The Face of Antidepressant Withdrawal

Okay, let’s pick up where we left off yesterday. We’ve established that the medical name for what we know as antidepressant withdrawal is antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS). Actually, the story goes the pharmaceutical companies came up with the name (another PR effort). And I still chuckle when I read or hear it.

And we’ve discussed the fact that the potential for ADS exists with the cessation of all antidepressant types, particularly the SSRI’s, SSNRIs, and the NDRIs. Finally, we now know the elimination half-life of an antidepressant is a huge factor in the presentation of ADS. And it’s important to note the occurrence of ADS is more likely with longer term antidepressant use and a more abrupt cessation.

So just what does ADS look like? Well, first of all, we know the onset of symptoms can begin in very short order after cessation. I mean, there have been times when I began feeling the “zaps” within about 12 hours of missing a dose of sertraline (Zoloft). Which reminds me, ADS can be a factor upon missing a dose, as well as cessation.

Here are some frequently reported symptoms…

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Diminished concentration
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Zaps – kind of like an electrical jolt throughout your body
  • Insomnia
  • Mood lability
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting

Now, it’s important to understand, what we’re referring to as withdrawal is not the same as the withdrawal experienced upon the cessation of, say, alcohol or the opioids. That said, withdrawal from antidepressants doesn’t equate to having been “addicted” to them.

One final comment. It’s very important that you’re mindful of the fact that what you believe are antidepressant withdrawal symptoms may in fact be a recurrence of depressive symptoms. Likewise, what you believe is a recurrence of depressive symptoms may be withdrawal symptoms. I guess it goes without saying that you need to keep in touch with your counselor and physician.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow. We’ll wrap up the series by discussing how to sidestep antidepressant withdrawal symptoms, should you be contemplating cessation. Oh, check-out the first post in the series.

It would really help us all if you’d share some of your experiences. Won’t you comment?