Stopping SSRI Antidepressants Can Cause Long, Intense Withdrawal Problems

Rob Wipond
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44673

In the first systematic review of withdrawal problems that patients experience when trying to get off SSRI antidepressant medications, a team of American and Italian researchers found that withdrawing from SSRIs was in many ways comparable to trying to quit addictive benzodiazepine sedatives and barbiturates. Publishing in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, they also found that withdrawal symptoms can last months or even years, and entirely new, persistent psychiatric disorders can emerge from discontinuing SSRIs.

The authors analyzed 15 randomized controlled studies, 4 open trials, 4 retrospective investigations and 38 case reports of SSRI withdrawal. They found that paroxetine (Paxil) was the worst, but that all the SSRI antdepressants could cause a wide range of withdrawal symptoms from dizziness, electrical shock sensations and diarrhea to anxiety, panic, agitation, insomnia and severe depression.

The prevalence of such withdrawal syndromes was “variable” and difficult to estimate from the studies, they wrote, but generally seemed very common. “Symptoms typically occur within a few days from drug discontinuation and last a few weeks, also with gradual tapering. However, many variations are possible, including late onset and/or longer persistence of disturbances. Symptoms may be easily misidentified as signs of impending relapse.”

“Clinicians need to add SSRI to the list of drugs potentially inducing withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation, together with benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and other psychotropic drugs,” they concluded. “The term ‘discontinuation syndrome’ that is currently used minimizes the potential vulnerabilities induced by SSRI and should be replaced by ‘withdrawal syndrome’.”

An accompanying editorial noted that, “This type of withdrawal consists of: (1) the return of the original illness at a greater intensity and/or with additional features of the illness, and/or (2) symptoms related to emerging new disorders. They persist at least 6 weeks after drug withdrawal and are sufficiently severe and disabling to have patients return to their previous drug treatment. When the previous drug treatment is not restarted, post-withdrawal disorders may last for several months to years.”

The editorial also stated that, “With SSRI withdrawal, persistent postwithdrawal disorders may appear as new psychiatric disorders, in particular disorders that can be treated successfully with SSRIs and SNRIs. Significant postwithdrawal illnesses found with SSRI use include anxiety disorders, tardive insomnia, major depression, and bipolar illness.”

While the study authors found no difference between gradual tapering over relatively short periods and abrupt discontinuation of SSRIs, the editorial authors argued that there was evidence to suggest benefits to tapering.

Chouinard G, Chouinard V, -A, New Classification of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Withdrawal. Psychother Psychosom 2015;84:63-71. DOI:10.1159/000371865 (Abstract and full text)

Fava, G.A., A. Gatti, C. Belaise, J. Guidi, and E. Offidani. “Withdrawal Symptoms after Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Discontinuation: A Systematic Review.” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 84, no. 2 (2015): 72–81. (Abstract and full text)

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74 COMMENTS

  1. “Significant postwithdrawal illnesses found with SSRI use include anxiety disorders, tardive insomnia, major depression, and bipolar illness.” Withdrawal symptoms of the SNRI “safe smoking cessation meds” also cause symptoms that get misdiagnosed (according to the DSM-IV-TR) as bipolar.

    And the bipolar drugs, the antipsychotics, can cause the schizophrenia symptoms in patients so misdiagnosed.

    “Agents with anticholinergic properties (e.g., … neuroleptics …) may have additive effects when used in combination. Excessive parasympatholytic effects may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

    The central symptoms of anticholinergic intoxication syndrome (which are basically the same thing as the schizophrenia symptoms) can occur in grown adults with as little as .5mg of Risperdal. The psychiatrists will confess to this as a “Foul up,” but then they try to murder the patient to cover up the adverse effects of their toxic drugs.

    • I can certainly attest to that. PTSD misdiagnosed first as bipolar by a GP, then a psychiatrist specializing in bipolar assesses as MDD with good reasons. Then I learn of treatment to avoid future problems with PTSD while working for the Government that the first GP refuses to believe, but grudgingly has to concede to seeking further assessment from another psychiatrist who says I’m too far gone to even assess it unless we use Risperdal first , recommending starting low and titrating up.

      But the GP is still convinced it has to be bipolar delusions I’ve been telling him about and starts at the max.

      Then I manage to get photographs of the severe beating I got while with the Government that for some reason police had denied and suddenly the GP conceded. Still not sure if what caused him to give up his practice had anything to do with that, but it left me to start all over again with another shrink trying to pull me down the rabbit hole again. I’m ok now though 15 years later after biting the bullet and saying enough is enough. Just please don’t ask me who I am or what I’m doing anywhere. Worse than before I can’t guarantee what my reaction might be.

  2. I love Giovanni Fava – he is a real scientist. I am so glad to hear this stuff finally making it into the mainstream literature. In maybe 15-20 years, prescribing psychiatrists might even figure out that they need to worry about this. Sorry, I’m cynical at this point…

    — Steve

    • They’re certainly not dashing forward, but I take a little heart at being able to read so much more good criticism of psychiatry and psychiatric drugs now. It used to be much harder to find, and everything of value I’ve learned about the drugs is in the “critical” section of the internet, except for what I’ve learned the hard way.

  3. IMHO, I think a lot of mental health practitioners overlook the fact that once someone has been on p-meds they are more or less disabled after a short period of time.

    Furthermore, once on meds and then later on or off the meds, patients continue to be disabled at different ends of the spectrum.

    In any case, I think this article fails to consider that there is not really a panacea to p-med withdrawal, except for “maintenance”/constantly “adjusting” lifestyle to p-med withdrawal in an effort to choose an alternative toward health and healing as well as taking responsibility for themselves and their own life.

    Of course, this alternative choice for p-med withdrawal comes at a financial cost and with a risk to idiosyncratic delicacy of one’s overall health and well-being. In other words, mental health recovery is a life-long journey, difficult with or without medication. “With or without medication?” you say… And the argument goes on and on…

  4. 14 years on 20mg Celexa…switched to Prozac to taper, off since Dec 1st 2014……..three months and counting of foggy, flu-like symptoms. Able to work and excercise, but man it’s a struggle. Insomnia, axiety (especially when I wake) and overall crappy feeling, cloudy head, unable to stay focused. Debating on riding it out or reinstating. Don’t really want to reinstate just to make the discontiuation sysmptoms to go away. Hoping that someday this will all lift. Would rather feel good then win the lottery.

        • Does agitation and inability to relax sound right? That how I was for a long time.

          It’s different from anxiety. Anxiety means worrying about what going to happen in school, work, health, etc., and being jumpy and easily scared, I feel it in my gut. Felt it on too much Ritalin.

          Getting off an antidepressant was a different and worse. I had a constant sense that nothing was okay and it never would be again. My whole being was affected. If I tried to watch a movie I’d sit upright instead of leaning back. I felt like I was on alert at all times, but not worried and stuff in my life. Vigilant.

          I don’t think it was psychological. It felt like I was programmed that way (not by the CIA, but my own nervous system).

          • I have exactly the same feeling as you. I have now been off for 3 months after I have been on Citalopram for 4 years.

            How long did it last before you were to normal again?

          • Did you get better? I’m almost 6 weeks post cold turkey withdraw from Viibryd and still experiencing agitation, anxiety, panic attacks and feeling like I’m permanently damaged. I’m scared! Everyone keeps telling me it is not permanent and brain will adapt and heal. I had to stop cold turkey bc was given Deplin while on SSRI & it caused too much serotonin.

            Thanks!

    • Yes, after taking me off the “safe smoking cessation med,” I kept going to the doctor with flu like symptoms. And rather than understanding these were withdrawal symptoms of her non-“safe” antidepressant, my idiot doctor kept prescribing more drugs. The doctors really do need to learn the actual effects (and withdrawal symptoms) of their drugs so they can stop killing so many patients. What a joke the mainstream medical community has become.

      • But they will never develop any kind of understanding because then they would have to begin questioning all the other things that they claim about these toxic drugs. They can’t ever let the door ever be opened, even just a crack, because then they’d have to admit that they’re wrong about everything and they’re never going to do that. A snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell than for GP’s and psychiatrists to admit that these drugs are harmful in more ways than one.

    • Hello dt.johnson1. I am experiencing the same thing except that it started when I decided to go from 60 mg/day to 40 mg/day about 8 months ago. A couple months later I started to experience tension headache like symptoms and constant brain fog. It feels like someone is squeezing my brain. I have swtiched to Prozac now because we thought maybe my body was just rejecting the Celexa after a number of years of being on it, but I am not sure if it is due to withdrawal or being on Celexa yet. Extremely debilitating.

    • Hi dtjohnson1, I just read your comment and I am going through the exact same thing. It’s beginning to take it’s toll…interfering with daily life. It has only been a couple of weeks for me thus far…have you started to feel better yet? 3 months seems near impossible at this point right now! Curious to know whether things got better and you rode it out or reinstated? I’m at the end of my rope!

      • Hi everyone, and finally good to see i’m not alone. I went on zoloft last summer after feeling so very I need something (work stress, being the sole income earner, etc) to get me through this. 50 mg…Had luck with it for years and years, which is why i asked to go back on. Also should note that in 2009 i stopped my original zoloft, cold turkey. No problems at all—-
        This year, at the end of May while visiting my husband’s parents, looking in the mirror I’d become unrecognizable due to how much weight i’d gained. Made me feel worse than the initial depression. Decided to start tapering and then go off the drug. I tapered until June 13, my last official dose (half dose). It wasn’t immediate that I started feeling like Sybil (or 3 Faces of Eve). Rage, then crying for no reason at all (things are good in my life—i can see that), but it is incredibly difficult to tell myself This isn’t me that’s so angry for any little thing. Heart palpitations because of anxiety.
        My physician was in disbelief that I’m going through this, I guess she didn’t know such a phenomenon existed? And why didn’t i go through this when i quit cold turkey…So many questions, when you just want to uncover the You you know is under there. When will I feel “normal,” which of course no one is 100% normal, are they? (see, the humor is there but…)
        That said, good luck to all of us!

    • That was my drug, too, (along with a benzo) for most of a 10 year period (sometimes it was Lexapro or Cymbalta). Tapering is key…not clear if you did that or went cold turkey. Be patient, eat well, take fish oil, get plenty of rest. I was there and I am here to tell you that it will get better. May take a year or more. This too shall pass. If you find you have to reinstate, use the lowest dose that will alleviate symptoms then go on a slow taper program (there is a lot of info on the web now).

    • Hang in. I was on 20 and then 30 mg Celexa. It’s a bear of a drug. I was also on Xanax, .75 mg a day. Tapered, perhaps too rapidly, off both at the same time after the drugs drove me to an ER. Did the taper at home, myself. I have been there, done that and I can definitely empathize with you.

      It will get better. You will feel like hell warmed over for a good year or so (most of which has passed for you), then your energy will slowly begin to come back. Eat well, take good quality fish oil, and be patient with yourself. I am 3 years free of Celexa and Xanax. It can be done.

      You may still get brain zaps/fatigue etc off and on, but you will find that these lessen in intensity and duration over time. Big thing to remember is that it takes time. The one big thing that remains for me is tinnitus. I don’t know if you suffer from that, but some people do and it’s from the drugs. Mine goes up and down. I find that limiting coffee and alcohol helps. I work in a noisy environment and wear good hearing protection.

      Good luck. You’ll feel better!

    • That’s exactly it. Wall of corporate power in a multi-billion dollar industry.What I finally did after giving up on medical practitioners was go to an addiction clinic for help getting off the SSRI’s after the bad experience before when stopping cold turkey and police taking me in for a psych assessment after telling someone what I’d already been through.

      If you think about it the staff in many addiction clinics are a different breed that try and understand what’s going on in minds of normal people who are less educated than Doctor’s and Psychiatrists. Because of that they don’t have the same tools to use and they’re not handed out free sample quick fixes so they have to be like cave people and talk about the problem that you need a crutch for like booze or addictive non – prescription drugs that you might be afraid of withdrawal from.

  5. Yes! I took an antidepressant after having a child and experiencing chronic dizziness and fatigue (deemed depression/anxiety). I was told these pills “help lots of new moms” and when I asked about side effects, they were minimized. I was told if anything out of the ordinary happened, or if it didn’t help my 2 symptoms, I could always discontinue by decreasing the dose at the same pace I began.

    I took Celexa for about a month, and experienced side effects such as vomiting (which I was told was normal and to continue for at least 2 more weeks). I felt numb and disconnected from life (and my dear husband and baby), I felt irritable, impulsive, and angry almost constantly. Finally, I’d had enough and my doctor agreed it didn’t help and I should go off of it. I tapered over 2 weeks. I was told that once it was “out of my system” the side effects would be gone.

    Well, I gradually slipped into a depression. I thought it would go away and I would snap back to my old self. But it continued to get worse and so I saw a different doctor. I should have been told this was a symptom of withdrawal, but instead was told that I had “developed” depression and it is common for people in their mid-20’s to experience onset of depression. That doctor put me on a Lexapro (AD) and eventually I went “high” or hypo-manic on after about 8 months on that drug. Once I had that “hypo-manic” episode (impulsive spending, super happy, super motivated, working out lots, very productive, while irritable) I was put on “watch” for development of bipolar 2. I knew the AD’s were messing with my mind, so I told them I needed to get off of them. I tapered under a doctor (from 10mg Lexapro to none within 2 weeks) and then went into a severe depression with suicidal ideation, planning, constant crying and rage. That was logged as another “depressive” episode when it was just withdrawal from the Lexapro. THEN, I was switched to Lamictal (a mood stabilizer) and I happened to also drink energy drinks at the same time (my bad). I was awake for 5 days straight and it shot me up into actual manic psychosis with hyper-religiosity. I was hospitalized for 11 days and then labeled Bipolar 1 and given anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, and I don’t know what else. I was discharged and referred to my regular psychiatrist. He immediately started weaning me off the heavy anti-psychotics because clearly I was going mad on them. He diagnosed me as bipolar 1, adult onset, and said my treatment goal was to stay out of the hospital for 6 month stretches for the rest of my LIFE. I was told I needed to take these meds for life just like a good diabetic.

    Thanks to this website, Robert’s book, the support of my spouse, and my own badass awesomeness for listening to my intuition which said it was the drugs all along– I am finally getting the help I need to safely step away from psychiatric meds.

    These meds nearly cost my life. If I hadn’t had a spouse who could support me financially I would have been on disability. I could have lost my children to the foster system had I been a single mom. I could have lost my marriage because the drugs numbed me out, it was as if I didn’t exist inside my own head anymore.

    Rant: These drugs are serious. They are ineffective for many. How one could ethically consider putting children on them is BEYOND me. How on earth would a child have a snowball’s chance it hell of reporting physical or mental symptoms? Most kids are just learning to identify and label their feelings- if they are lucky!

    I am so, so fortunate to have found this community. I am not broken, I never was, but these meds sure as hell DID break me. For the women out there, having medication induced depression or mania seems similar to going through labor with pitocin (induced) vs going into labor naturally. They are 2 totally different experiences, the former being extremely painful and risky and often times leading to an “emergency” C-section that wouldn’t have occurred had nature taken it’s course. I hope that makes sense for someone out there. The meds made me SO much worse.

    Anyways, things are looking up for me. It has been a huge relief to learn that I will be able to live a full life once again, as long as I slowly take the time to heal from all the side effects of these meds.

  6. I’m another one of those people who’s lives were wrecked by antidepressants. I took the happy pills for work stress.

    I think I had a severe adverse reaction. I took this poison for a couple of days only. I felt like someone had injected my brain with cocaine. I could’t sleep, my thoughts were racing like mad, I was sweating, every muscle in my body hurt.

    After stopping, everything got even worse. I dropped into complete despair. Compulsions to commit suicide, pain everywhere in the body, brain fog, brain zaps, headaches, chest pains. I have never been so sick in my whole life. I started becoming obsessed about things. I get random body movements and my hands shake. I feel brain damaged.

    It’s now 6 months after this whole experiment. I’m still unable to work. Every doctor or therapist I talked to has dismissed what I’m saying. Even my councilor, who knew me for a long time, just refused to believe me. I had to survive this with no help from professionals what so ever.

    I’m so angry at this ridiculous fraud of psychiatry. First they damage you with their drugs and then they abandon you in a completely insane, suicidal state. Although… I should probably be glad they abandoned me and didn’t try to “treat” me.

  7. I went to an eye hospital as the benzos i was taking had caused me severe photophobia.. MY eyes were so sore i couldn’t be in any iight.

    So i get give some eye drops that made me disorientate/confused etc, these were to dilate my pupils. The disorientation continued and i started to get conversations and flasbacks in my sleep. I am also getting severe Obsessional symptoms and fear and terror thats out of control. I looked up the drug and said it was an anticholinergic – basically has neuro leptic properties something i always stay away from due to the nature of my sensitised CNS. I also have neuralgia and photo-sensitivity on my face from psych drugs and lorazepam.

    Why did they give me this drug anything that passed my blood brain barrier sends me nuts now?

  8. My background: I’m a Masters level psychotherapist for over 25 years who considers herself knowledgable and informed about psychotropics. I titrated off sertraline after 4 years’ use 9 weeks ago. Since then I’ve had a raft of acute discontinuation symptoms. Some have resolved, or mostly so: the “flu-like” sx that came on 6 days after my last dose (four days of exhaustion, light-headedness, nausea and general malaise so that I slept 18 – 20 hours a day; I assumed at the time it was a virus) have ended, and the GI sx of queasiness, nausea, and low appetite that lasted about 3 weeks before abating, are 95% gone. I also had infrequent but severe muscle cramps/spasms that left affected muscles feeling bruised for days. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened in the last 4 weeks or more.
    However, other sx continue. For much of my adult life, I’ve had sleep-onset insomnia, but the insomnia I have now is quite different: I can fall asleep, but then wake after 2 or 3 hours with rumination I cannot dispel, which can keep me awake until morning. I often experience restless legs, and sometimes a more generalized akathesia. The effects of such nights of interrupted sleep on my mental state and overall well-being are significant. Even after nights of good sleep, though, my mood and cognition remain deficient. My cognitive changes are very concerning; my capacity to take in, recall, and apply new information seems to have decreased greatly, and prolonged attention and concentration require enormous effort. My formerly pretty good mood state is now characterized by anhedonia, and by a kind of anxious depression expressed as intense self-criticism, irritability, negative outlook, and a pervasive sense of emotional/spiritual disconnection from the people around me, and from the natural world (long walks in my nearby woods having been for years my go-to source of solace and peace of mind). The profound misery, rage reactions to minor provocations, and periods of tearfulness I had during early discontinuation have greatly decreased in intensity, frequency and duration, which is a great relief, but I’m nowhere near where my mood baseline used to be.
    I’ve been waiting for things to get better. I’ve been taking St. John’s wort to support my serotonin levels, exercising and/or walking daily, eating healthy meals, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and going back into therapy to work through the effects of the past five very difficult years that led me to go on sertraline in the first place (therapy support has been prn throughout this time period; I’ve had a number of significant losses in my professional and family life).
    But I’m now at the point that I no longer have the time nor the willingness to keep “waiting it out”. However, going back on sertraline worries me. The psychiatric literature indicates that resumption of the med will end the sx I’ve been suffering through. But I’m aware how new the info on ADS is, and reading this website suggests that SSRI resumption carries no such guarantees, and may even worsen things. At the same time, it seems there’s more anecdotal info that there might not ever come a point of full recovery from what I call my “serotonin crash,” however long I wait.
    I don’t want to stay in this half-functioning state any longer. I also don’t want to risk worsening things! The idea of additional and more destructive sx terrifies me. And I’m aware that I can’t rely on the current level of research-based info to provide me with answers or direction. So, after much research and discussion with my spouse and my PCP, I’ve decided to resume the med and hope for the best.
    Any thought, ideas, information, or support is welcome. This is a scary, risky, unpredictable, awful place to be.

    • Hi Michalosier,

      sorry that you’re in this situation. You’ve realised correctly that it’s a very tough choice wether or not to re-instate. Some people have horrible reactions to attempts to reinstate, others feel like they’re saved.

      Reinstatement is always a risk. If you reinstate, start at 0.5mg and work your way up to a dose that stops your symptoms. These drugs are so powerful that even such a small dose can either make things worse or make the symptoms stop. Inform yourself well, take a lot of time to think about it and don’t make any rushed decisions.

      If you should reinstate or not depends on many things. How fast was your taper? Was it way too fast? Then reinstatement may be good and a taper of 10% per month of the dose.

      It also depends on the severity of the symptoms. This may be a surprise, but if you’re not lying on the floor screaming in emotional and physical pain, you’re one of the lucky ones.

      On the other had I think withdrawal puts a stress on the nervous system that I personally think “slowly chews up your nerves”. So if your symptoms are quite severe and respond to reinstatement, this could be the better option.

      The stupid thing: Nobody knows for sure. There’s no research. The website Survivingantidperessants . org has great info and the moderators are very experieced. They will be able to give you their opinion on reinstatement.

      All the best, Laura

        • No problem! Crossing fingers you’ll get through this more or less unharmed. One thing I had to painfully accept during this ordeal: We can’t expect our previous level of functioning from ourselves during this phase.

          You have to treat this a bit like a brain injury. It needs time and healing. There are no shortcuts. You probably also won’t get as much compassion from other people as you deserve. But most important is to have that compassion for ourselves.

          Best of luck!

    • Hi there, michalosier,

      Everyone has to make their own decision to start back on the drug that, in all honesty, put us in the position we’re in—we go on these meds with the best intentions: to help ourselves crawl out of the muck, or, if not out, then to be able to manage our lives while in the muck. When we decide, for whatever personal reasons, to stop the meds, we’re completely unprepared for what’s lurking around the corner. I’ve been off sertraline now for a little over 4 months and do not feel completely back to “me.” It has improved, and there seem to be stages of feeling like nothing will ever make me feel joy again, to those glimpses of hey, i recognize that person.
      I agree with Laura who said if you’re not lying on the floor screaming, you’re a lucky one. The spectrum of emotions that, being left without our fix, we encounter is beyond being able to describe to someone who’s not going through it. For me, it’s been the anger. Everything can be going just fine and then, bam, rage. Apologizing to the cats, the poor things, simply because they’re in the vicinity and somehow that is a trigger. Or the opposite: the sobbing for no reason.
      But I’ve picked the brains of some authors I work with (I proofread medical journals) and know that, unfortunately, it takes time. And patience. And more time. Things we humans don’t have an excess of. Some of the comments I’ve read while trying to figure out if this is only happening to me tell me it can take a very long time. Super frustrating. But you’re not alone—keeping a journal has helped, as has trying to identify what triggers me. Breathing. And more breathing. Music, ie, losing yourself for a spell.
      I’ve found a lot of encouragement from this site: https://npanth.wordpress.com, in terms of realizing that a lot of what I’m feeling/experiencing “isn’t real.” It is, of course—the brain is incredibly hard to fool, isn’t it?—but in the moment, this too shall pass. There’s also tons of info about reinstating.
      And yes, the damn shame of this is that withdrawal syndrome is either so new, or so unrecognized as being a real issue, that we end up feeling more crazy, out of control, never to reach the other side. My doctor, when I told her I’d stopped taking my meds and let loose the maelstrom I’d started experiencing, actually said to me “I hope to never experience it firsthand.” So you kind of feel like you’re being punished, in the long run, for trying to help yourself.
      I can only extend to you my honest hope that you might one day get back to you, the familiar you. I’m right here with you (so many of us are), and it freaking sucks. But it will get better. Whoever termed them baby steps was pretty right on.

      I hope this helps, even just a little bit. Very good luck to you!
      Becca

      • Hi Becca, many thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I looked at the site you recommended. It’s got some great ideas, but overall, I’m finding the “Surviving Antidepressants” website is my go-to. Highly recommending it to you if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks again — Michal

  9. Hi Michal,

    You’re very very welcome and, while I’ve seen other commenters mention the Surviving Antidepressants site, I hadn’t gone yet, for various reasons. But, I’ve just gone and, in less than a minute, found myself reflected in so many other people. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Thanks!
    Becca

  10. I was on fluxotine for 12 years. I took 15 mgs. The reason I came off the medicine is because the pharmaceutical manufacturer (PAR) stopped making the 10 mg tablets. I tried other generics of fluxotine, but they didn’t help. Ever since I stopped taking the original fluxotine (the one I took for 12 years) I cannot stop shaking. It has been 4 months of shaking/anxiety. My GP says it cannot be withdrawal but anxiety. I cannot believe that someone would shake for 4 months because of anxiety. I certainly don’t feel anxious. Is this withdrawal? Will this stop. Has anyone else experiences this shaking/anxiety?

    • I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad.

      This is a typical GP answer… anxiety… what nonsense. If the symptoms started when you stopped or changed the medication, it’s pretty clearly withdrawal. It could be that your new generic medicine had a slightly different dose than then old one and you started getting withdrawal for that reason. Different generics can vary up to 20% as far as I know.

      Check out survivingantidepressants.org. The guys there can help you decide weather re-instating and slowly tapering off would make sense.

      I hope you feel better soon.

  11. I wish I’d known these things in 2002, when a well known Norfolk, VA area psychiatrist put me on Lexapro, then Celexa with a Xanax chaser…and I stayed on them for more than a decade until I wound up in an emergency room totally manic and out of my mind…

    All I was told was that they were “safe and effective” and that I needed them “for life.” Never mind that they fixed none of my long term issues or that they were causing a painful and debilitating dependence.

    Weaning myself off (nobody will help you withdraw from psych meds. Don’t even ask) was painful and agonizing and I did it based on advice from sites like this one and others.

    I’m grateful that the truth is coming out, and that more and more scientists, physicians, and others in the helping professions as well as patients are speaking out, with facts to back them up. There is a sea change a-comin’.

  12. I started on Prozac in 1992 and was never able to get off SSRIs without a variety of severe symptoms. I ended up on a “cocktail” of psych drugs that I’ve been tapering off over the past six years. The good news is that with very slow tapering I was able to get off the SSRIs finally, with none of the problems I had experienced in the past.

    I participated on the website Surviving Antidepressants for several years and highly recommend it.

  13. I was just prescribed Pristiq (Desvenlafaxine) 50 mg a couple of days ago after having trouble rebounding from a bad breakup and financial trouble. My doctor did not mention any of the harsh side effects except dizziness and headaches and told me I only have to be on it for a couple of months. When I asked him about withdrawal symptoms, he simply brushed it off and didn’t really give me answer. He made it seem like nothing would ever go wrong with this medication and that most people don’t have problems with it.. I think he is VERY wrong. After extensive internet research and reading this article there is no way I’m going to start taking pristiq! I don’t want to be stuck on an antidepressant rollercoaster for the rest of my life.. i’m only 22 right now. I may be battling a bout of depression but I don’t think it’s severe enough for treatment via SNRIs. I’m going to leave medication as a last resort since I don’t want to create a worse situation than what i’m in right now. I’m going to spend the next few months doing the absolute best I can to better myself, including exercise, relaxation, going to counselling, eating healthy, and taking plenty of vitamins and supplements.
    I’m so sorry for all of you who are suffering, but thank you so much for enlightening me! I hope you all see the light at the end of the tunnel soon

  14. A great decision emmaelizabeth. As one who feels I paid a big time heavy price from being on psych meds for 15 years, reading a post like yours is very encouraging as I don’t want anyone to suffer like I and others on this site have done.

    And by the way, it angers me greatly that your doctor treated normal stressors with a med. Why didn’t he refer you for counseling?

    It sounds like you will do great and I wish you all the luck in the world.

  15. I agree that withdrawal is horrendous and the after-effects prolonged.

    

I was on citalopram for around 12 years and made the decision to withdraw from it around 18 months ago. I’d made two previous attempts to withdraw but could not tolerate the process and went back to the original dosage of 20mg. With this more recent attempt I went more slowly, over about 8 months and using an equivalent dose of escitalopram liquid once it became impractical to use fractions of tablets. Every time I dropped the dose I would have a week or two of marked physical and mental withdrawal symptoms including transient suicidal thoughts, which would gradually settle. By the time I reached 20% of the original dose the physical symptoms were not much of a problem, but the mental symptoms were more marked. I found the Surviving Antidepressants online site very useful for both information and support, and I really wish I’d read Will Hall’s “Harm Reduction Guide” BEFORE I commenced withdrawal – I’d have been much better prepared.

    After ceasing the drug completely, over the course of a couple of months I developed a rebound episode of suicidal depression, with much more severe anxiety than I’d had prior to being on the drug. Despite being under psychiatric supervision during this whole process, I came under considerable pressure from my GP – after minimal examination and with no discussion whatsoever with my treating psychiatrist (who is also my therapist, and with whose care I was very satisfied) – both to reinstate the drug and to get a second opinion from an extremely biologically focussed psychiatrist (senior academic, head of a private ECT unit, author of an ECT textbook, a director of the organisation that writes the prescribing guidelines most commonly used by GP’s) – on the premise that my “mood swings” were due to possible bipolar disorder. In addition to being pretty annoyed with her for deciding to intervene at all at this point, given that she had been blithely writing prescriptions for citalopram for the previous 8 years without ever questioning the need for long term medication, and without actually having read my history (eg she was unaware that I’d previously taken an overdose of this drug – unwisely provided in the form of free samples by the GP before her – but that’s a whole other story), I realised that her referral had the potential for a really bad outcome for me.

    It was highly likely that the second psychiatrist’s opinion would be that the rebound depression was a sign that I should be on lifelong antidepressant therapy. Plus if I were foolish enough to admit to the symptoms I’d had early on in treatment with citalopram – very mild behavioural activation and euphoria, barely more than my “normal” but quite a contrast to the unmedicated state of a week prior – at a stretch he could probably also make a bipolar spectrum diagnosis. My job requires a high level of concentration and dexterity, so any of the drug treatments commonly used for this condition would be a disaster. As a health professional myself, there was also the risk that if I disagreed with any aspect of the diagnosis or proposed management that pressure could be applied including via my professional registration board (this may sound like mere paranoia on my part, but the psychiatrist in question was noted in a number of online reviews to be somewhat of a bully, and recent events in my hometown of Melbourne have demonstrated fairly conclusively the potential for abuses of power by psychiatrists). So I simply walked away from that, refusing the referral and firing my GP.

    

In the 6-7 months since I recovered from the depressive episode I’ve had significant ongoing problems with both anxiety and emotional dysregulation. These are slowly improving with a combination of time, therapy, exercise and mindfulness meditation but it’s all had a major impact on my quality of life. The irony is the realisation (in the course of therapy and a lot of reading) that my recurrent “depression” has a lot more to do with multiple traumatic life experiences than genetics or biology but that I had swallowed hook, line and sinker the conventional biomedical model I had been taught. It all makes me very angry.

    • Madcat, You’re very wise to keep away from the biopsychiatrist because, if it’s who I think it is, you would almost certainly have been referred to ECT, which could have meant goodbye to your `high level of concentration and dexterity’. Unfortunately this man and his colleagues are virtually unassailable legally or morally and the trail of destroyed lives they have left behind them is long and wide. They have set up a new group called ENSIG (The Electroconvulsive Therapy and Neurostimulation Special Interest Group (ENSIG) [which] is an RANZCP group that promotes the highest standards in clinical practice, training and research pertaining to electroconvulsive therapy and neurostimulation.
) This in spite of the fact that well over 60% of their colleagues NEVER prescribe ECT. They are the butchers of Australia.

  16. I have been on abilify for 7 years or more. Came off it in 10 weeks with few problems. Effexor is a horse of a different color! I felt so awful coming off it that I contemplated suicide and wound up back in the psych hospital. Am back on the same old meds. Came off lamictal, the latest addition, after taking it for a week. I was able to cold turkey that one. I am now at 75% of abilify or 15 of the 20 mg.

    I am going to microtaper effexor this time. Once I have been completely off the abilify for 2 weeks, I will try reducing the effexor by a grain or two at a time. The only thing I learned from the hospitalization is that my addiction is much worse than I supposed and goes unacknowledged by almost everyone. Psychiatrists are worse than quacks–they are glorified drug dealers. I think they’re more dangerous than the kind you find on street corners!

    Oddly enough, I have been diagnosed with bipolar, but experience no mania in coming off my antipsychotic or mood stabilizer. I think the doctors insist on calling me that so they can put me on a “cocktail” but if they knew anything, they would see I merely suffer from depression. Idiots!

  17. Has anyone experienced physical pain getting off SSRI’s???? Did it go away?? I’m afraid something else is wrong with me or I’m going to be stuck like this forever. I’m 6 months off Lexapro and have widespread body pain all over and my skin feels like it’s burning. I’ve never had pain like this before or while on the drugs. Literally pain all over! I feel like I’m 100 years old and I haven’t had one day without it. Not to mention the insomnia, brain fog and fatigue. I think I’m past the point of being able to reinstate. I’m miserable.

  18. Please can someone help me? I think I’ve done myself permanent damage with SSRIs and I don’t know where to turn now. I started taking a low dose – 20 mg – of prozac about 8 years ago for CFS and stopped 3 years ago. I then had a year of intense anxiety which my doctor told me was a disorder so I went back on prozac, rather reluctantly. I had real problems with it for some reason – a few months to get back on and feeling ok then when I tried to lower the dose I started feeling drowsy and pretty incapacitated with headaches and dizziness and stuff. That stopped after 5 months and nearly 6 months ago I came off it completely. I felt terrible for about 3 months and then the symptoms started fading and I started to feel ok. I was taking a very low dose of zopiclone for 5 months to help with the insomnia and I stopped that about 3 weeks ago after that started to make me feel awful too and now the symptoms have come back with a vengance – the same as the prozac withdrawal. I can hardly function. That has been for about the last 6 weeks or so. I am worried now that I have done myself permanent damage and I will never start feeling ok again. I am halfway through a PhD and have a bog paper to get in in less than 2 weeks and I can’t concentrate at all.

  19. I was on prozac for mild depression and mild ocd. Over the years the dosage went up as it was not as effective. In the last five years I was on 80mg. I ended up with tinnitus and then hyperacusis so I tapered off the drug. I went through the most severe anxiety, paranoia, panic and ocd starting from about two months after stopping, the side effects were so intense I had a complete nervous breakdown and didnt stop sobbing heavily every day for two years. A homeopathic treatment stopped the tears..
    The GP recommended trying other SSRI’s, which made the tinnitus and hyperacusis EVEN LOUDER.! Then he recommended anxiety meds instead; and it made it louder still. Now two years after, and med free, this has remained so IM guessing it is permanent. I have debilitating and severe ocd that nothing has helped; tried all the CBT, tapping, eft, counselling etc and nothing helped. My life is a nightmare and I have such severe ocd and panic I am housebound and very depressed.
    I am alone and cry my heart out everyday. Every single drug that would help will make the hearing issue worse. I was NEVER like this before the Prozac! It has rewired my brain and destroyed it. Everything hurts my ears, I cannot have a relationship, I cannot hear any music because it gets stuck in a loop, I can no longer do my artwork as I cant hold pens, I cannot do sewing because I fear the needle; you name it my life is ruined. What the heck did it do to my brain? It really helped while I was on it… Twenty five years of being mostly on it, and now I make Howard Hughes look well.
    I have tried EVERYTHING believe me. I dont smoke, drink, do drugs; I do mindulness, I am grateful, spiritual and a peaceful person. I eat healthily and take supplements. Two incredibly long and horrific years…. will it ever subside or is this the way way my brain is wired now? Thank you Prozac for turning my life into a hell that words simply do not do justice.

  20. I was on Zoloft 50-100 mg on and off for the last 20 years…mostly on. I did a long extended taper to come off of them and everything seemed to be fine. I’m at about month 3 completely free and I’m getting hit with the worst brain fog I have ever encountered. There are times where I get anxious because I’m afraid that it’s Alzheimer’s or Dementia and not just a fog. I thought things would get better, rather than worse. I am eating foods that increase my serotonin levels, trying to minimize stress, and getting good rest. Will this brain fog eventually lift? I need some good news. BTW – I just entered menopause about 1 1/2 years ago, so maybe that is causing it to be worse than for someone not at that stage of life.

  21. Went on Prozac in my early twenties for mild depression and binge eating. Stayed on it because each time I tapered off I became depressed again. Twenty five years later Im now in my late forties and had to quit because of tinnitus. I read a lot about seretonin and tinnitus, and I was on 80mg for many many years so I m guessing it was the cause. It seemed it may be the high dosage causing it.

    I tapered as gradually as I could but there are no smaller increments than a 20mg jump at a time so it can never be THAT gradual. Im reliant on NHS, in the Uk because I am very poor; they do not believe in ‘protracted withdrawal syndrome’ and think I simply now have new psychiatric issues. They think it is a coincidence that I suddenly have all these new symptoms… and won’t listen. The tinnitus is still just as loud two years after trying that damn Setraline.

    I get no sympathy from the psy department because they say I should now be on anti depressents AND anti anxiety/pschotics. Despite the fact I never had ANY anxiety ever before, ocd or anything! It isnt even in the family! I so wish Dr Peter Breggin were my psychiatrist!!!

    I had no idea that when I quit SSRI’s that I’d be in for this roller coaster ride from hell, I expected to go back to how I was. No one tells you. It created the most severe and disabling tic based OCD, other forms of OCD, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, phobias, and it keeps deteriorating. My adrenals are exhausted and I now have fibromyaligia and chronic fatigue, and am hyper sensitive to sounds to the point that everything is painful. I cannot even watch a movie without the sound off and subtitles on, the sound effects jar my nerves and hurt my ears too much and I start violently tic ing. I cannot go out because I cannot stand the stimuli, and I used to be an artist but I cannot touch pens because of the OCD so it has stolen everything from me. I have been suicidally depressed because of how disabling it is, for two long years now. I fight it of course. I have people who love me so I won’t do that. But it is utterly horrific.

    It has been two and a half YEARS now since I quit Prozac and my life is an unbearable nightmare.
    Ive tried all the ‘therapies’… CBT, hypnosis, counselling, etc; they didnt help at all. I even went on Setraline (another SSRI) at the GP’s recommendation, but the tinnitus DOUBLED in volume and never went back down!!! The Psy dept are not listening, and there is nothing I can do but wait and hope that it hasnt become permenant. I read about so many people for whom it has… and it fills me with the deepest dread you cannot imagine. What can I do??? I can’t bear this much longer.

    By the way, so you know: I dont smoke or drink, or do drugs; I eat a healthy wholesome and natural diet, no MSG no additives, nothing highly processed, no sugar etc. I take plenty of omega 3’s, good vitamin and minerals, eve primrose oil, B complex and so on. I have tried all nutritional approaches and had no effect so far. Ive been under a herbalist for a year, an adrenal and nervine mix, but feel nothing is helping. I tried alsorts… everything I could find online. The OCD has become so extreme that I have no life now. I mean NO life. I wish there was something… I have reached out and begged half the internet, everyone I think may listen. I get a lot of sympathetic replies, which is nice, but no one can think of anything I haven’t already tried. I don’t think I’ll make it.