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Cymbalta (Duloxetine) Withdrawal Symptoms + My Personal Experience

Cymbalta (Duloxetine) was officially approved by the FDA in 2004 as a new treatment for major depression. It is classified as an SNRI antidepressant which means it inhibits the reuptake of serotonin as well as norepinephrine. This medication was also devised to target more of the physical symptoms associated with depression and was approved by the FDA to treat nerve pain in diabetics. A few years later it was approved to treat anxiety disorders, fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal pain (in arthritis and lower back pain).

This means that many people have turned to this drug for relief in their specific condition. This drug has become highly popularized due to the fact that it was approved to treat so many different conditions. It has also been promoted like crazy on TV and throughout various types of social media. The promotions lead doctors as well as patients to believe that it is essentially a breakthrough drug in the world of depression and pain. Anyone who has experience taking it knows the true potency of the drug Cymbalta.

Many people end up finding that Cymbalta is not a good medication for their condition and/or just isn’t working as well as research suggests. This means that many people end up having to go through a withdrawal period. The withdrawal process associated with Cymbalta can be both physically and psychologically debilitating. Since the drug targets both physical pain and depression, you may experience physical as well as powerful psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Factors that influence Cymbalta withdrawal include

There are many different factors that will play a role in determining the degree of withdrawal difficulty for Cymbalta. The amount of time you took the medication (e.g. weeks, months, years), the amount you were taking, your personal physiology, as well as how quickly you tapered off of it are all going to play a role. When I came off of this medication, I had withdrawal symptoms so severe that they triggered a nervous breakdown.

1. Time Span

How long were you taking Cymbalta? The longer you were taking this medication, the tougher withdrawal will be. When your brain becomes reliant upon a drug for everyday functioning and processes – especially for a long period of time, withdrawal is going to be tough. The shorter the period of time you were on this medication, the easier it will likely be to come off of this drug.

2. Dosage (20 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg)

Cymbalta comes in capsules containing either 20 mg, 30 mg, or 60 mg of the Duloxetine formula. People may take up to 120 mg per day for major depression – which is a pretty significant dose. If you are on a high dose, you will need to conduct a gradual taper off of this medication unless you are prepared to fight some major withdrawal demons. Based on my experience, even the 30 mg was extremely powerful. We are dealing with a powerful drug here and the higher the dose you are taking, the tougher the withdrawal.

3. Individual Physiology

Individual physiology plays a huge role in determining symptoms. Certain people experience minimal to zero symptoms when they quit this medication. Back when I was first on this drug, most people were telling me that they barely experienced any symptoms or that the withdrawal only lasted a couple weeks. Being only 16, I thought that my withdrawal would be quick too, but it turned out to last months (almost a year) – not a few weeks. Age as well as physiology may play a role – especially if you are taking this medication and still have a developing brain. I also withdrew from the 30 mg cold turkey.

4. Cold turkey vs. tapering

It is highly recommended to taper off of any antidepressant, especially that of Cymbalta. The worst part aspect of the tapering process is when most people make the leap from 20 mg to 0 mg. This medication is designed to have “beads” inside of capsules – making withdrawal increasingly difficult. Once you have “weaned” your way down to 20 mg, I would highly recommend actually opening the capsules and reducing the amount of beads that you take over a period of weeks until you are down to nothing.

That said, the beads can be tricky because you need to be careful not to crush the beads.  Crushing the beads in any way can result in problematic absorption, leading to adverse effects.  If you are using this method, talk to a psychiatrist or pharmacist for further instruction.  I strongly advise against quitting “cold turkey” unless you think it’s necessary.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities

Below are some of the more common symptoms associated with the withdrawal process. Keep in mind that you may not experience all of the symptoms listed. This is a general guideline for people to reference. The withdrawal process affects everyone differently in terms of symptoms and severity.

  • Anger: Coming off of this medication may make you extremely angry and frustrated. You may be prone to anger spells and have a difficult time controlling your anger. Some people end up experiencing full blown “rage” at times as well.
  • Anxiety: This medication is developed to treat anxiety. Since it has an impact on both serotonin and norepinephrine, when you come off of it, you may have to deal with pretty extreme anxiety. Everything may make you nervous including going to school, work-related functions, your relationship, etc. Do your best to cope with this anxiety in whatever healthy way you can.
  • Appetite changes: I experienced significant reduction in appetite, in part due to the extreme anxiety I experienced coming off of it. Some people may experience increased appetite as well. This drug can have weird affects on people’s eating habits and hunger levels.
  • Brain damage: There is no link that this drug “causes brain damage” but I am here to tell you that it may feel as though you have been victim of brain damage after taking it. Based on the symptoms that you may experience, it may seem as if your brain has been damaged in some way. Realize that this will eventually improve over time and your functioning will return to normal.
  • Brain zaps: Fortunately I didn’t experience any “brain zaps” but many people report little sensations of electrical shocks through their head when quitting Cymbalta. I experienced these zaps coming off of Paxil, so I know that they are no picnic.
  • Concentration problems: Your doctor may tell you that withdrawal isn’t associated with any cognitive problems like lack of focus or concentration. That’s because these symptoms go unreported and aren’t well studied. It is very possible to be unable to focus on any tasks when coming off of this drug. You need to suck it up and try your best – realizing that things will eventually improve.
  • Crying spells: The emotional pain associated with coming off of this medication can be so powerful that you want to sit in a corner and cry. You may cry your eyes out many times during the withdrawal process.
  • Depersonalization: One of the most challenging aspects of withdrawal is feeling like you are someone other than yourself. It may feel as though your soul has been completely sucked out and you have no life. You feel like someone has taken over your body and brain and your authentic self is gone forever. This can be very uncomfortable and causes many people to panic. It is a result of a serotonin imbalance which causes high stress – this leads to feeling depersonalized.
  • Depression: The depression that you experience when withdrawing from Cymbalta may be the most severe depression that you ever go through in your life. It may suck your soul and you may feel as if you have no hope to carry on through life. Take things one day at a time and do whatever you can to maintain faith that you will get better. I am proof that you can recover, and my withdrawal lasted over a year.
  • Dizziness: Some people experience extreme dizziness for long periods of time during withdrawal. This is a common symptom during withdrawal from all types of antidepressant medications. In some cases, people also experience “vertigo.”
  • Fatigue: The fatigue you may experience during Cymbalta withdrawal may be so severe, that you may think you are developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – or at least I did. I could barely drag myself out of bed each day and felt like I was in a haze of tiredness, depression, and eternal sadness. It may be difficult to realize, but this symptom is from your drug withdrawal.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Many people report flu-like symptoms when coming off of Cymbalta. The combination of sweats, aches, pains, and nausea can be eerily similar to the actual flu. Keep in mind that this will eventually subside.
  • Headaches: Some people end up having to deal with pretty intense headaches throughout the withdrawal. If they become too extreme, consider a slower taper and/or over-the-counter headache relief.
  • Hopelessness: You may feel completely hopeless in regards to your future especially if you experienced no success on Cymbalta or other antidepressants. Realize that this feeling is exacerbated by the withdrawal process and that you will eventually return to having some hope again.
  • Hostility: Certain people become very hostile when coming off of antidepressants – this one is no different. Don’t be surprised if someone starts acting mean, distant, and possibly violent during the process.
  • Hypersensitivity: Some people experience a hypersensitivity to loud sounds and bright sights. This is thought to be a result of high stress and low serotonin. For me this lasted many months before I was able to “desensitize” my brain to these triggers.
  • Insomnia: You may be unable to fall asleep at a normal time each night. Instead you may experience thoughts of depression and anxiety that keep you awake. This is a result of your brain trying to re-establish normal levels of serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Irritability: It may be difficult to function in society without feeling irritated and/or irritable during the withdrawal. Your neurotransmitters are thrown out of homeostasis and your brain is trying to fix itself.
  • Lightheadedness: In addition to feeling dizzy, you may also feel lightheaded or “faint.” Understand that this will lessen with time.
  • Memory problems: You may feel as though your memory has been permanently damaged or altered. You are correct to a certain extent, however, your memory should return to normal after enough time passes. My memory felt fried (both long term and short term), but returned to normal functioning after about a year. Don’t get mad at yourself about your memory – do what you can to work with it and realize that it will get better.
  • Nausea: During the withdrawal process, you may feel nauseated a lot. In some cases this may make you want to throw up. I felt extreme nausea when I came off of Cymbalta to the point where I thought I was going to throw up my lunch for about 2 weeks straight.
  • Suicidal thoughts: Many people experience intense suicidal thoughts when coming off of antidepressants. This medication helps inhibit the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine – when you stop it, you are going to have decreased levels. This can make people more prone to thoughts of suicide. For me the suicidal thoughts were so intense that I damn near had to be hospitalized.
  • Sweating: It is very common to experience sweats throughout the day and especially at night when you withdraw from this drug. You may wake up soaked in sweat in the middle of the night. Realize that this is all part of the withdrawal process – this is how your body detoxifies itself.
  • Tingling sensations: Some people report feeling tingling across their skin and extremities when they quit Cymbalta. The tingling sensations are usually a result of your body trying to function without the drug.
  • Tremors: You may experience muscle spasms and/or tremors when you stop taking this medication.
  • Vision changes: Some people notice various visual effects when they quit Cymbalta. For me I noticed some changes in vision and for awhile I actually thought that my vision was becoming worse. In reality I was just seeing “floaters” or shapes that float in the field of vision – they are not harmful.

My personal experience with Cymbalta withdrawal

Cymbalta was the single toughest antidepressant that I’ve ever withdrawn from and I have been on most of the notable ones. Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Wellbutrin, etc. Although my withdrawal from Paxil was hell, the withdrawal from Cymbalta was like hell 2.0 – a whole different kind of hell. I experienced depression, anxiety, and suicidal thinking, but the most debilitating symptom of the withdrawal was the depersonalization – I felt as though my brain was numb and my entire soul had been eaten by this drug.

The withdrawal seemed to never end, and in my estimation, it took about 6 months before I felt even halfway normal again. I was trapped in an eternal state of anxiety, depression, and depersonalization and saw absolutely no way out. My psychologist and psychiatrist thought that I was exhibiting premorbid schizophrenia – all as a result of the withdrawal symptoms.

It has been almost 8 years since I’ve taken this medication and I never went on to developing schizophrenia – it was the withdrawal symptoms that were driving me crazy. Funny thing is before I went on this medication, I thought it was going to be the “holy grail” and eradicate my depression because it was a “new drug.” I learned from that experience that “new” does not mean “better” – in some cases it can mean “worse.” In all honesty I do not believe I would have made it through this withdrawal without family, friends, and online support.

People do not understand how powerful this withdrawal process really is unless they’ve taken the medication. For me it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through in my entire life. I honestly don’t know how I made it through, but by some miracle I was able to keep fighting. It is literally like being locked in a cage and having minimal control over your brain for an extended period of time.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Timeline & Duration: How long does it last?

There is no clear cut answer to the duration of withdrawal. If you tapered off of the drug to the lowest possible dose (e.g. by counting beads), then you will likely heal quicker than someone who is thrown off guard by a sudden “cold turkey” withdrawal. Although the drug may be out of your body within a day (half life of 12 hours), this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel the effects of withdrawal once it is cleared.

I personally would give the withdrawal process 90 days before re-evaluating symptoms. When I first came off of this medication, it took a lot longer than suggested before I started feeling normal. Since I wasn’t feeling “normal” within a few weeks, this caused me to freak out and think that something else was wrong with me – even though it was just the effects of quitting a powerful medication that I had been on.

Most people do not count beads and conduct a gradual taper, therefore they jump from 20 mg to nothing – and this is a pretty significant jump. If you quit this medication from an even higher dose than 20 mg such as 30 mg or 60 mg – you may experience some very debilitating symptoms. Although this drug is approved for a variety of conditions and is considered “safe” by the FDA – realize that you know your body better than anyone else.

I honestly felt as though this medication caused permanent brain damage that I was never going to get over. In reality I think it may have been the withdrawal or me freaking out that I still felt drugged up even though I had been off of the medication for months. Make sure you work closely with your doctor, get support, and do your best to tough through the process. For me Cymbalta was a drug from hell and a nightmare – fortunately some have easier withdrawals than others. If you are going through withdrawal or have successfully withdrawn from this medication, feel free to share your experience with others.

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{ 165 comments… add one }
  • alicia July 15, 2018, 9:13 pm

    I wish I had known all about Cymbalta years ago. I’ve been taking 60 mg twice a day for many years now. I have fibromyalgia and depression. I didn’t know there were problems with Cymbalta until I saw how it affected my mother (81 years old). She had not been taking it very long before I moved in to care for her.

    Mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her living alone was not a good option. In the confusion of my moving in, my sister, who prepares Mom’s medications for the week somehow missed the Cymbalta dose for two weeks. Mom became this strange, angry, alien, we had never seen before. It was scary!

    We got Mom’s meds straightened out. But now I’m concerned about me. I’m worried. I’m taking the maximum amounts. I suffer seriously with depression. The reason I’m on an antidepressant is because I almost committed suicide years ago. Even today it still tempts me when things get rough.

    I don’t want to take this medication. It scares me. As a clarifier: I’m not suicidal, I am taking my medication, I know better than stopping cold turkey. How can I do it? Can I be admitted to a hospital and they monitor the weaning? Any good advice?

  • Lori July 11, 2018, 12:31 pm

    I was given this med over 10 years ago for daily migraines. I didn’t want it. I wasn’t depressed, but now I am! I have taken opioids for longer than that and have no addiction problem so figured this would be no problem. This is my 2nd time trying to get off this crap! This is truly an addiction!

  • Belinda June 30, 2018, 7:05 pm

    I have been off Cymbalta for nearly 45 days now. It has been indescribably difficult. Your forum gives me hope. I’ve come through the brain zaps, dizziness, sweating, nausea, muscle twitching, but now left with fatigue, flat emotions and diarrhea.

    I hope I continue to improve. Not a good experience and my doctor has been zero help.

  • Savannah June 29, 2018, 12:25 am

    I have been off Cymbalta for about a month and a half. I originally took it for 18 months. I was taking 30 mg even though I was prescribed 60. Couldn’t do 60 it kept me up at night. I wanted to come off the meds so the doctor prescribed me 20mg. I tapered down and after two weeks went to 0 mg.

    Doctor acted like it would be a piece of cake to get off this drug even though I told him I tried going cold turkey before and couldn’t handle it. At first I had hot flashes, brain zaps, anger, and I was always lightheaded felt like I was going to faint.

    Now month and a half later I’ve moved on to different symptoms. Now I’m tired all the time except at night time. I’m so tired all the time that it’s hard to do things. I have no motivation it’s like I’m depressed all over again and feel like I should go on another drug to make it better, but I don’t trust any drug now since Cymbalta.

    I am very sensitive and cry at anything. Also doing simple things that course some pain such as plucking my eyebrows is to much. All my nerves are over active. Anything that would normally be able to brush off now hurts and makes me anxious.

    How am I supposed to know if I’m still withdrawing or there is actually something wrong? I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. This drug should be illegal.

  • Corey May 6, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Been off cymbalta (30 mg) now for 6 months (previously on 10 years) and still dealing with horrible depression. However, previous symptoms of anxiety, depersonalization, insomnia, suicidal ideation have dissipated.

  • Jen May 6, 2018, 4:24 pm

    My boyfriend of a year and a half pulled away from me after getting off Cymbalta. We were always very happy together and never fought. He had been on the medication for over 10 years.

    I felt like he became a totally different person. It has been 2 and a half months and we are apart at the moment. Do you think he will ever be who he was before? Is there a chance he will return once the withdrawal period ends?

    • John June 16, 2018, 4:54 pm

      Yes. There is a VERY good chance that he will return after the withdrawal period ends. It might take a full year for him to recover but at the moment he just needs space. I am going through it now so I know. It’s not you that’s the problem. It’s just the withdrawal.

  • Michael Barrass April 25, 2018, 10:46 am

    I had been on Cymbalta for about 18 months after trying just about every other anti-depressant known to man (annoying side effects). Cymbalta worked really well until recently when I started to develop serotonin syndrome due to the pain killers I was also taking.

    My Doctor was generally very good prior to this, as he had been a pharmacist for some 20 years prior to becoming a GP. I firmly believe the treating Doctors must be deceived (intentionally or otherwise) by the pharmaceutical companies. My doctor basically had me go from 60mg to cold turkey within weeks and gave me some diazepam and meds for the nausea.

    The diazepam was enough to last me about 3 weeks. After the 3 weeks the withdrawals kicked in big time. Crying, intense rage, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness. I went and saw a local GP to get a quick refill of my diazepam as my normal GP is an hour away.

    This gave me enough for 1 5mg tab / day. I was really struggling and my rage was terrible. To qualify my rage. I was a Police Officer for 10 years prior to getting the work injury that required among other things Cymbalta. I have been attacked, spat on, had weapons pulled on me and dealt day in and day out with societies worst.

    I have never had a complaint made about me because I have lost my temper or used excessive force. So when this 20-something fresh faced GP treated me like I was medication shopping I was slightly upset (understated).

    I urge Doctors to read the accounts of real people and stop putting all of your trust in a company trying to sell a product. Cymbalta is DANGEROUS in my opinion. Sorry about grammar and spelling. I am writing this on my phone.

  • Lori March 7, 2018, 4:43 pm

    I have tried twice before to quit this drug and it was awful. The first time I quit cold turkey. I had so many withdrawal symptoms I thought I was dying. The worst was the passing out and/or extreme dizziness.

    I am now 1 month in to my third attempt to quit. So far it hasn’t been bad. But it remains to be seen how the next few months will go. I am in a fibromyalgia support group and I caution people all the time to think long and hard before starting cymbalta.

    • Nikki April 8, 2018, 4:47 am

      I quit 20 mg once a day after 7 months cold turkey… My Dr was an a$$ about the fact that I felt as though this med was not helping me (using to treat CFS) he literally walked out on me. I had to drag him back to ask how to stop – but all he suggested was one pill every other day until Rx was gone.

      This method is hell… so I just stopped. The only way I made it through the withdrawal was by taking a B complex supplement in the AM and two 5-htp at night which seems to have slowed the zaps and vertigo – but still does nothing for the insomnia and nausea. I would highly recommend these to help quit this nightmare Rx.

  • Skellis March 5, 2018, 1:16 am

    I’m not sure I can make it through this. I have been weaning off of 120 mg of Cymbalta for many more months than my family knows. At this point I feel like I have manic depression. One minute I am on top of the world, the next I have tears pouring down my face with a feeling of no hope, I am angry inside for no reason and I scream at my husband to just leave me alone! He doesn’t deserve this, I don’t know myself right now and I feel like there is no hope.

    • Gail March 8, 2018, 10:28 pm

      I had to switch to Effexor, another SNRI, and weaned off. I had the same symptoms and was accused of being bipolar. Good luck!

  • Corey November 28, 2017, 3:49 pm

    Thank God for this forum. I can understand how people think they are literally losing their mind coming off this horrific drug. The depersonalization and derealization really makes you think you have lost your mind. Been off cymbalta for two months and still have deep depersonalization. Best of luck and prayers to all.

  • sandduffer February 25, 2017, 1:46 am

    Your personal experience has been a big help! How long did the depersonalization last? I’m a little past 6 months off Cymbalta and still dealing with it. You are so right on depersonalization!

  • Claire December 12, 2016, 2:39 pm

    I started coming off a 60mg / day dose of Cymbalta (using it as a treatment for GAD) on 28 November 2016. I spoke to my Dr about it as I felt it really wasn’t working for me after almost 2 years of being on it, so she was happy for me to begin to come off it. However, from everything that I have now read online, I am rather alarmed by the speed at which she was had me drop from 60mg to nothing on – 10 days!!!!

    First I alternated between 60mg and 30mg for 4 days, then moved to 30 mg and then alternated between 30mg and nothing for the last few days. I am now off it fully since Wednesday 7 December (it’s now 12 December) and I am in hell. My anxiety is through the roof, I have constant diarrhea, I can’t stop crying over everything, I have muscle tremors, nausea, constant racing thoughts, am so agitated, terrible concentration, have horrific nightmares, heart palpitations and have an atrocious short-term memory.

    Normally Diazepam can bring my anxiety straight back under control, but NOTHING is working. I may as well be taking sweets. My beta-blockers also can’t control my heart palpitations. I have an appointment with her last week (pre-arranged from when I started coming off the drug) so am going to have to see what she thinks as I can’t go on like this (and I’m still having to go to work as my Company refuse to pay me for sick leave due to a bad track record due to my anxiety).

    Has anyone heard of anyone coming off Cymbalta so fast under medical supervision (I’m in the UK)???

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