your description that we are somehow disconnected from our brains and this in itself is terrifying, especially if it is prevalent for months and months. I found that I did not fit the protocol of many ‘withdrawal board veterens’ where experience of waves and windows gave at least a glimpse of hope. Improvements were miniscule and not at all noticable on a day to day or month to month basis. I wonder if you know why some people have these and others don’t? I did c/t from 40mg prozac and am wondering if this may be the reason.

    • npanth Says:

      I’ve talked to several people who have had a similar experience with withdrawal. Instead of having windows, they have one long wave that ever so slowly gets better. I’m not sure what the difference is. The only explanation I’ve heard is “Withdrawal in unique to the individual” which isn’t very satisfying. One thing about withdrawal is that it can change over time, too. For the first 8-9 months, I had unremitting symptoms. It didn’t seem like it would ever get better. Then it started to break up into waves and windows. I think there may be another category of withdrawal where the symptoms don’t let up, then largely resolve at once. I think both types of recovery are difficult in their own way. In the wave/window cycle, there’s always the fear of slipping backwards. In the prolonged wave cycle, there’s no letup to provide hope. Recovery has happened for everyone I’ve talked to who has gone through it, though, so I think it will happen for all of us.

  5. Nick Says:

    Thank you James, nicely researched and nicely put together. May I share my exprerience with SSRIs, I was put on SSRIs for 3 months in September, with subsequent tapering for 2 weeks to treat burnout syndrome. I was on Xanax, as breakthrough anxiety treatment for all that time and came out of it gradually end of December. The reason I insisted I came off SSRIs and Xanax was the emotional blunting I experienced throughout treatment which still continues 4 weeks after SSRI discontinuation and 1 week following Xanax withdrawal. Also, depression sets in, to a degree that makes me wonder what is going on, I can realize this is not at all me. It is an interesting state, physicians have a tendency to believe symptoms of depression are coming back, and that it is unlikely for medicines to have created such a confusing state to my body. I have serious doubts though that this is the case, I am a generally very positive and optimistic person, I know my self pretty well, so I am ready to accept that even in short period treatments and small doses withdrawal can be very upsetting. Thus, I was very releived to read your article, I was just wondering whether anybody else had a combined withdrawal period from SSRIs and benzos after such a short period treatment, and, yes(!), if anyone can guess how long it takes for this brain system to get back to normal state!

    • npanth Says:

      My doctor also diagnosed my withdrawal symptoms as a new problem that required Paxil to treat. He had to stretch diagnosis quite a bit to do it. I went to him in the middle of withdrawal. He tried to tell me that I had a latent psychosis, even as he paged through my history of mild social anxiety. By that time, I knew my symptoms couldn’t be what he said. If I had followed his advice, I’d be on a fistful of pills by now. Who knows what state I’d be in. That’s the irony of withdrawal. In order to get off these drugs, patients have to become medically non compliant. Who would have thought that doctors would be the ones trying to keep people on drugs. My life has improved dramatically since getting down to a small dose of Paxil. While I was taking the drug, I was depressed, insular, irritable. Other than the episodic and acute depression I experienced in withdrawal, all of those problems have faded away.
      I’ve talked to several people who have had prolonged withdrawal symptoms after relatively short treatment periods. I’m not sure why it happens. I can understand why long term use would cause long term withdrawal, but not short term use. It may be some kind of sensitivity to the drugs that other people don’t have. It’s possible that you started to taper off the benzo too soon after tapering off the SSRI. It’s hard to say if it would be better to reinstate and try a slower taper. Tapering should usually be shorter than the original treatment period. I hope you start to feel better soon.

      • Pzen Says:

        Hello npath, and thank you for this enlightening article.

        I just have a question: In the above comment you say that you reinstated Paxil and that it alleviated the withdrawal symptoms? But I thought that you stopped the drugs altogether?

  6. Drizzle Says:

    Have never posted on anything like this before but I wanted to ask about my situation. I was on Citalopram (UK name for Celexa) for 5 years, originally at 20mg then increased to 40mg 2 years later. I came off *incredibly* slowly after reading about the withdrawal effects, especially as I got to the lower doses. Even a 5mg drop from 15mg to 10mg gave horrible symptoms so I bought some gem scales off Amazon and gradually cut my 10mg tablets into smaller & smaller pieces to simulate 1mg decreases and spent a month at each level. I came down from the equivalent of 2mg to nothing at the start of January as the shards were getting ridiculously small but suffered some withdrawal symptoms even then! (I had read elsewhere that the last bit can be the most difficult but was amazed this could still happen at this level).
    Anyway – about 3 months ago I started getting digestive problems (mostly diarrhea/looseness which are being investigated to rule out anything ‘sinister’) and was wondering if this could have anything to do with withdrawal? It seems crazy that I’m still suffering withdrawal but I’m still having bouts of crying and waves of anxiety from time to time so maybe it’s possible? It’s just that this hasn’t been a symptom before and only started during the last dregs stage of tapering. But then you read that 90% of serotonin is in the gut and I wondered if that meant that ssri’s have an effect there too?
    Thank you to everyone who has posted here. If I hadn’t found this I’d never have known that ‘prolonged withdrawal symptoms from ssri’s’ were even recognised. Like the US, the doctors here in the UK are hopelessly ignorant of any of this stuff.

    • npanth Says:

      Gastrointestinal problems are very common in SSRI withdrawal. I still have some issues with it now. It was very bad for a long time. I never thought it was possible to have the runs and be constipated at the same time, but it is. Serotonin is produced in the gut, and the migrates to the brain where it is used as a neurotransmitter. The brain isn’t the only place where Serotonin is used as a neurotransmitter. There are neuron like cells in many parts of the body. Those cells aren’t as organized as neurons in the brain, and they serve different purposes, but they operate in similar ways. Changing the way that serotonin is regulated affects them in various ways. In the gut, it disrupts the normal digestive process.
      One of the mistakes that most people make when tapering off an SSRI is to make large tapers too quickly. Indeed, I did it. Tapering should be done in percentage amounts, not static milligram chunks. Going from 15mg/day to 10mg/day is a 33% reduction in dose. Dosage drops should be done 10-15% each time. It’s good that you changed your tapering method to go at a slower rate. I just jumped off the cliff, and had to reinstate two months later. I’m still shaving the pills down at this point, but withdrawal is going much better. After reaching zero, it may take some time for your symptoms to go away. They usually don’t just disappear, they slowly fade over time. The emotional issues will probably come and go in waves and windows until the waves get shorter, and the windows get longer. hang in there. It sounds like you tapered more slowly than most people, and that will help make the symptoms shorter at this point.

      • d Says:

        Thanks so much for that npanth – I didn’t expect such a quick response! So, should I just ride with the digestive symptoms for a while longer (it’s been 3 months so far)? I keep thinking ‘should I change my diet?’; ‘should I take supplements?’ (suggestions? Someone suggested Triphala – anybody have any experience of this?).
        Incidentally, I haven’t had any anger stuff at all, is that common? Was *really* interested to read on someone else’s entry about obsessive thoughts – I had no idea this might be linked to withdrawal – I have this problem too, as well as concentration & short-term memory probs which I hate. You have a conversation with someone and what they’re saying is really interesting and you’re really listening and taking part in the convo but half an hour later you cannot recall many of the details. I’m not *quite* of the age where this would be expected, at least not at this level.
        Anyway, thanks again – it really helps to have found someone out there who has clearly done some in-depth work on this stuff.

        • npanth Says:

          It’s hard to say how long the gastrointestinal symptoms will last. I reinstated on Paxil after about two months off of it. Most of the bigger symptoms dissipated, but I still have GI problems. They’re not as bad as they were before. It seems like the GI problems are a marker for other problems within the body. They’re just more noticeable… we really do live on our stomachs. My digestion is slowly going back to normal. I was almost constantly constipated for 10 years while I was on Paxil, so it figures that it’s going to take a little while for it to reach equilibrium again.

          It took me a long time to associate obsessive thoughts with withdrawal, and recognize them when they came. That kind of introspection isn’t something most people are used to doing. We’re accustomed to having an automatic filter in our minds that shields our conscious mind from the weirder thoughts that are always floating around in there.

          As an example, say someone cuts you off in traffic. Even in normal thought, the whole range of thoughts, from passive to psychotic, go through our minds. Don’t respond, speed up, slow down, cut them off, even ram them from behind. We’re not used to having the more extreme thoughts come to our conscious minds because our personalities usually filter them out before they reach our conscious minds. That filter is disabled in withdrawal. The thoughts that reach the conscious mind are the most powerful, not the most rational.

          Since we’re not accustomed to having to grapple with psychosis, obsession, or rage all the time, we assume that we’re still thinking like we always have and accept those thoughts. They do fade away over time. It can be helpful to pay attention to what you’re thinking and actively select thoughts that you have until the normal filter reasserts itself.

          • Jay Says:

            I went off Lexapro 4 years ago. I stepped down slowly for about 3 months. One month into the step down I began to experience terrible digestive issues. I told my doctor that it seemed like my entire digestive system forgot how to work. She just looked at me, gave me heartburn meds, and told me not to eat tomatoes. I found another doctor. It has been 4 years and my symptoms have improved a lot, but when I wake up my colon rumbles and hurts for about an hour or more in the morning. It took a lot of searching, here are the things that have helped me. Chiropractor, acupuncture( although not too effective for ibs, but great for sleep and anxiety), elimination diet to heal bowel disbyosis, high quality probiotics, Rolfing, physical therapy and visceral manipulation. All this healed a whole host of other problem, pms, migraine, sinus/ear problems and most of my IBS. Can anyone suggest something that will help stop the morning colon spasms? They begin about 2 minutes after I wake up when I am still in bed. I think it has something to do with hormone release.
            Good luck to anyone one suffering from Lexapro withdrawls. I really needed it for postpartum anxiety, but have had withdrawal for longer than I was on it.

      • eddie Says:

        Oh boy it’s 22 months’ since I stopped taking Fluoxetine and I’m still in withdrawal. I followed my GP’s instructions on tapering and ended up off Fluoxetine in 6 weeks’ … big mistake! I was on Citalopram for 8.5 years and Fluoxetine for 6 months’. I’m in a wave of withdrawal again with the gastrointestinal problems you describe, not as severe as you have described, but nonetheless rather frustrating and uncomfortable. The other problems I have are chronic, chronic fatigue, which is the worst part of all, periods of crying and uncomfortable joints. The joint problem I believe is something to do with Serotonin being responsible for bone formation.

        I was wondering where you are up to in your withdrawal relationship?? Because mine has gone on for so long I’m pretty fed up!! The worst part of withdrawal is not knowing how long it’s going to last!! I would appreciate your response from a timeframe point of view and any suggestions you may have :)

  7. Edna Says:

    My affair with ssri’s began in 2006. When I had an episode of depression in my life. I went to therapy, I tried so hard to avoid using an antidepressant. But ultimately, gave in and that’s where Lexapro 10mg/day came into my life. I did ok on it. Then about 3 yrs ago got diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Which one of the symptoms is depression symptoms. Makes me wonder if 10 years ago, it was my thyroid acting up and wasn’t caught. Needless to say, Lex and I have been associates for a long time. At this point in my life, I am ready to embrace the “joy of motherhood”. I’m 35, and lets be honest, time is passing by… OBGYN strictly said, should I become pregnant, I would have to get rid of Lex. So I considered getting off before pregnancy even happens. I’m on day 56 since my last dose. ~2.5mg. Went through physical withdrawals. Plus, hot flashes during my “rage” phase (as I call it) which began about 2-3wks after last dose. That lasted about 2wks. Now I’m in the panic/anxiety phase. I’m forgetful, my mind feels foggy. When I realize I’m forgetting things, it feeds my anxiety/panic and makes me think I’m going crazy… It’s a vicious cycle. Personally, I feel this is the ugliest phase. I understand that biologically the brain has to do its thing (I’m a scientist, for cryin’ out loud) but it sure feels like the light @ end of tunnel is no where close. The science in me says its normal, this shall pass, it’s temporary, do not go back to Lex. But the emotional side of me is really making me reconsider… Yikes. I have good days and bad days. Drink teas, practice yoga as often as I can. Thank you for your article. It explains a lot.

    • npanth Says:

      Thanks, Edna. I went through similar phases. Anger, depression, anxiety, insomnia. It sometimes seemed like there was no break between them. It does eventually get better. Hang in there. I hope you feel better soon.

    • mama2 Says:

      Just as a side note, I was on ssri’s for my first two babies, and for nursing. I’m now pregnant with my third and trying to get off. You can be on anti-depressants, if necessary while preg and nursing. Some are considered safer than others for this. However, in an attempt to have me on the safest drugs for pregnancy, and then nursing, I was switched around so much, had bad reactions to some (effexor), recently came out that citalopram causes heart problems at the dosage I was at, that I’m just trying to quit. I’ll use MMJ as needed to get to sleep, which is likely a lot safer for the kids.

      I wish you luck!

  8. mama2 Says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Very helpful for me as I try to get off meds. I’ve been on SSRIs for the last 10 years. The last year has been a merry go round of trying different ones, and after too many bad effects, and little good ones, I’m quitting. I’m curious as to whether you know anything about whether being on about 4 different SSRIs in the last year could be part of what is making withdrawal so hard… I tend to be very sensitive to the drugs, and would go through withdrawal with even one missed dose.

    • npanth Says:

      Yes, the drug merry go round can make withdrawal harder. Even though SSRI as a drug class have similar effects, each one has unique aspects and withdrawal symptoms. Rapidly switching, which is common practice, has a tendency to exacerbate the differences between the drugs. You don’t have a chance to consolidate withdrawal from one before you start to withdrawal from the next.
      Usually, the best way to get off the merry go round is to wait until you are very stable on one, then slowly taper off of that one. If you’re taking more than one drug, slowly taper off one before trying to get off the next.

  9. laurie Says:

    I was put on 10mg of lexapro in November 2004 when I was pregnant with my son (found out September 1) by my PCP. I can’t take birth control pills because the excess of hormones doesn’t mentally go over well. So now pregnant with raging hormones my anxiety was out of control…especially with self harm intrusive thoughts. The lexapro did help me. I was supposed to come off of it 6 months post partum but surprise….I found out I was pregnant again in November 2005 so the Dr had me stay on it just in case. I was supposed to come off at 6 months post partum. Well I had post partum depression with my daughter so I was told to stay on the lexapro with xanax. In 2006 I found out I have pcos and spoke to my Dr about coming off of lexapro. Out of nowhere he said I think you should stay on it being that you have GAD. Wtf??? I was so confused as to where that came from because i don’t meet the criteria for that, but I trusted the medical professional and stayed on it. Fast forward to last year still on the lexapro ranging from 10-20mg. I had gone to the emergency room because i had a massive anxiety attack in February to the point that I couldn’t breathe. After that i switched to a psychiatrist because obviously they should know these drugs better. My anxiety went through the roof in the winter of last year!!! It was as if my body was all of a sudden rejecting the lexapro.(started to feel overstimulated on both 10 or 20mg) So now over 7 years older I started to think for myself and requested to be taken off. My pdoc wanted me to stay on it because I was still having anxiety. Now getting diagnosed with ocd…no rituals just obsessive thinking. Wtf again??? I started to wean myself…went from 10mg to 5mg. After about a week I called my pdoc and told him I was on 5mg and ready to take the steps necessary to come off. He told me to drop it to 2.5mg for a week and stop and I won’t suffer withdrawal at all. Holy FML because I felt awful. Intrusive thoughts, anger, no patience, anxiety….just to name a few. I changed pdocs again and this Dr put me on a mood stabilizer 150mg of trileptal (anti-convulsant typically given to bipolar patients)(75mg in morning and at night) to help with withdrawal. I was off the 2.5mg within 3 days of taking the trileptal and the Dr was aware. I felt good on this for about a week and downhill I went. I was to wean off of the trileptal a month after starting it and I did try. Started feeling massive anxiety again and I went back to see the pdoc. She told me a month was long enough for the lexapro to be out of my system which seems odd considering I was on it for 8.5 years. She has now upped the trileptal to 300mg. I am not bipolar and don’t fit the criteria but supposedly trileptal helps with anxiety also. I feel crappy even on this new dosage and am wondering if the withdrawals could be breaking through even though I should be withdrawal free at this point. I don’t know what to believe anymore because all of my research differentiates from what the Dr said. Any thoughts? Sorry so long. I am sensitive to medications. The lexapro did help effectively for years but being diagnosed for these things is so strange. Fine I had intrusive thoughts in the past but not this strong and more hormonal based. After 8.5 years of usage and being off for a month I’m wondering if my brain has seriously stabilized by now??? I have an appointment with a new psychologist tomorrow.

    • laurie Says:

      My symptoms now are anxiety, trouble sleeping, depression, etc. Worse then I have ever felt. I have 3 beautiful children and a great husband….I know I need better coping skills and positive thinking but it’s hard when you want to curl up in a ball. Socially I am having issues which is so funny to me because I majored in public relations in college. I love people….well not now. In hope you can shed some bright light on this!

      • npanth Says:

        You’ll get yourself back. Anxiety, social withdrawal, anger, and insomnia are all very common withdrawal symptoms. It’s hard to believe, but you will get better. There will be some tough times, feeling better happens slowly and in frustrating ups and downs, but it does happen. And! You have not permanently damaged your brain! That thought comes to dominate thought at times in withdrawal. Hang in there :)

      • cray Says:

        Hi Laurie, Don’t give up – I also felt like this but it does pass. Just take break each day down into manageable chunks. I was in 5 mins increments at one stage – now can go days and look back each month and am amazed how much better I am (all relative though). Last month couldn’t get out of bed some days. This month although I can still feel crap I also am not at that point. Stay strong and have lots of cuddles with your kids – even if you don’t feel like it something still seems ot pass to you. Best of luckxx

        • kelly Says:

          I was on Lexapro for 8 years! I tried unsuccessfully for the last 3 years (or more) to get off but the withdrawal symptoms were unbearable, and so was I, to be around. My doctor even put me on wellbutrin to help with the withdrawal symptoms from lexapro….this was awful. I felt like someone pumped lead into my body and I slept all day! After I dropped the kids off at school I fell asleep until about 2:00! That was the last day I took wellbutrin and I continued on with the lexapro. I was tired of going back to the doctor and I wasn’t willing to take anymore drugs. About 4 months ago I finally stopped taking the Lexapro-cold turkey! I used vitamins (mood boost) and it helped with the withdrawal symptoms. This worked better than weaning off the medication and in the past I was down to 2mg a day with awful withdrawal symptoms! I now take tranquility, vitamin B, and Vitamin D. The vitamin supplements work much better than any prescription!! I still have ringing in my ears (that I hope is not permanent) I’m lethargic, can’t sleep at night, I’m not very sociably or motivated to do as much as I use to. I do, however, have more good days than I have in the past….so I am holding out hope. I have 3 kids so it can be rather frustrating. I’m angry that my doctor ever put me on this in the first place. I had some anxiety after my second child was born and she was worried it would escalate and get worse. The anxiety that I did have paled in comparison to the “wrath of lexapro” and its withdrawal symptoms. I feel like they should offer “Lexapro Anonymous” classes for spouses! But the good news is that I no longer have anxiety and I do have days where I feel like my old self again. It’s scary how doctors don’t think twice about writing prescriptions for these medications. I would love to know how many people actually need to be on them and how many people would benefit from vitamins, diet changes and exercise?

    • npanth Says:

      The conventional wisdom is that SSRI, anticonvulsants, and stabilizers do not cause tolerance. I reached Paxil tolerance after about 5 years, but stayed at my full dose for another 5. My doctor tried to diagnose me as psychotic while I was in withdrawal. He gave me a couple new prescriptions. If his diagnosis was correct, my symptoms would have gotten worse as my Paxil dose went down. The opposite has been true. I feel better as my dose goes down. I am really hesitant to tell people to ignore their doctor’s advice. The only way I got off the psych drug spiral was to become medically non compliant, though. It’s a huge catch-22. My symptoms would have progressed, my doctor would have prescribed more drugs, my symptoms would have progressed, and so on. I had to get off somewhere.
      Most doctors prescribe more of the current drug, or new drugs, when the efficacy of the first drug starts to wear off. That in itself points to tolerance. I’m still not sure why the belief that psych drugs don’t cause dependence or tolerance is still the majority view.
      Usually, the best way to get off a string of psych meds is to wait until you reach a stable place on your current one, then slowly wean off that drug. If you’ve switched drugs recently, you should go back to the last drug, get stable, then wean. I think your best bet would be to get as stable as you can on Lexapro, then wean off from there. You might want to paste this post to or There are folks at those sites who are much more knowledgable about the interactions of multiple drugs. They also have more experience weaning off of multiple drugs. I hope you feel better soon… It sounds like you’ve started to research withdrawal before you got too far into the drug spiral, which is a really good thing.

      • laurie Says:

        I started the weaning process with the trileptal. The doctor explained how on Monday when in saw her if in the event I decided to go to back to lexapro. I reinstated 5mg of lexapro last night. I was sweating…couldn’t sleep, heart was racing, etc. I know reinstating takes takes time and once I stabilize I will hang on that does for a little while before I begin to wean again. I’m so exhausted I think from the toll all of this crap has put me through. My heart hurts but I am sure its stress induced from the emotional rollercoaster. I still feel on my own but low and behold the pharmacist from my local pharmacy talked to me for an hour and was more informative and caring then any of the pdocs I have seen. I got to the point where I needed to involve impartial people because the doctors were confusing me. I also spoke to my PCP. She was helpful but the pharmacist was amazing. Finally someone who understood my troubles and even went as far as to tell me about a family members experience on being on paxil and coming off to go back on and wean more slowly. She totally got it! Such a shame that we are not properly guided through these processes but more given pills hand over fists. My only issue right now is my taking xanax for breakthrough. I am by no means a pill popper…hence really wanting off this stuff, but it seems to be an unnecessary evil being that I have children to care for and need clarity. I feel a little better coming off of last night except for the chest issues but hopefully that will pass soon. I also took my lexapro this morning instead of at night being that maybe I will sleep better. Do you think there is a huge difference between generic and name brand SSRIs?

        • laurie Says:

          Don’t get me wrong the anxiety is still prevalent but I’m hoping this will be the start of setting it straight. Do you think reinstating after almost 5 weeks off will be rough?

          • npanth Says:

            I reinstated after two months. I know some people who have gone several months before reinstating. It’s an individual thing. Don’t decide if reinstating has worked for a while. When you first start taking an SSRI, it takes about 6-8 weeks before you start to see effects. In that time, you can get some startup symptoms of anxiety, depression, etc. I had to plow though some of those things before I started to feel stable. Reinstating is a strange experience. Some of the symptoms go away within a couple days. Others linger for a while, and some remain throughout.
            The overwhelming anxiety and severe depression went away within a couple days. The irritability took a month or two to subside. The brain fog lasted a lot longer. Cognitive slowness is a common side effect of the drug, so it makes sense that it would remain while I was on a higher dose of the drug. It’s strange. I can feel the fog lifting ever so slowly as my dose goes down. Little by little, my brain is starting to come back to me. Man, how I’ve missed it :)

        • npanth Says:

          I’ve run into something similar. SSRI seem to be at that weird phase of knowledge where nurses and pharmacists are more knowledgable than the doctors. I think it is because they interact with patients more, and can see past the literature more easily than doctors. I don’t trust them more than doctors because they say what I want, but because they say what I’ve experienced. My doctor has been so wrong about withdrawal and what I can expect from SSRI, that it is eroding my confidence in him in other areas.
          The pounding heartbeat could be related to the drug. I had irregular and pounding heartbeats while I was on Paxil. SSRI have effects on the cardiac muscle and the regulatory system that controls heart pace. I’m not very familiar with the cardio system, but I did experience something similar to what you describe. I’ve talked to other people who have had it, too. It may be worth having it checked. From the anecdotal conversations I’ve had with people who’ve had it, it doesn’t seem to be a detectable problem with the heart. They have all said that their heart tests have come back normal, despite having racing heartbeats. Honestly, I don’t really understand why that would be.
          I’m not sure about generics. Laws prescribe how much active ingredient is in each pill and how that ingredient is distributed within the tablet. The things that the manufacturers can change are mostly in the fillers they use. Other than being “inert” they have a lot of latitude in what they use.
          It’s a little fuzzy at this point, but I did reach tolerance for Paxil around the time that I switched to the generic version of Paxil. I can’t say that the generic was the cause, just that it happened around the same time. The price difference between the generic and the patent med is so great that I couldn’t afford to go back to patent Paxil even if I wanted to. I’m having success tapering off generic Paroxetine, so I’m not going to rock the boat at this time. I’ve talked to some people who couldn’t tolerate generics, but that hasn’t been my experience. I think the price difference is worth the effort and the risk of a temporary setback.

  10. laurie Says:

    Do you think 2.5mg or 5mg would be a better reinstatement of the lexapro?

    • npanth Says:

      The best way to calculate a reinstatement dose is to take the last dose you were on, the lower that by 10% each month Neil you get to the present.
      You could probably start at 2.5 mg. stay at that dose for a couple weeks and see how you are doing. If you are still having bad symptoms, go up to 5 mg. it’s usually best to taper up while reinstating. I hope reinstating does the trick for you

  11. laurie Says:

    I can’t get over also that the doctors wanted me to reinstate at 10mg…the dosage I was on. I didn’t think that was a great idea.

    • npanth Says:

      Doctors have been conditioned to view psych drugs as infallible and without side effects. Most of the doctors I’ve spoken to are genuinely surprised when I say that I feel better as my dose goes down. It feels like I just told them that gravity points up, not down.

  12. fireweedfarm Says:

    Today I was at the doc, and my pulse was 59. Which, I believe is quite low for me. Also, my blood pressure seemed off. I didn’t think at the time to have them compare this to my past numbers. I’m thinking that this could be related to the fatigue and weird chest feelings I’ve been having since my last decrease in dose (From 10mg to 5mg of lexapro). I’ve been digging around on internet (we have a super slow connection) and haven’t been able to find much. And suggestions? Thanks!

    • npanth Says:

      Going from 10mg to 5mg is a big jump. Usually, it’s best to taper 10% each time. That minimizes the symptoms.
      Usually, a big taper will create faster and irregular heartbeats, but slower beats can happen, too. Low blood pressure can cause dizziness and fatigue. If the symptoms correspond with your last taper, that’s a strong indication that they are related. You might consider inching up your dose a bit, then tapering more slowly from there. Tapering at 10%, your next dose would be 9mg. The slow taper decreases as you go. It’s 10% of your last dose. So, the schedule would be 9, 8.1, 7.3, 6.6, 5.9, 4.8, 4.3, etc.
      It takes a while to finish tapering like this, but it does minimize symptoms. I hope you feel better soon.

  13. Anxiety_only Says:

    This is a pretty Impressive Blog..
    After 6 years of Zoloft at 125 mg a day, for anxiety (OCD) I weaned off in 6 weeks at a reduction of 25mg a week
    The side effects of weaning off were the Vivid dreams, and Jaw clenching, teeth grinding. That ended at 25 mg, 2 months ago… after two months of No meds.

    I didn’t know what they were,,, brain zaps I’ve had a million of them and still have them. The spontaneous Loss of balance, vertigo, dizziness, and lightheaded episodes are amazing! it’s like Immediate temporary amnesia your just gone then back. The fatigue is horrible enough to make you a hypochondriac and think you have cancer! I now have Irritable bowel syndrome.. My colon hates me… a lack of Serotonin is just as hard on your tummy! Mentally I’m irritable, twitchy, and nervous again, I’m on my third respiratory infection in 6 weeks? I never get sick (and it could be a coincidence) but my immune system seems to be suddenly a little low.

    After speaking with my Physician about all of this we decided to reinstate the med.
    I am on my fifth day of 50mg and will be going back to a minimum of 75mg or even 125 (full dosage).
    I understand fully the insight of understanding your mental health and issues, but seriously… I was happy with my Zoloft!
    I actually don’t recommend the happily medicated ever try this.. Ever ever ever ever!

    • npanth Says:

      The time has to right in your life to taper off a psych med. don’t worry if you feel that you need to stay on Zoloft. It was the right time for me to come off Paxil. I felt like the drug was doing more harm than good.
      I had a lot of the same symptoms. That one where you just “disappear” mentally for a few minutes is really annoying. It can happen at any moment. I did it once in the middle of a job interview. I came back and realized that they had asked me a question, and I had no idea what they had been saying for the last couple sentences. The good news in withdrawal is that cognition does come back. I haven’t had one of those brain fades in a long time.
      Hang in there. If you decide to taper at a later date, the withdrawal community on the web is growing and improving all the time. You may even get a realistic tapering schedule from your doctor next time :)

      • Anxiety_only Says:

        After the past weekend most of my blank spots and head zaps are gone. I can think pretty clearly again and i’m waking up. You are so right about the right time and the realistic tapering schedule.
        i believe that i will follow this site … It has alot of good personal info and i think its a realistic site with alot of thought behind it.

        • npanth Says:

          Thank you! I try not to push tapering on everyone. The biggest mistake I mad was rushing to get off Paxil. Going slowly and deliberately really is the best way to get off SSRI, and it’s very hard to keep at it for so long until you want to do it.

  14. paul s. Says:

    I was on Effexor for 4 years and was diagnosed with bipolar while in the midst of an opiates and benzos addiction, so I feel I was misdiagnosed obviously. I decided to taper off the effexor against my doctor’s advice after a rage incident where I smashed up my entire house and was Baker acted. I tapered fairly quickly because the Dr said it was okay and was highly of did it in about 3 months. within 6 weeks I had horrible withdrawal and read online about the Prozac bridge

    • paul s. Says:

      *Part 2 Of my comment* after the 20 milligram prozac bridge attempt for about 6 months I discontinued the Prozac. I felt more good windows then bad for the next 6-8 months with some 3-5 day periods where the waves were long. I I was dealing with a divorce new job relocation and many other circumstances that contributed to what I was struggling with but I truly believe I was going to get better. about a month and a half ago I went into a deep depression or waive that I could not get out of. I was so desperate I wanted to a walk in clinic and got 20 milligrams of Prozac and have been taking that for the past three weeks with no relief whatsoever. I’m getting counseling and the people that are in my life giving me advice are telling me it’s just the depression and anxiety returning which I disagree with. the pattern of being sick all morning and have today

      • paul s. Says:

        And half the day not have the day, is the pattern I am in now. it’s funny because I remember this exactly a year ago during my withdrawals the first time this pattern. I thought I was getting better. I have not had effexor in almost a year and a half. any input or advice that you can give me or doctor that I can see that deals with SSRI discontinuation syndrome would be appreciated.

        • paul s. Says:

          I feel generally so much better other than the wave I’m stuck in where I can’t eat I am sick to my stomach constantly and feel as though I’m never get better which is generally a classified as a wave. I really feel as though I’ve lost it and my chemical imbalance will never be normal again. please help

          • npanth Says:

            The symptoms you describe do sound like withdrawal. The morning to evening cycle of anxiety and depression is very common in withdrawal. Withdrawal can behave very differently for people. Some people have their symptoms right away, others get them after a delay.
            Three weeks is about the time when you should start to see some traction after reinstating. A lot of symptoms should go away within a few days of reinstatement, but some people take about 4-6 weeks before they start to get some symptom relief. It may take some more time to get stable enough to start tapering again. Try to have patience with it. I know it’s hard to be patient when the symptoms are so immediate.
            Gut problems are very common in withdrawal. That’s an indication that your other symptoms are probably withdrawal related. SSRI affect the gut in profound ways. While I was tapering too fast, I couldn’t eat more than a few crackers or toast most days. It gets better. Hang in there the best you can, hopefully, it will start improving soon.

  15. Daniel Says:

    I do not know if your “speciality” has more to do with ssri or benzodiazepines. Anyway, I have been following your excellent posts and I appreciate the information. I have taken xanax for 17 years. Last September I was hospitalized for detoxification (cold turkey). I was there for 40 days. I left the clinic in October. I turned eight months, having had a withdrawal, difficult but bearable. My main problem has been to deal with stressful situations. That´s the reason I’ve been practically confined to home, but working through the computer. Now, in the last days of June my parents are coming to visit me (they live in another country) and my situation became completely untenable. I am having very frequent obsessive thoughts, and that I can not deal with this situation. I know it’s a personal question, but … should I consider to reinstate, after 8 months? Or should pass this phase and continue? Thank you

    • npanth Says:

      8 months is a long interval for reinstating. I reinstated after two months off Paxil. it still took about 4 months before I felt stable again. The interval between reinstating and stability isn’t linear, but it does get longer as the time before reinstating gets longer.
      I know the feeling, though. It can be very hard to deal with the circular thoughts and irrational anger. Those are very common symptoms. It feels like a trap in a way. Reinstating may or may not help, but the symptoms still press on you with the same intensity. The difficulty with anger and obsessive thoughts is that the normal mental filter that keeps us from sensing the, is removed for a while in withdrawal. We have to use conscious control instead of relying on that innate filter.
      I tried to use distractions to keep the obsessive thoughts at bay. I kept telling myself that the thought that I was a bad person or incessant memory was not a normal thought for me. Watching tv or concentrating on a video game helped sometimes. There are times when they overcome those efforts. Those are the times when I just had to endure it until it became more manageable again.
      One of the best things to keep telling yourself is that it will get better in time. I’m not unique, or even very special, when it comes to withdrawal. The biological imperative is towards recovery. It will happen for you, too.
      If you do try reinstating, pay close attention to your symptoms for the first week or so. The larger symptoms should dissipate. If you start to feel new symptoms, or your symptoms get worse, you still have an opportunity to stop before you become too committed to reinstating. The toughest spot to be in is when you’ve invested significant time into reinstating, but haven’t found relief.
      Good luck with the visit. Those can be very stressful during withdrawal. I hope you hit a window before they come.

    • Anxiety_Only Says:

      Daniel… Before reinstating you should talk to a professional about this… Obsessive thoughts, stress, anxiety and closing yourself off from the outside world are manageable. Making your decision without counsel may not be the best for you.
      Benzodiazepines and ssri’s are different drugs by nature and mechanism. I urge you to talk to a professional and if attempting reinstatement make sure someone objectively helps find all the pros and cons of your decision.

      • Anxiety_Only Says:

        Obsessive thoughts, stress, anxiety and closing yourself off from the outside world are manageable.
        A little more detail would be that I used to suffer exactly like you it took mental tricks taught to me by a psychologist to actually break these. The meds were a relief but the only way to survive was the mental picture of a stop sign when i started obsessing, I have probably 7 or 8 different tricks that immediately reinforce my irrational behaviors
        This is the counseling portion of therapy and without making any drug decisions. I always make sure I have a small arsenal of simple devices that I can use to relax. It took a couple years to acquire them all but if quality of life is what its about you should make sure you have been given the correct tools by people who call themselves care providers.

        • Daniel Says:

          Thanks a lot for your answers. Very interesting. I was thinking and I decided not to reinstate.
          But what discourages me most is the feeling or sensation that there are functions of the brain that seems to return to normal, while there are others who just simply do not seem to improve. It can be possible? It scares me the functions associated with the ability to cope with stressful situations seem just stopped, with no change in time . Or I need more time to see changes? Thanks in advance

          • npanth Says:

            It can take a while for coping skills to come back. For a long time, going to the market was hard for me. Now, I’m able to work a full day, even in some stressful situations, and still go back the next day. You’ll get there. Like you said, it comes back haphazardly and not all at once, but it does get there.

  16. SLJen Says:

    This is one of the most useful SSRI posts I have ever read, thank you. I’m mid withdrawal right now, fortunately I’ve got over most of the emotional and panic symptoms and now am feeling mostly like I’m on a boat (seeing as everything suddenly pitches back and forth, nausea, headaches etc…I may as well be at sea!) and the irritability and anger – yes! I am glad to hear that’s a normal symptom, I feel exactly as you described – the bit of me that holds back has gone and I’m working really hard to remember not to snap at people. I feel annoyed that I should have tapered more slowly, I’ve dropped down in 5mgs from 20mg whilst changing to bupropion in the course of about a month. I finished the last 5mg 5 days ago…but now that’s been done, do you think it’s worth riding out the horrible ‘boat trip’ now? You’ve reminded me that it has actually only been days – and if it does abate in 2 weeks, that’s only some more days…but it feels like forever at this point. Thanks so much for this, and thank you to the others for sharing their stories – I feel like we’re all getting there together.

    • npanth Says:

      The anger was one of the most surprising symptoms for me. Absolutely everything pissed me off. I’d get furious at someone pausing in the market aisle, and have to hide in the organic aisle for five minutes until I calmed down. I’m a pretty easy going person, so that was very out of character.
      I had to take over the role of conscience while I was in withdrawal. Normally, I intrinsically suppress and expand emotions based on my past experiences. Wen I was in the anger phase, I didn’t have that built in filter anymore. I had to think about everything I said and did, no matter how trivial. It made me sound like an idiot when I paused to think about how to answer “how you doing?” The good news is the anger phase does go away, and that intrinsic filter returns.
      Switching to another drug during a taper complicates things a little bit. Wellbutrin may be affecting different neurotransmitters than your previous drug. Wellbutrin affects norepinephrine and dopamine. Paxil, for instance, mostly affects Serotonin. All three affect mood and cognition, but in different ways. Even the researchers aren’t sure what the division of “labor” is for neurotransmitters and emotions. You might be experiencing withdrawal symptoms and startup symptoms. It takes a while for the brain to get used to a new SSRI. The anger sounds like withdrawal. The dizziness could be a withdrawal or startup symptom. Both kind of come and go, and slowly fade away. I hope you feel better soon. I’m sorry I don’t have more concrete advice. It’s frustrating that the best remedy for withdrawal symptoms is time.

      • Garrett Feldhake Says:

        Can U Die From antidepressant withdrawal So Worried

      • SLJen Says:

        Thanks so much for your reply, sorry it took a while to answer to you. In the end I restarted back at 5mg and am tapering again, so now back in irritable phase (lost my rag last night when I bumped into a shelf!) but with less sicky physical symptoms at least. It’s so frustrating feeling like I’m an experiment – I do understand that the doctors are prescribing things trial and error, but this experience has just been horrible and protracted and ultimately I don’t know what is affecting what at the moment. I am really looking forward to getting off citalopram just to finally see how i’m feeling with wellbutrin, although i imagine that will be another few months time once all the withdrawal effects are gone. Thanks for sharing your experiences with anger. I grew up with a volatile father, and it scares me that I’m like that at the moment, as in general I’m not. I was scared that that was actually ‘who i am’ and removing the drugs was revealing that, but now at least i feel reassured that it’s not me, and i can be stronger than the angry urges to never take it out on other people. it’s horrifying seeing such a characteristic in yourself. I would love to get to a point where I take nothing, but i just have no faith that i am capable of that – i have had these problems since i was a teenager and spent years without drugs so feel like i’ve learnt my capabilities of (not) coping. it’s so depressing! (at least i still have irony)

        • npanth Says:

          Be patient with yourself. It takes a while for things to settle down in withdrawal. The anger is a tough symptom. Don’t get angry that you’re getting angry, if that makes sense. Try your best to keep an even keel, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up every now and then. The fact that you’re concerned about your anger proves that it isn’t your true nature that is emerging. It also proves that you have taken you previous experiences with others’ anger to heart, and are determined to be different.
          One of the meta symptoms of withdrawal is the sense that your “true nature” is being revealed. A lot of people feel that way. I certainly did. I thought that Paxil was the only keeping me from becoming the nasty, angry person I really was. Turns out, I’m not nearly as bad a guy as I thought. Neither are you. It’s frustrating to wait for the anger to subside, but it will happen. Hang in there.

      • SLJen Says:

        sorry that was a very self focused reply i posted! i just want to say I am really very grateful for the time you’ve spent responding to me and others on this site, having that little bit of extra support is a massive boost :) sending you huge amounts of good karma!!

      • sophia Says:

        I absolutely love this thread. It is so incredibly helpful. Good advice and knowing that I am not alone. I do have one concern… if anyone can answer this… it seems that people who quit cold turkey AND people who wean slowly off these drugs (SSRI’s) all report a terrible withdrawal. I have tried both, cold turkey and a fast wean and both have been excruciating for me. High emotions, tons of anger, uncontrollable crying spells, etc… I am starting to think that a cold turkey approach might be better and just lock myself in my room for a few days. ?? Any thoughts?

  17. Joan Hogben Says:

    Hi, I have been off Paxil for 9 weeks. The initial withdrawal lasted about 3 weeks……head and body zaps, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. \I had reduced from 40mg over a 6 month period. The last 10mg was hell. The past 3 weeks or so I have had hideous panic attacks. These were one of the reasons I was put on Paxil to start with. I am wondering whether this huge surge of panic and general anxiety are still withdrawal effects? I have started taking Omega 3,Vit D3, Vit B complex and magnesium to try to help.
    I am VERY reluctant to go back on any SSRI as I am on Sotalol for paroxysmal SVT, and now I know that ANY ssri can interact with it and potentially cause fatal arrhythmias. (my cardiologist said recently my ECG?EKG would have to be monitored).
    I am a Nurse Practitioner, and understand how horrid SSRI withdrawal can be, but I was not expecting the anxiety/panic to kick in this late.

    • npanth Says:

      Panic attacks are one of the most common symptoms of Paxil withdrawal. It’s very hard to separate the panic that comes from withdrawal and existing panic. They both feel the same, it’s just the cause that’s different.
      SSRI have a delayed reaction that I wasn’t really prepared for when I was doing my first taper. I found that I was getting waves a couple weeks after a taper. I did an experiment with my last taper. I went from 6mg to 5 mg/day. It was a larger than normal taper. I’ve been at 5 for 4 months. The waves came and went for the first 6 weeks or so. Then I had milder waves for about a month. The last one and a half months have had extremely light waves. Lately, I think I’ve only noticed the waves because I’ve become very sensitive to the symptoms. So, I’d say that it’s possible to experience waves up to 2 or 3 months after a taper, longer if the taper is bigger than 15%

  18. Chantelle Says:

    Hi! I’m a nineteen year old who’d been suffering from shyness and anxiety during social occasions from the minute i’d left school. This was causing me to get a job very difficult and I thought enough was enough and decided to go to the doctors to get help. My doctor’s first option was Citalopram. I asked him if it’d help and he didn’t hesitate to say yes. I started taking them, I didn’t see the problem and I was pretty excited at the idea of taking the meds and getting a certificate allowing me not to work. The day after taking them I experienced my first ever panic attack. I seriously thought I was gonna die, you see I have a fear of hospitals so the idea that i’d have to go to hospital was stuck in my mind too. From that day on I was experiencing hell. My mind was constantly telling me I was gonna die, my whole body ached, I was on the brink of an anxiety attack every second of the day and if I wasn’t crying to my parents, I was stuck in my room fearing for my life. I dealt with this all for a month and decided the best option for me was to stop taking them, my dad told me that I should and it’d be the best thing for me. I wasn’t told about tappering off till a few days after stopping and I was feeling much better at the time so I didn’t feel the need. I thought that it was all over. Now i’m suffering with discontinuation withdrawals and I have been for 2, coming up 3, months. I deal with anxiety daily and it seems I’ve developed hypochondria too which means I don’t go a day without thinking that I have an underlying issue, I currently think I’ve got a brain tumor because of my constant headaches and fatigue, as well as thinking I have leukemia due to strands of my hair falling out more often than usual and bruising a little more easily. I do see the withdrawal effects slowly getting milder, but something inside me is telling me that i’ve been dealing with this for far too long and that something is seriously wrong with me. Any sort of advice you could give me would make me so happy. Is this normal? is dealing with withdrawals for 3 months normal?

    • SLJen Says:

      Hey just thought I’d write a note to you because I also developed anxiety at a similar age when i started uni. In my (non-medically trained) opinion it is probably not citalopram withdrawal now so much as a worsening of you anxiety, which could have been triggered by the on/off citalopram. try and get some CBT for anxiety, this helped me a lot and can genuinely help you never have a panic attack ever again. I also read a book that really helped me called ´the happiness trap´, which essentially is a CBT course in a book. try and see a psychiatrist as GPs have not been hugely useful in my experience. don’t worry about underlying conditions, get the GP to run some tests for tiredness such as aneamia, thyroid problems etc. most likely the tests will come back all fine – worrying about underlying causes is a symptom of anxiety. my hair used to fall out too from the stress, and constant fatigue from the worrying and poor sleep, but ultimately there was nothing wrong, just good old fashioned anxiety distorting my perspective on everything – from the dangers of going outside (very small!), what people were thinking of me (actually nothing malicious!) and my health status (not dying!). good luck and have faith that you will get better.

    • npanth Says:

      Withdrawal can be extended, especially after a bad reaction. I had similar symptoms in withdrawal. Headaches, hair growing in some places, falling out in others.
      Chances are, it’s not a tumor. I had many similar feelings. The pain was so intense and prolonged that I didn’t think it could be anything as “temporary” as withdrawal. If you want to help put your mind at ease, try getting an MRI. imaging the problem should come back normal, which should help alleviate the anxiety.
      Hypochondria is a common symptom, too. Withdrawal disrupts the body in a lot of ways. It can feel like a lot of different illnesses.
      Hang in there. Your course of treatment was short enough that you should start to pull out of withdrawal in a while. I know the waiting part is very hard. It’s a good sign that you have noticed some improvement. That’s one of the big hurdles to overcome. As weird as it sounds, it’s easy to become accustomed to withdrawal symptoms, and look for them everywhere. When good things start to happen, it’s easy to ignore or dismiss them.

  19. Daniel Says:

    Thank you for this wonderful blog. It is fantastic. Reassure wisely and without drama. I hope to do that when I heal. I wrote a while back (June 2013) to tell about the visit of my parents. Well, they came. There was a stressful experience. The good news is that I survived.
    I have been on alprazolam for more than 10 years. I am on a phase of withdrawal (recovery is much better)…almost 10 months after Cold Turkey.
    In this new phase concerns me especially the issue of anger and relationships with people. I’m in therapy and I find it difficult to explain to the world, and my therapist what really happens. Nobody understand. Everyone I required me to have a normal social life. When I know I will have a little social contact, my mood changes completely. It´s clear for me: must be isolated to feel minimally well.
    And this causes me great wear. People believe I’m exaggerating. They think I have something like shyness …. some of my personality … How have you deal with this issue? Again, thank you very much …

    • npanth Says:

      It’s very hard to explain the anger that comes with withdrawal. It’s a compulsion more than an emotion. The best you can do is try to keep reminding them how it feels, even though that increases frustration. Frustration leads to anger. It’s a really har spiral that feeds on itself. It does get better. Try to be mindful of your frustration and anger. Try to temper those emotions by imagining what the “normal” you would do. Eventually, it gets better, and you don’t have to keep such a tight lid on yourself.

  20. Sandra. Says:

    Hi, i have been on citalopram for 8 months, and now of of them for 3 weeks, never felt good on them so taperd down for 20 to 5 mg in 5 weeks, al the tapering was terrible, when i took 5 mg i got the flu, or something like that, felt sick. The first week of nothing was not so bad, but the it started , i don,t care about anything, not happy anymore , don,t smile, still have those vivid dreams and my jaw is stiff al the time, dry mounth, don,t wanna do anything, hate this feeling, it,s so not me. The mornings are the wurst, and when i get tired, wake up really early in the morning. Been tru the crying over nothing and scary thought,s , think i,am really sensitieve , because when i started at 20 mg i was sick for 2 weeks, really sick, so took 10 in the morning and 10 at night. 8 weeks later my doctor told me to take 20 at once , and again i could not get out of bed for 2 days, i hope you can tell me i,am in withdrawal, my doctor doesn,t really believe,s in withdrawal so it,s hard to talk to someone, don,t ever wanna go back on, so i just ride it out , i guess. Can you tell my if it sounds like withdrawal, i,am just depressed and i was not to begin with. ( forgive me my english, i,am from Holland so it,s not easy ) Thanks Sandra .

  21. Sandra. Says:

    Forgot to tell that i had al the things people are talking about but not the brainzaps , but it,s been like a rollercoster , sometimes i have a moment of feeling myself, 6 weeks before i taperd down the citalopram , i kicked a 4 month use of oxazepam , at 40 mg a day. So i must be a lot for my brain to deal with. That wasn,t easy to. The things i,am left with now is no feelings, anger, jittering jaws when i wake up, strange eye sight, snapping jaw and thight ,i feel it al the way down my ears, feel like i have to puke in the morning but don,t. Just feel like a shadow of me……vivid dreams…..still a lot i guess. This must be wd, what else could it be? What do you think ? X Sandra .

    • npanth Says:

      Your symptoms are all consistent with withdrawal. Stiff muscles/joints, emotional numbness/outbursts, nightmares. Those are all very common. You tapered very quickly. It might be a good idea to stay at your current dose, or even increase it a bit. Wait until your symptoms become more manageable before tapering again. The goal for tapering is to keep the symptoms as mild as possible. That’s just as important as lowering our dose. I had a similar schedule when I started tapering off Paxil. I thought I was being conservative because my schedule was so much longer than my doctor’s. turns out my schedule was too fast, and his was unrealistic.

      I hope you feel better soon. It’s really hard to deal with symptoms that feel out of control. It should get better as your body catches up with the last couple tapers.

  22. Sandra. Says:

    Thank you, going back on is not a option, feld so bad on the meds, they made me wurst than i was but my doctor told me to just keep taking them, i was on oxazepam also, and that made me crazy, had a terrible time, was like a zombie, feeling nothing , didn,t wanna do anything, spend my days on the sofa, looking at the wall, didn,t wanna go out of the house and got scared of everything, this was so not me. I,am now 5 weeks of, en the whole day are wave,s of feeling a bit better and feeling strange, sometimes,s some strange thought,s but know it isn,t me, the dreams are still there and my jaw is still stif, when i wake up i can,t keep them still, my eyes are also still strange, like i can,t see verry well, and the headace, feels like migraine,s , hope this wil go away soon, gained a few pounds hope that wil go away to, the use and the reverse reaction,s of oxazepam and citalopram must have been a lot for my brain to handle,and than the taper of 4 month oxazepam at 40 mg in 4 weeks , than the citalopram, hope there is no damage , find myself laughing sometimes, and i am aware of that, it,s a strange feeling, i,am gonna pull tru, proud of myself for coming this far, it,s been hell, pure hell, glad you respond to me, really … helps to talk someone who know how it is, whising everyone a save journey coming of these meds from hell…….take care and thank you! Sandra. X

  23. Sandra. Says:

    The thing that is making it hard now, is feeling better for a few moment,s a day, and then it starts again, out of nothing i get a strange feeling in my head, my jaw get,s stif, my eyes are strange , and get a terrible headache, i get so tired can,t keep my eyes open. That,s when i think i wil never get better, somethings wrong with my brain……totally hate that feeling…….x Sandra

  24. arnold Says:

    Sandra, I know what you mean about “my eyes are strange”. It’s hard to describe to someone but that’s how it feels for me too. I wanted to get off the SSRI roller coaster for some time. I finally took the plunge and talked to my Dr about it. She recommended that I taper down the 10 mg dose of Lexapro that I had taken for the last several years by beginning bupropion 150 mg and taking the 10 mg Lexapro every other day for a week. I did lose count of when I took that last Lexapro though and believe that I only took it twice in that week. I have been completely off Lexapro and taking bupropion only for the last week and the withdrawal symptoms started almost immediately. In addition, I began training in a new job about a month ago and the instructor is less than kind and usually insulting. For the last week, I find that I am very sensitive to loud noises, have tinnitus, get very irritable and anxious, am feeling very low and want to cry at the drop of a hat. (Actually last Friday I did just that in front of a co-worker) I’m in the health care industry and know a little about withdrawal symptoms so I associated some of this to withdrawal and some of it to mental exhaustion from the stress of dealing with a critical trainer. The thing that bothers me the most is the “wave-like” feeling of my brain going in and out. Someone said it feels like your brain is being “squeezed” for about a second and that it keeps doing this every few seconds or so and the associated dizziness. I generally feel depressed and stressed most of the time now. I have spent a great deal of time on the internet trying to find out how long Lexapro stays in your system but have not found any really good answers. I don’t want to think that I’ll have to go through this for months. If that’s the case I may as well go back on it again. I’m glad that I found your site and am heartened to see that there are others out there like me who experience withdrawal symptoms from getting off SSRIs. I’m going to call my Dr on Monday to see if maybe I should go back to the tapering thing again. This is just the worst!

  25. Dawn Berrie. Please feel free to call me if you would like I'm at 908-835-0225 Says:

    Hi James. I am suffering acutely from what seems to be an SSRI withdrawal. I won’t go into the details but I’m actually fairly famous. I don’t mean that narcissistically. But I’m obviously fairly intelligent. I have been a CEO for While I was recovering from RSD. I was on very high levels of Percocet. I was also on Cymbalta at the same time. Once I reduced the Percocet to a very low level symptoms of dyskinesia appeared. So was obvious that I was allergic to Cymbalta.

    Although I had to connect the dots my previous doctors did not. Once I pulled off of the Cymbalta, which unfortunately I had been on for over two years. All of my symptoms dissipated.

    Another Dr. put me on Lexapro. Dyskinesia reappeared I stopped immediately and all symptoms dissipated. This same thing happened with gabapentin. All symptoms dissipated within 3 to 5 days.

    Another pain Dr. eight months ago suggested Lyrica. At this point I still was not familiar with what an SSRI was. I feel so stupid. But what I did is I called Pfizer five days in a row and asked if dyskinesia was attached to that particular drug Lyrica. Each time they told me no.

    So I finally took the drug. The first day was my first pain-free day in years. The second day I couldn’t even get out of bed. My head was going to blow. So my Dr. said to taper down which I did. Within a week and a half I had dyskinesia again. So I pulled off the drug immediately.

    I’m currently in my eighth month of unbelievable suffering. I’m a workoutaholic. I’m forcing myself to try and work out. But it’s brutal. I have no energy severe depression (which by the way, I have lived my whole life laughing and loving life) I cry uncontrollably shake have severe gastroenterology problems, I sweat profusely every single night. I have insomnia the list as you know just goes on and on similar to everybody else.

    After already recovering from RSD which is the suicide disease. My plan was to write a book. Even just my name will sell a book. My ex is also a very famous director who is ready to make a film on it. He is one five Oscars.

    Throughout this eight-month time. For some reason I started to feel better and I got back out in the game of life. Once again this is going to sound narcissistic but I’m also now dating an extremely famous musician. If I mention the name everybody would know who it is.

    I have the ability to get on to the Dr. Oz show. But I can’t even do that because I’m a brand and I feel stupid. Stress bothers me the most. I’m finally in love for the first time. And although my boyfriend understands what’s going on. Sometimes I go in uncontrollable either jealousy or rants that are so against my personality that now I’m afraid I may lose him as well. Even though I know that he loves me.

    I met my last wits end, I’ve been to every neurologist, pain Dr. etc. first off, my pain Dr. that put me on Lyrica does not believe me for one second. I know he thinks I’m being a drama queen and he almost wants to drop me. I can’t look for another pain Dr. at this point. I’ve been through so many.

    I’m trying to figure out if enzymes would work for me. I just picked up five HTP for the first time. Do you have any other suggestions?

    Thank you so much if you can help in any way.



    • npanth Says:

      I didn’t have a lot of success with supplements during withdrawal. Some people here have had success with them, though. 5HTP has a mixed reputation for relieving SSRI withdrawal symptoms. The effect is somewhat similar to the SSRI. The mechanism is a bit different, but the effect is similar. It tries to increase the amount of available Serotonin in the inter neural gap.
      The best supplement I found was just a simple multivitamin. It didn’t do a lot to directly affect withdrawal symptoms, but it did improve my overall health. I think that did indirectly help.
      The anger and anxiety are really hard to deal with, sometimes. The emotions can be overpowering. To me, it felt like that built in emotional filter had been turned off. I would just act out, then feel guilty about it later. The best thing I found was to pay close attention when I was starting to feel angry. I had to consciously moderate my emotions. It was very tiring to have to keep on top of everything I thought. For a while, I spoke very slowly because I was examining every response that I thought of. Like a lot of other things, it becomes easier and more natural over time.
      Be very up front and honest about the emotional problems that withdrawal create. The anger and jealousy can sour relationships. Emphasize that it’s not part of your normal emotional state. That may seem obvious, but it can be hard to remember after a fight over something neither one of you consider important. In a weird way, the person in withdrawal has to comfort and reassure the caregiver, sometimes.
      Keep trying to exercise. You may have to dial back the level to match your capabilities. It’s not a permanent retreat, just an accommodation for withdrawal. I tried to take walks and do light exercise in the living room when I was having a lot of trouble. I was able to slowly do more as time went on. That’s the best, and most frustrating part, of withdrawal. Progress happens over time, and it feels like it happens so very slowly. Hang in there. I hope you feel better soon.

  26. Molly Says:

    Thank you for this comforting post. I’m transitioning from Lexapro to Wellbutrin and since I quit the Lexapro I’ve had all of the side effects from serotonin withdrawal syndrome. So I’m riding it out with flu symptoms and a tiny but of auditory hallucinations (no voices). I definitely feel the windows and waves. Early in the morning I can’t eat or I’ll throw up but I feel fine mentally. As the day goes on I can eat but then the shocks come back. But that might change tomorrow so I just have to be prepared for the worst. I have saltines, club soda and sprite ready for the times I feel sick.

    This is all worth it for me. Yes, big pharma is a for-profit industry. Yes, there are bad psychiatrists. But I have a mood disorder and my medications keep me moving forward with my life. The way I used to live is indistinguishable from who I am today.

  27. Stealth Angel Says:

    I was on Cilift 20mg for approximately 5 years for depression, and recently made a decision to start getting healthy both body and mind. I did not want to be the person to be dependent on medication for the rest of my life, so i opted to started eating healthy, and go as natural as possible. With this in mind, i went “cold turkey”. That was about 9-10 days ago. The withdrawal symptoms have been debilitating. I constantly have this dizziness; whenever i lift my head to look at something i get this incredible dizziness like i am about to fall over. I went through the flu-like symptoms, have terrible fatigue, am very forgetful and confused, my short term memory has deteriorated, and the mood swings were hectic. I would find myself crying at the drop of a hat; not only that but i sometimes get aggressive, and more times than not i am irritable and short tempered. I feel very despondent because i don’t know how long this is going to continue for.. i have no wish to return to any sort of medication so it will be a case of riding the proverbial wave. But it really does make you question a lot of things. If i had known back then what i know now, i would have found alternatives to deal with my depression.. and the doctors sure as heck don’t tell you about the side effects OR the withdrawals do they? Why would they when they see you as a returning client who pays their consultation fee each time you come back, refills their script that the big Pharma’s pay them to fill out for a condition that in all honesty, has no shred of scientific proof of even existing! More than anything i am angry at the medical profession for not divulging the truth to people before they get them addicted to these poisons! :(

  28. Cathy Says:

    Hi James :
    Thank you for your posts … This withdrawal journey is the biggest challenge I have had to face
    My story in Coles notes .. I stopped low dose nortriptyline cold turkey in feb really not knowing that this was not advisable
    My symptoms have been headache chills and most relentless is daily nausea that nothing appears to help . I have tried accupuncture / reflexology .. Osteopath probiotics / fish oil and clearly I cannot get relief . I have had three different “windows” which were heavenly but unfortunately did not last long .. My FEARS are through the roof of not recovering as I have not heard of many who have nausea for so long?
    If you know of others please let me know as there is comfort in knowing
    You are not alone .. And can get better. . If you have any further words of wisdom or encouragement I would be grateful .. I feel that I am wearing down from this physically and mentally I am exhausted .
    Thank you for your intelligent view on this matter
    Ps I am tired of the horror stories and anti med doctors who claim you may never recover. !! Shame on them its hard enough going through this we could do without the fear factor.

    Take good care
    I assume you are recovered !! Hope so


    • npanth Says:

      I am still tapering off Paxil. I’ve made it down to 4mg per day (I started at 40 mg per day). I haven’t had a bad wave in about 9 months. It’s hard to find people who recover and talk a lot about it. I’m not sure why, but people seem to shrink away from those discussions once they’ve made it past the crisis of withdrawal. It could be a reluctance to relive the experience, or a desire to move on. My unscientific measure of it says that most people recover without any long term effects. The time it takes to recover seems to vary from individual to individual. I just know that I went from a non functional state to a pretty normal one. The transition was difficult, but worthwhile. I think I’m in a better place than I was before I started taking Paxil, which is a big change from the way I felt while in withdrawal. I’m definitely better off than I was while taking the drug. Hang in there!

      • Cathy Says:

        Thank you for your reply wish you well and keep writing …its matter of fact and reassuring . If you come across any relief for nausea would appreciate the info
        In the meantime I will try to keep my spirits up and hope to recover soon

        • cray Says:

          Hi Cathy, I am not sure whether it will help or not but I find that when I am having a bad wave that I just have to keep telling my self that it is just my brain recovering – not a relapse. It is really hard when you are in the midst of a bad wave to think clearly and rationally. I have been off Effexor for 9 months now (stupidly went cold turkey which was hell) however I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Not to say I don’t have my bad waves however they are now down to hours not days and weeks. I now just tell myself that it is my brain playing tricks and trying to recover, not what I am really feeling and that helps. It also helps when you start to have some windows of feeling normal that you can hang on to. All I can say is take it slowly and do what you need to do to get through it. In the early stages I found the brain zaps and nausea/diarrhoea completely debilitating. I found that vitamin B and fish oil capsules helped – whether it was psychological or not I don’t know but I figured they helped me and got me through it. Best of luck – all I can say is hang in there. IT DOES GET BETTER.

          • Cathy Says:

            Dear Cray
            Thank you so much for your reply and I am pleased you are recovering .I will take your advice and try to think waves are recovery .. So hard at times . … to believe this can last so long . My waves don,t seem to be getting shorter or lighter for that matter .. I guess that’s what worries me .
            How long did your nausea last ? This is the worst symptom thus far.
            I am on fish oil / accupuncture ( not helping) .
            Again ty for taking time to reply and healing thoughts sent your way !

          • cray Says:

            Hi Cathy, The nausea, in it’s chronic form lasted about 3-4 months. I found ginger and camomile tea a little helpful, and exercise fantastic. (The plus side is I have lost the 25 kg I put on whilst on the meds, and I am fitter and healthier now than I have been since my teens!). I still have days where I feel off colour and don’t feel like eating but these are getting rarer the longer I go on. I also found the other thing that was really bad was the inability to sleep past about 4am every morning and then have a horrid sense of overwhelming dread whilst lying in bed – very hard ot explain. That has also passed and I can actually enjoy a lie in til 8 on the weekends. Just remember it will pass – you just need to stay strong when you are having a wave as I have felt like giving in on lots of occasions however I just have to look back to where I had a window and tell myself that I will give myself to the end of the day/week/month before I will change anything and invariably I would have a window or improvement to give myself some reprieve. Good luck and stay strong – keep a journal of how you are feeling so you have something concrete to look back on to see when you actually felt better/worse etc. This helps you stay objective.

          • Cathy Says:

            Hi Cray
            Thank you again for your reply. .. As I am in quite a nasty wave its so good to hear from someone who has been there … I am on month 7 and the nausea is so persistent it’s really hard to accept . I find when I don,t have a break from the symptoms the fear and what ifs consume me .
            Guess don,t have much choice but to carry on. .. I walk as much as I can but often feel so worn out however I am happy to exercise more based on your comment .. I think I would try anything at this point .
            I occasionally take a gravol .. But does nothing but knock me out and next day I feel like I have a hangover !
            It is always comforting to hear it will get better … Thanks for taking the time it’s appreciated

            Take care. ,

      • Stealth Says:

        I can attest to the fact that this is a difficult transition, BUT if you can hang in there and not give up it does get better. It has been 1 month of having gone cold-turkey off cilift. The first 2 weeks were absolute hell, i will not lie. The physical symptoms i think were the worst to deal with. I also tried everything to try and get through them, but you literally have to ride the storm. Some days are better than others. I have found now that all my physical symptoms have resolved nicely and the only ones i am still dealing with are the occasional irritability and moodiness; the emotional symptoms are taking a bit longer to go away, but it is definitely how you deal with them. I would recommend, from a personal point of view,the following:

        1. Rest – if it means you need to sleep 20 hours a day then do that. It is so important to give your body and mind time to adjust
        2. Exercise – i have found going out for a walk every day has helped lift my mood plus you get fresh air and sunshine which are all boosters for alleviating depression
        3. Eat healthy – i am now eating completely organic veggies and fruits, and only free range meat. The less toxins you are putting in your body and the more nutritious food you are consuming the better
        4. I take high dose Vitamin C, Calcium/Magnesium supplements as well as Omega 3 Fatty Acids. All excellent for managing depression
        5. You should look into taking a Niacin (Vit B3) supplement. This has been proved to be very beneficial for depression
        6. If you want to go natural, look at 5HTP at your local health shop. It helps boost serotonin in your brain, but be careful not to take it if you are still on antidepressants as you can get Serotonin Syndrome.

        Talking about it does help. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen; we gain hope that things will get better when we see that others have come through this.

        Wishing you a very speedy recovery :)

        • sophia Says:

          Hi there, Can you tell me how long you had been taking it and at what dose? I am taking citaplam at 20 mg and I think I would like to go cold turkey.

          • Evans Says:

            Sophia, how long have you been on these drugs?

          • sophia Says:

            I have been on these drugs about six months.

          • Evans Says:

            I was on the drugs for 4 months and stopped it cold turkey….had terrible withdrawal symptoms, been 4 months now off the drugs….but recovering slowly….I would say, even now the symptoms are there….but definitely mild and a lot better..I kept myself busy all the day, focussed on learning to cook….so was able to cope up with the symptoms…

            But a lot of ppl told me that if only I had not stopped it cold turkey, the symptoms would have been milder….my advise from my personal experience is, go for a gradual tapper

      • Cathy Luca Says:

        James : I have read your info on waves and windows again as I am in a wave .. Can you explain the coping mechanism using mindfulness further . I am not sure I understand the approach .
        I am growing weary of this withdrawal and trying most anything that might help
        Keep well sending healing thoughts to all suffering through this

        • npanth Says:

          I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your question.
          It’s hard to get started with mindfulness. In the beginning, it doesn’t seem to do much good. It does eventually help with symptoms, though. Essentially, we’re all used to having a built in emotional filter that keeps us acting according to our innate beliefs. We don’t shout at random people because we don’t believe it’s right. We don’t have to remind ourselves not to shout at people, it just happens. In withdrawal, that automatic filter is muted. It’s much easier to get angry or depressed, sometimes without reason.
          Mindfulness is trying to assert conscious control instead of relying on an internal filter that may not be working in withdrawal. It’s hard to put the brakes on withdrawal anger/depression and realize that it’s not your normal behavior. That’s the goal in being mindful, though. I hope that helps, I sometimes have trouble articulating what’s involved.

  29. Chanel Says:

    Hey everyone, I have been prescribed Prozac and have been on it for a year, 20 mgs at night. One day I abruptly discontinued use, because I thought I was “better”, (and I feel like a dummy on my behalf, because it wasn’t that I was better, it was the medication that was helping me feel better.) Well, after a few weeks I noticed I felt manic, headaches, fatigue, anger, anxiety, and I non-stop sweat (even if it’s a cooler day outside.) Well, I promptly started taking my medication again at 20 mgs at night for about 5 days now. I still feel the withdrawal symptoms. And, I’m curious if these are normal symptoms to feel, and how long it should start to go away after starting my medication again. I am a suffer of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, OCD, and depression. I’m sorry if this post seems stupid, I just feel very anxious and agoraphobic and it frightens me.

  30. Cristi Says:

    I was prescribed Prozac in 1992 for chronic pain, which I now know was due to a mix of late disseminated (untreated) Lyme Disease and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It was a very low dose, but I stayed on it until 2000. I became aware that not only was it not helping my pain, it was causing cognitive dysfunction, mental problems, and making driving dangerous. I weaned myself off of it according to the best known procedures of the time. Restless leg syndrome, night sweats, and colossal fatigue continued for some time after I quit; “brain shocks,” chills, fatigue, and emotional/psychological damage, however, lasted for another 10 years. I am better today but still experience hyperacusis, hypersensitivity to smells, and a completely destroyed sex life.

  31. Dandy Says:

    I have a question. My dr had put me on buspar. I was on it for 9 days and stopped because of the side effects. My dr stopped me cold turkey and I had some bad side effects, crying, etc. both my dr and therapist said it wasn’t withdrawal and suggested I start a ssri. (I never went to a therapist before and did just to make sure i was covering all basis). I have been off citalopram for 4 months now. I had taken it for a rapid heartbeat and difficulty sleeping. As soon as I started taking it, I had increased anxiety towards my baby and things in general. The biggest thing for me is the fact that I now have crazy thoughts of hurting myself or others. I had taken the medicine for 6 months and it took almost the whole time for me to actually feel good and the crazy thoughts to go away. I weaned going down from 20 to 10 mg and crashed hard 2.5 days later, crying for now good reason. My dr put me back on 20 mg and the crazy thoughts came back. I weaned 2.5 mg about every two weeks which was probably way too fast. After stopping I wasn’t too bad for a couple weeks. Now I still have lots of side effects I never had before. I have terrible insomnia, still have brain zaps, I get head tingles when my son hits me (he is 1.5 years d and loves to slap), I am always dizzy, feels like vertigo, feel drunk without drinking. I think I am so sensitive to these medicines and my brain is taking for ever to heal. Anyone have a story like this? James, can you comment? You by far have published the best information by far. Thanks! Sorry it goes back and forth with the timeline.

  32. Linda Says:

    James – THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post!!!! I have read the entire thread and am SO relieved about the anger issues!!! Your words: ” I thought that Paxil was the only keeping me from becoming the nasty, angry person I really was.” sounded JUST LIKE ME! You have really helped me to understand why I’m feeling the way I am, where NO ONE else has been able to with these withdrawals!

    I was on Cymbalta 60mg for 5 yrs for fibromyalgia. Decided it was time to get off it because I felt like it was “making me stupid” if you can understand what that means… On my third attempt, I taught myself through much research and trial & error how to successfully decrease the dose all the way down to 5mg. At that point with no side effects, I decided when I ran out of the Rx, I would go “cold turkey” from there. Well, maybe that was a little hasty but I just wanted off of it already! Was decreasing by 10 mg every month so it was already 6mths at that point. The nausea and lightheadedness are mild and tolerable BUT the emotional rollercoaster is NASTY!!! I ripped my poor husband’s head off because he bought the wrong dogfood and opened the bag so it couldn’t be returned! Then, after the anger hits and I rip everyone’s faces off, I end up crying for a couple of hours! Wastes my entire day. This goes on all morning and progressively eases up by the afternoon. I literally thought that this was the new me and I was hating who I have become!

    I can’t thank you enough for your explanation of the wave and window, and how this is NOT ME and will eventually get better! Learning how to stop my snake tongue is going to be tough but I must find a way, as I have young kids that don’t deserve it! If anyone has any other good suggestions beyone just stopping yourself before you lash out, I would appreciate it! I’m having a very hard time with this and am going to lose friends and family over this!!!
    Thanks so much!

  33. Robert Says:

    My history is of taking Paxil for about 13 years at between 20-30 mg/day. I have tried to get off it many times, and have gone through the meanness and excitability stuff to a reasonable calm after a period of time on several occasion. What gets me back onto Paxil each time has been what I call paresthesia, or more specifically an extreme sensitivity to vibration. There is also, to a lesser extent, accompanying headaches (feels like sand in the head), and some sensitivity to light and sound (having to shout over a loud TV makes me crazy). My pharmacologist has me tapering on fluoxetine and lyrica (for the paresthesia). My moods are OK, though the Lyrica puts me into a dream-like state, but the paresthesia is still present, though reduced a bit. My question is, have others experienced this sensitivity to vibration, and if so, how long did they last? Many thanks to you for this excellent blog. I thought I had read them all until I found this thread. Good luck to anyone trying to get off of these nasty drugs!

  34. christie Says:

    Thank you very much for this information, this is the only place I’ve been able to find anything so informative on this subject. I’d like your opinion on the possibily of having withdrawals when you only on an SSRI (Lexapro) for 24 days. I’ve been on it in the past and have horrible start-up side effects with increased depression and anxiety (very bad). Usually I adjust after 2 weeks. In this instance I was not leveling out and stopped 12 days ago (24 days on and 12 days off). I’ve felt have horrible (increased) depression and anxeity for over a month. Basically the start-up and the stopping symthoms are the same. Have you heard of this before? Even though it seem impossible to be going through withdrawals on something you never adjusted to, I’m hoping this is whats happening as I want to feel better and hope to follow the pattern you’ve outlined. I’m experiencing the waves and windows you decribed and hopeing I’ll get better. It’s so hard to stay postive during the waves.

    • Stealth Says:

      Hey christie,

      When you start taking antidepressants, you get side effects. When you stop taking them, you get withdrawals. More times than not, the side effects are similar to the withdrawals. I was fortunate that i never experienced any side effects when i started Cilift; however i experienced the withdrawals in full glaring detail, and they are pretty much all the ones you read about having if you start the medication.

      You will get better, just hang in there. I went cold turkey, which is the worst way to stop but if you can make it through the initial horrible phase, you will be fine :)

      • cathy luca Says:

        I stopped low dose nortriptyine in February .. after taking it for 2+ years for pain. I have had withdrawal symptoms ever since headaches and nausea mainly the other things I can deal with.. I am almost overwhelmed by the fact that I am not getting better and afraid this will not end… I have tried every natural approach for some relief..however, I have had small breaks in between when the symptoms are better but the windows are not getting longer as most suggest.
        ANy advice and or support


        • Stealth Says:

          Hi cathy,

          What natural treatments have you tried? I mentioned in another post on this thread a few things that worked for me. Vitamin C in high doses, Calcium/Magnesium and Omega 3 Fish Oils, Niacin (Vit B3) are all very beneficial. I would also recommend perhaps seeing a naturopath who might be able to advise you on what else you could take naturally to help overcome the symptoms. The body is an amazing machine; for some people it takes less time than others to get over because it is such an individual experience. Perhaps even try some alternative therapies such as acupuncture?

          Let me know how it goes?

          • cathy luca Says:

            thank you for your reply…. I have tried accupunture on a few occasions and will see a naturpath .. just frustrating for sure.
            I the patterns of windows and waves exist ..they just don’t seem to be getting better.
            I am on fish oil and vit d so far. can try the other vits suggested and certainly appreciate your point of view.

          • cathy luca Says:

            ONe more question .. anything for headache pain… regular pain relievers tylenol and aleve actually make in worse. … ?

        • Siyi Says:

          I definitely recommend natural path and acupuncture. Herbal medicine and acupuncture are what helped me to get thru the nasty symtops. They help your body speed up detoxification and adjust your metabolism back to normal. Those methods helped with my depression and anxiety so much. My acupuncturist is a MD as well as expert in Chinese traditional medicine. And I wasn’t the first one she treated who try to quit antidepressants.

      • christie Says:

        Thanks Stealth – I appreciate the reassurance. I am very slowing having better days, but it’s still freighenting and I worry I won’t be myself again.

        • Stealth Says:

          Don’t worry.. i sat with that issue as well especially where it concerned the physical symptoms, especially the dizziness. I thought i would be this unbalanced individual for ever… but the dizziness has passed. It’s more of a gradual thing; it wasn’t like one day i woke up and wasn’t dizzy again. It was more like each day the feeling wasn’t as bad as before, until eventually i hardly noticed i was dizzy. I am still struggling a bit with the emotional side; i tend to get angry, irritable and moody very quickly so i have to learn to just stop, take a deep breath and think before i act. I guess that is part of the rewiring and reconditioning process; of being able to cope in a new way without meds. Just hang in there, it does get better… i can personally vouch for that :)

  35. Marie Says:

    I stopped Citalopram suddenly by mistake when I forgot to get my tablets. It’d been 5 days and I noticed my anxiety, one of the reasons I was put on 40mg in the first place, had literally pretty much vanished. 3 years and they made me worse. My GP told me to ride out the withdrawal now as it had been 5 days and put me on 50mg of Sertraline instead. I have to pick them up tomorrow. It’s been 8 days and I feel terrible. Head and body shocks, nausea, restlessness, crying but only when I try to go to sleep. I feel very scared but I have no idea why. My question is, when I do start my Sertraline, will they cancel out the withdrawal effects from Citalopram? Any help would be much appreciated.

  36. Evans Says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Until I read this blog, I never knew what I was undergoing. Many thanks to James and everyone for a detailed thread on this subject. I actually started to take antidepressants in Mid July and took them over for 8 weeks. I was suffering from Religious OCD (a form of anxiety disorder) and I was unable to bear those intrusive thoughts and finally decided to consult a doc to get rid of that disorder. He put me on the following medicnes for 8 weeks and also gave me some intravenous medication two weeks once in that 8 weeks of overall treatment. Anxnil 2.5 (half tablet) along with Ciplar 10mg daily morning and afternoon. At 7 o clock every evening, Nildep and at nights Lorezpam. Initially after taking these tablets and that IV, I used to sleep like hell and my anxiety levels would be at peak. And after every IV, I was getting totally strange experience, which I couldnt express in words. I did start feeling better and by that time the doc said he would taper my medicines and the only taper he did was in the I V. But I didnt find any difference in the no of bottles I was dripped. But he said he had tapered my dose and asked me to stay on the same tablets for 10 days from the last drip therapy and he also gave another tablet oline (dont know the spelling exactly) and asked me to stop the tablets after 10 days. And after a week I was on a rollercoaster ride of anxiety and I had no clue on what was happenin to me. Jus surfed through the net to get some light on this subjetc and landed here in this blog and it really really has helped a lot to understand what I was undergoing. I too have the waves and windows and lot of other withdrawal symptms listed here. If I had known these dreadly effects of the ADs I would have agreed for the therapy in 1st place. I understood from the posts that stopping it cold turkey will be very harmful and I guess my doc has exactly asked me to do. Wondering why a doctor in such a critical role, isnt aware of things and put his patients into situations like this!!!!!!! Can somebody please tel me how long I will have these withdrawal effects. I am married and I am worried If I get pregnant during this period, whether it will affect the baby or not. I really dont want my baby undergo all of this. Such a terrible feeling it is!!!! Its been exactly a month and 10 days since I have stopped the tablets. But feeling a lot better than few horrible days back….Will I ever gt rid of this thing!!!! Please advise.

  37. Evans Says:

    Hi Everyone,

    Until I read this blog, I never knew what I was undergoing. Many thanks to James and everyone for a detailed thread on this subject. I actually started to take antidepressants in Mid July and took them over for 8 weeks. I was suffering from Religious OCD (a form of anxiety disorder) and I was unable to bear those intrusive thoughts and finally decided to consult a doc to get rid of that disorder. He put me on the following medicnes for 8 weeks and also gave me some intravenous medication two weeks once in that 8 weeks of overall treatment. Anxnil 2.5 (half tablet) along with Ciplar 10mg daily morning and afternoon. At 7 o clock every evening, Nildep and at nights Lorezpam. Initially after taking these tablets and that IV, I used to sleep like hell and my anxiety levels would be at peak. And after every IV, I was getting totally strange experience, which I couldnt express in words. I did start feeling better and by that time the doc said he would taper my medicines and the only taper he did was in the I V. But I didnt find any difference in the no of bottles I was dripped. But he said he had tapered my dose and asked me to stay on the same tablets for 10 days from the last drip therapy and he also gave another tablet oline (dont know the spelling exactly) and asked me to stop the tablets after 10 days. And after a week I was on a rollercoaster ride of anxiety and I had no clue on what was happenin to me. Jus surfed through the net to get some light on this subjetc and landed here in this blog and it really really has helped a lot to understand what I was undergoing. I too have the waves and windows and lot of other withdrawal symptms listed here. If I had known these dreadly effects of the ADs I wouldnt have agreed for the therapy in 1st place. I understood from the posts that stopping it cold turkey will be very harmful and I guess my doc has exactly asked me to do so. Wondering why a doctor in such a critical role, isnt aware of things and puts his patients into situations like this!!!!!!! Can somebody please tel me how long I will have these withdrawal effects. I am married and I am worried If I get pregnant during this period, the baby will be affected with anxiety. I really dont want my baby undergo all of this. Such a terrible feeling it is!!!! Its been exactly a month and 10 days since I have stopped the tablets. But feeling a lot better than few horrible days back….Will I ever gt rid of this thing!!!! Please advise.

    • Marie Says:

      I’ve spoken to my doctor and she said there are NO dangerous side effects, just the unpleasant body shocks, twitches, sickness etc. I did read online it was dangerous stopping cold turkey, as in dangerous to your physical health, and that set me off a lot. Anxiety kicked in. I spoke to my Doctor and was told not to believe everything I read online Xx

  38. Siyi Says:

    Just wanna say thanks so much for this article. I’m glad to know I’m not alone!

  39. Dandy Says:

    Does anyone have a success story of someone who finally beat their symptoms. I was on citalopram 20 mg for six months. Tapered over 3 months and now off completely for 4.5 months and still having lots of waves. Any positive stories would be refreshing.

    • Marie Says:

      Yes, I’ve been off them about 3 weeks and I feel better. I have no more withdrawal symptoms after being on 40mg daily for 3 years. They made my anxiety worse! Only realised after stopping them. I’d see your doctor as that’s a log time of withdrawal symptoms. Hope you feel better soon x

    • npanth Says:

      There are many success stories. The thing about success is that it means recovery from symptoms. For the most part, people want to move on with their lives. I think that a lot of people don’t continue to write about their experiences. I’m not sure if they don’t want to relive it, or withdrawal has lost the overwhelming grip on their minds that it had before.
      For a long time, I couldn’t think of much past withdrawal. That obsession has kind of faded away as my symptoms have diminished. I don’t know if I’m a success story, I’m still taking 4mg of Paxil each day. My symptoms are pretty light, though. I hope your symptoms fade soon.

      • Evans Says:

        James, can you please advise on my post please

        Until I read this blog, I never knew what I was undergoing. Many thanks to James and everyone for a detailed thread on this subject. I actually started to take antidepressants in Mid July and took them over for 8 weeks. I was suffering from Religious OCD (a form of anxiety disorder) and I was unable to bear those intrusive thoughts and finally decided to consult a doc to get rid of that disorder. He put me on the following medicnes for 8 weeks and also gave me some intravenous medication two weeks once in that 8 weeks of overall treatment. Anxnil 2.5 (half tablet) along with Ciplar 10mg daily morning and afternoon. At 7 o clock every evening, Nildep and at nights Lorezpam. Initially after taking these tablets and that IV, I used to sleep like hell and my anxiety levels would be at peak. And after every IV, I was getting totally strange experience, which I couldnt express in words. I did start feeling better and by that time the doc said he would taper my medicines and the only taper he did was in the I V. But I didnt find any difference in the no of bottles I was dripped. But he said he had tapered my dose and asked me to stay on the same tablets for 10 days from the last drip therapy and he also gave another tablet oline (dont know the spelling exactly) and asked me to stop the tablets after 10 days. And after a week I was on a rollercoaster ride of anxiety and I had no clue on what was happenin to me. Jus surfed through the net to get some light on this subjetc and landed here in this blog and it really really has helped a lot to understand what I was undergoing. I too have the waves and windows and lot of other withdrawal symptms listed here. If I had known these dreadly effects of the ADs I wouldnt have agreed for the therapy in 1st place. I understood from the posts that stopping it cold turkey will be very harmful and I guess my doc has exactly asked me to do so. Wondering why a doctor in such a critical role, isnt aware of things and puts his patients into situations like this!!!!!!! Can somebody please tel me how long I will have these withdrawal effects. I am married and I am worried If I get pregnant during this period, the baby will be affected with anxiety. I really dont want my baby undergo all of this. Such a terrible feeling it is!!!! Its been exactly a month and 10 days since I have stopped the tablets. But feeling a lot better than few horrible days back….Will I ever gt rid of this thing!!!! Please advise.

    • cray Says:

      I have now been 9 months off Effexor (after 6 years on it for Post natal depression). The first 3-4 months were hell. I am slowly having less and less of the waves and more windows and now (finally) have periods where I “forget” about the withdrawal I am going through and only when I stop and think about it do I realise how well and “normal” I am feeling. All I can say is if you are having a bad time – just roll with it and tell yourself it is just your brain adjusting. I found keeping a diary (very basic with just basic feeling for the day) very helpful as it allowed me to look back when I was in a wave and see how long since I had a window – to basically reassure myself that I had been feeling good – it isn’t a permanent thing just something that takes time and varies for everyone unfortunately. Just hang in there. It does get better.

      • Dandy Says:

        Thanks for your insights! I appreciate the reassurance. What a roller coaster we have all been on.

      • Cathy Luca Says:

        Dear Cray
        I reach out this am as I have been waking up at 4 ish last two weeks and cannot get back to sleep .. The dreaded what ifs start to swirl and I pray for the sunrise which brings some consolation .
        I am at the 8 month mark and starting to see some break up of symptoms but it’s still a daily stuggle .
        If you could provide your protocol for healing and any further patterns that might be encouraging I would be very grateful .
        I started accupunture again yesterday ( tried 2 other sessions) but this individual seems more skilled / taking omega 3 / vit d / gluten free diet 4 weeks now / see an osteopath weekly / and some cardio daily .. I could not have thought of it 2 months ago .
        Still suffer with nausea .. This “knot in my stomach” occasional headaches and this creepy feeling in my upper arms .. Not numbness but something ?.
        I am encouraged by your progress so if you have any further words of wisdom I am so willing to try .
        Ps : I do not have a Dr who will acknowledge these symptoms as withdrawal so on my own to carry on.
        Take care, will not continue to post but your story resonates more so with my experience thus far so its personally meaningful ( I had not come across many who suffered from the nausea for so long. ! )
        For now

        Sincerely Cathy ..

        • cray Says:

          Hi Cathy,
          Hang in there – I also used to wake in the morning early lying there listening to the quiet feeling that awful sense of dread that it was another day. I can’t tell you the last time it occurred. I know wake in the morning feeling rested and ready for the day. All I can say is just take it each day at the time. If you feel better when the daylight comes take heed that you are feeling better. Small steps. I also still feel nausea and yukky in my tummy but it is no where near as frequently. I am now getting pleasure out of life rather than going through the motions. I still have days where I just have to focus on keeping busy and going from one task to the next to just keep going howeever they are becoming fewer and fewer. Just keep yourself going and moving. That is the most important thing I find. I find I don’t realise I am having a great day and in a window until the next wave hits and you realise you had been doing well. That is why I find my “feeling” journal is important. I also find my waves and windows are tied very closely to my cycle. I have just recently gone on a long acting pill to try and “smooth” these out. Too early to see if it is working.

          Hope you start to feel better soon,

          • cathy luca Says:

            Hi there

            thanks for your reply…. I will take more notice of the good/ bad pattern. appreciate your impute and encouragement … wishing you continued healing and drop a line if anything changes or works for you I am open.


    • stealthangel Says:

      Hey Dandy,

      I’ve been off Cilift for going on 2 months now after going cold turkey. The first 2 weeks were sheer hell, but slowly the grey cloud lifted and i have been physical symptom free. I find now that i am not numbed by the antidepressants, i tend to experience emotions more intensely, so i have to keep reminding myself that i am finding a new way to cope now without the meds, and that i need to stop and think about what i am feeling before i react. Hang in there, it does get better…:)

  40. Cathy Luca Says:

    Hi there
    I had a break from symptoms for a few weeks and thought its over .. Then suddenly I was hit with all of it again !!
    I know it’s coming as I get freezing cold .. Then headache nausea all over again . The fact that this was the longest window in 7 months .. Could it mean I may be closer to recovery ? Its so hard to take this once you had a break ..
    I have asked before but if anyone has had relief for nausea and chronic
    Headaches please let me know. .
    I will start accupuncture again next week ..
    Cray if you are out there hope you are continuing to do well ..
    I believe you were at the 9 month mark
    Thank you for all who post and sending everyone the courage and strength to hang in there !!


    • cray Says:

      Hi Cathy – yes I am out there and still hanging in there. Certainly having longer and longer windows but the waves still do come. As you said, I know when they are coming as I get freezing cold and can’t get warm and then it starts. Certainly getting better each week. I can know look in days and weeks and plan ahead unlike in the beginning when I had to take it minutes at a time. I can happily plan events for weeks and months in advance and know it will be okay. This is certainly a nice change. Just keep telling yourself that it will get better. We just have to hang in there.

      • Cathy luca Says:

        Great to hear you are moving forward … And certainly appreciate your response . I am so comforted that others are having similar experiences . ..its hard to cope with the roller coaster symptoms .Not at a point where I can plan much but seeing the light . When did you start to feel the bigger breaks ?
        Take good care and continued healing

  41. Evans Says:

    Can We take fish oils as supplements to cope up with withdrawal symptoms….or again will there be any withdrawal associated when we discontinue the fish oil supp tablets..!!!

  42. Lesley Says:

    I have taken Omega 3 fishoil for a number of years and now that I’m starting my 6th month of terrible withdrawal, the one thing I have not had is brain zaps. I think this is because of the fish oil.

  43. Lesley Says:

    I meant my 6th month of withdrawal from paroxtine. Fish Oil definately helped with symptoms.

  44. Lesley Says:

    Also Blackmores travel calm ginger helps with nausea.

  45. Sue Says:

    This seems one of the best sites I have found so far on SSRI withdrawal problems….
    Just wondering if anyone has any advice about when to start next taper.
    I am trying a 4th attempt to stop Lexapro 20mg and am v sesnstive to dropping levels as even taking tab a little late makes me v spaced all day so I knew it would be v hard to come off.
    This time I started with a 5% taper and am now in week 9- headches better, but brain fog & fatigue, though improving still there.Have 4 teenagers, a husband who works away and I am a GP so find all the head symptoms make it extra hard to manage (rest assured, I don’t start patients on these meds readily- can’t believe in the UK they are the first line treatment still. Must admit I avoided any meds for many yaers til finally succumbed….)
    Do I wait ’til things fully settled or plough on as will be many years at this rate to even reach normal ‘safe’levels of 10mg?

    Best wishes to everyone stuck with this nightmare


    • Dandy Says:

      My advise is once you start, just keep going when you think it’s time. Like you I am super sensative to the ssri meds. I weaned off of citalopram 20 mg in 2.5 months which I’m sure was too Fast. I only took the meds for about 7 months and am now 6 months complexly off and still ave the waves with terrible brain zaps, cloudiness and intrusive thought. This has been a nightmare but there is an end in sight. Just tell yourself that you will get off this medicine and don’t give up. You will go thru periods of depression, anger and anxiety. Don’t give up. This has been the worst experience of my life, but hopefully will be over soon. Take care!

  46. Sue Says:

    Thanks Dandy-it’s really good to have some encouragement from a fellow sufferer. Head a bit clearer today so hopefully will try another 5% drop in New year-or maybe even 2%….this is going to be a very long job but I am determined to make it this time!
    Glad to hear you are winning – it really helps to keep me motivated to know that eventually each stage improves
    Can I just ask-did you ever try any of the supplements omega 3/ multi vits esp vit B/ The Road Home formulary things??
    I am half heartedly trying various but not really convinced so far…..

    Thanks and take care


    • Dandy Says:

      The only supplements I have taken and still do are fish oil, vitamin b complex, vitamin d and and a multi vitamin. Hang in there. People who are super sensative have a rough road ahead of them.

  47. Cathy luca Says:

    Dearest Sue
    Good luck with your journey … As far as supplements try one at a time as I was soo sensitive to everything .. Omega is the one I have stuck with. .. Get a good high potency one . Tried magnesium Vit d and C but they do not always agree with me. Accupunture is helping now but initially did not impact .
    I went cold turkey stopping a tricylic antidepressant – OMG what a challenge but sticking it out and progressing slowly .
    Wish you well …
    Take care

  48. Cathryn A Says:

    Dear cray
    How are you doing. ? Hope this email finds you recovered. !
    Still struggling here .. Nausea continues. .. Seem to suffer from acid ( reflux no heartburn but found inflammation in esophagus Never had any issues with my gut prior to this journey
    Trying to control with diet as do not want to take drugs / tried pepcid ac and had such a reaction .
    In a bad wave -again … Hoping for a break soon .
    Healing thoughts to all !!
    Ps : if anyone has suggestions to nausea relief please provide .. I think I have tried anything and everything ..


    • Dandy Says:

      Feel free to try omeprazol for your heartburn. I use it all the time. Like you, I go thru waves of bad heartburn.

      • Cathy Says:

        Thanks Dandy dr gave me rx for nexium .. Took a few but my system is so sensitive to anything. .. However , will give omeprazol a try . Does it help with nausea ?
        Ty again

    • Jay Says:

      After 5 years of digestive discomfort after going off Lexapro, I went to a chiropractor that does visceral manipulation. I have had 7 sessions and am feeling about 80% better. Rolfing was helpful too. Good luck in your search to feel better.

    • cray Says:

      Hi Cathy,
      Recovered I am not sure is the right word but lots more good windows and less and less waves. Like you I too have been having a lot of gastro type problems, acid burning and diarrhoea – have had a scope and apparently very inflamed but no obvious cause of the problems – I am convinced it is just yet another withdrawal symptom I have to work through. I am at this stage trying to control it through diet.

      I must say though that I am now happily planning future holidays/evens and looking forward to them and can get through the week without really having to think too much. Much nicer place than where I was. I have just hit the 12 month mark. I still find when my period is due that I feel lousy (certainly more pronounced than it ever used to be pre withdrawal) however I started depoprovero injections to try and balance that out and have decided to stop them as it is yet another drug in my system and I don’t know if it is exacerbating the problem or helping.

      Just hang in there. We just have to be strong.

      • Cathryn A Says:

        Dear Cray
        So glad to have heard from you and pleased to know that your windows are more pronounced . I was shocked to hear of my acid reflux but as you it is apparent its withdrawal . I am gluten and acid free diet no caffine and or alcohol ( miss my glass of wine once in awhile ) I don,t mind the sacrifice but nothing seems to have made a big difference.
        I am going to start taking a zinc annd carnosine (75ml) supplement . The studies are quite encouraging for gastro relief .. Try to look it up . I will certainly update you if it helps. I am also very pleased you stopped the shots ( the synthetics cannot be good ) Are you taking any supplements .I was taking Omega but read that it can cause acid reflux so stopped a week ago?? So overwhelmed on what to do or not ?
        On feb 12th it will be my one year as well .. So I am hoping for a turning point soon.
        Take good care let me know how you are doing … Sending positive healing your way !


    • Janelle Owings Says:

      I’ve gotten some relief from raw apple cider vinegar–2 tbs. 2 times a day. Then I switched to ginger tincture and it works about the same. One dropper full in about 1 once water. Neither tastes good. Follow immediately by glass of water and crackers to kill taste.

  49. Sean Says:

    Hey James,
    Great article very informative. I was on 20mg citalopram for around 10 months and slowly came of them as instructed by my doctor, he said there would be mild withdrawal symptoms but nothing to be concerned about. When I started to come off them my personality disappeared I felt totally depressed which is something I’ve never felt before, hopeless and out of control. It’s now nearly 10 months on and it is better but I’m still feeling ‘disconnected’ and not myself. I’ve looked for advice everywhere and yours seems to be the most genuine and close to the truth. My question is do you know how much longer it will be till I can be back to my old self? Everyone tells me it should be out of my system but i know it’s still affecting me even this long since coming off them.

  50. Rafael Says:

    i just started Zoloft and Xanax to treat my ocd and got scared with the withdrawal reports. Maybe i should stop right now and try a natural alternative (exercises, meditation, sunlight, yoga)? It is strange to start a treatment knowing that you will get worse when quitting. Please, i’d appreciate any comments. Thanks a lot.

  51. sophia Says:

    Rafael, I do not understand the issues with OCD at all. I am not a doctor or even very knowledgeable but I truly despise the grouping of drugs called SSRI’s of which Zoloft is one. They are almost impossible to come off of and you never really learn how to live with the side affects or how to deal with problems outside of the dullness of the drugs. I am celexa free now for four days, 23 hours, and 43 minutes and things are starting to clear up for me. I can focus at work more and just overall see things so clearly both literally and figuratively.

    Paxil ruined my marriage. My wonderful husband of 23 years began taking paxil two years ago and his wonderful beautiful personality changed when taking this drug. He went from being father of the year to not wanting anything to do with his kids. It is really a sad but quite common story.

  52. LilianG Says:

    Hi. 6 weeks ago I took my last dose of Citalopram. I had a two week taper from 30mg. 1 wk @ 20mg, 1 wk @ 10mg . I was then due to have a washout week before starting Sertraline. However, as I felt more ‘alive’ than I had done for years, I decided to stay off medication.
    I had also done some research on supplements eg omega3, vitamin D, and excercise etc.
    The first 2-3 says were fine.
    The next 10 days were horrendous….night sweats, insomnia, nausea, loose bowels, crying etc
    Then up to 5 weeks I felt really good.
    The last week or so,I feel the withdrawal symptoms are returning…night sweats, nausea, crying.
    But…..are these withdrawal effects or are my anxiety/depression returning.

    Do the waves and windows go on for months??

    Any comments would be appreciated.

  53. Julie Says:

    I have just stopped taking citalopram after 18 months on 40mg.
    My Dr said to go from 40mg to 20mg for 10 days and then stop completely which I have done.
    The drop from 40 to 20 was hard but bearable – my anxiety and anger went off the scale but I was coping. 4 days ago I stopped taking citalopram completely.
    I feel awful – bit like I’ve got flu. A headache that won’t go and dizziness. I am getting awful dreams and night sweats and totally lack energy. The irritation has morphed into a kind of depression or despair interspersed with panic attacks and irritation/anger.
    I am having to watch everything I do or say- a kind of internal censor – as I don’t trust myself to react appropriately.
    Unfortunately I have no choice but to persevere as I was told that the citalopram is wrong for me and was making things worse. All I want to do is lay down with a blanket indoors and sleep – I’ve no energy or get up and go. I am just hoping and praying this passes.

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  55. Cathy Says:

    I was prescribed Zoloft – 50mg per day for anxiety . I was also prescribed amytriptiline 25 mg per day for nerve pain from my back. I only took the zoloft for 6 weeks and had been on the amytriptiline for 10 days when I developed seratonin symdrome and had to go to hospital for 2 days for observation as my heart rate was increased, low blood pressure and muscle spasms in my legs. As a result of this I had to stop all medications cold turkey. I was fine for 2 weeks and then withdrawel started exactly 2 weeks after I stopped, The only way to describe it is tremors inside my body in my arms, shoulders and across my chest and can be difficult to sleep as a result of these tremors. I also have random muscle twitches in any given place in my body – usually my legs and my face. It is now 5 weeks since these symptoms started and there is no let up or no pattern.. It is very hard to describe this to a doctor as I think they aren’t taking me seriously and that it’s all in my head.
    Has anyone experienced these tremors and any idea of how long more they will last ?Thank you and just to say that this is an extremely helpful website and I don’t feel so alone.

  56. Val D Says:

    Hi everyone. I was on Cipralex (Escitalopram) for just over a year. Started taking 10MG a day and that’s where I stayed for almost a year, then dropped to half a pill (5MG) a day for about 3 months until I decided to stop altogether. It didn’t really do anything for my Social Anxiety and it made me gain about 15 pounds. I stopped taking the pills exactly a week ago and it’s been very strange to say the least. It seems like I’m in a sort of dream state almost all the time, I am a bit dizzy all the time, my head hurts especially when I turn my head sharply and I feel nauseous sometimes. I strongly believe that everything will eventually get back to normal and my brain will resume it’s normal functions. I’ve been taking Omega-3 and Vitamin D for the past year and I’ve added vitamin B-50 to the regimen. I also started to run again about an hour a day and will try to stay on this path for the foreseeable future. I think that these symptoms are to be expected after pumping these chemicals into my body for the past year, however I believe that everything will get back to normal eventually and I just have to power through. I know that it’s easier said than done, however I always remind myself that if this is how I feel after stopping just one year on a relatively small dosage of this stuff, it most certainly cannot be good for me. Your most powerful weapon is your brain and even though throwing chemicals at it might be a short term fix, it will not solve the root problems most of us have for being on these drugs in the first place. The most important thing you can do when you get hit with some of the withdrawal symptoms is to acknowledge the fact that it’s normal for your body to react that way and that these are just temporary waves that will eventually go away no matter what. Try to be calm, breathe slowly and focus your attention on something else. Regular exercise will bring more oxygen to your brain and speed up the “healing” process. I wish you all a fast recovery and know that you will most definitely get there eventually!

  57. Sara Flower Kjeldsen Says:

    As strange as these withdrawal symptoms are, I am happy to be off of the SSRI’s. I don’t like the lack of research put into them, and they didn’t help me combat depression. It turned out to be an expensive mistake that gave me a lot of nausea.

  58. Julia K Says:

    Hi Everybody and thank you James for this blog. By reading this and all the posts, I have a newfound hope that I might survive this ordeal. I have been on meds for 15 years and I am entering my 3 rd month of withdrawal. It has been pure torture mentally and physically. I am unable to complete small tasks and I cannot work. I was wondering if anyone else is incapacitated to the point where they can’t work ? Any info would be greatly appreciated. I wish continued healing to all. What a monster we have all been dealing with.

  59. LilianG Says:

    I too was on meds for 15+ years. I’ve now been off them for almost 4 months. It has been a roller coaster ride to say the least.
    I am fortunate that I work part time and have the option of flexible working. If I feel so bad that I can’t work, then I go in on a different day. Up to now I am coping. I am so glad to be out of the ‘fog’ that I was in whilst on meds. I used to sleep all night and day. My sleep now is very interrupted though and I have really bad night sweats.
    Mentally, although I am not depressed I do get anxious. I also cry at the slightest thing…for no reason.
    I am taking Omega 3 and vitamin D3, plus I use a light box in the mornings. I think that these are helping me along the journey.
    You are quite right Julia….what a monster!!

    • Jay Says:

      Acupuncture has been helpful to me for anxiousness and insomnia. I hope you feel better soon.

    • Julia K Says:

      Hi Lilian,
      I’m glad for your sake that you have a flexible work situation. I’m seeing my doc on Wednesday and I think he might not sign my insurance paper. If that’s the case and I can’t work, I will lose my job. All of us here take meds because we have to deal with things that other people don’t. It seems so unfair that we have to go through this as well. I wasn’t sleeping at all for a while and that resolved on it’s own, so be strong. Thanks for the tips and I hope you feel better soon.

  60. Christy Says:

    I don’t know what to do!!! I am on day 8 without Zoloft after 15 years of fluctuating between 200 and 150 mg. I am constantly dizzy and nauseous. I have not been able to leave the house as I am constantly feeling I am a moment away of having a seizure. I can not function at all. I can’t even drive! I have been out of work for 5 days now and can’t see an end to this feeling. I can’t even run to the store or even cook a simple meal. I feel as if my brain is throbbing and pulsing. I am on edge with bouts of anger and emotions. Please tell me this goes away!!! I don’t want to have come this far to just take the easy way out and start back up on my meds. I can deal with uncomfortable for the greater good if I can see an end in sight but right now I am non functional and that does not work when you have a a family to take care of. Anything anyone can share I would be ever so grateful!

    • Julia K Says:

      Hi Christy,
      I know exactly what you’re going through. It gets better. I can’t tell you how long it will last, but I can tell you that it does become less intense, the very beginning is the worst. I couldn’t imagine driving ever again and I have. Try to give yourself time to heal, not easy with people to take care of, but it does get better. Hang in there and if you need to talk about it, write to me.

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