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Brain Zaps: Causes & Treatments For Electrical Shock Sensations

Brain zaps are commonly reported electrical shock sensations that are often experienced during discontinuation of antidepressant medications. Other common names for brain zaps include: brain shivers, electrical shocks, and brain shocks. People often describe them as feeling electrical current uncontrollably zapping their brains, which can be extremely frightening and uncomfortable. A person experiencing these zaps may get dizzy, feel minor pain, and high levels of discomfort.

What causes brain zaps?

Brain zaps are considered to be caused by neurotransmitter alterations within the brain, particularly those involving “serotonin.” It is believed that serotonin plays a vital role in the development of these zaps due to the fact that people typically experience them when discontinuing serotonergic antidepressants (e.g. SSRIs). The zaps may also be caused via discontinuation of other psychotropic medications including: antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, MAOIs, SNRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants.

  • Antidepressant withdrawal: During withdrawal from antidepressant medications, “brain zaps” are considered common symptoms to experience. It is believed that the severity and length of brain zaps may be related to whether a person discontinues “cold turkey” as opposed to tapering off of their medication.
  • Eye movements: It has been speculated that moving the eyes side to side may provoke or intensify brain zap sensations. While this is purely speculation, there are online accounts of individuals that found things like “looking to the side” can trigger them.
  • Medication side effects: Some individuals have reported experiencing “brain zaps” as side effects from certain medications. These may be experienced when a person initially begins taking a psychotropic medication. It is thought that adjustments in the functioning of various neurotransmitters are responsible for the zaps.
  • Skipping a dose: If you are on a medication and you accidentally miss or intentionally skip a dose, you may notice unpleasant brain zaps. When people experience the zap sensation, they quickly remember that they forgot to take their medication.
  • Other medications: It should be mentioned that medications other than antidepressants can cause brain zaps. While they are most commonly experienced as a result of taking serotonergic antidepressants, benzodiazepines and antipsychotics have also been suggested as potential causes.

How long do brain zaps last?

There is no set “timeline” that says how long brain zaps will last. The zaps people experience are generally subject to individual variation. One person may experience them for a significant duration (e.g. weeks or months), while another may find that they go away in short order (e.g. hours or days). There are a number of factors that can influence how long these “zaps” may persist including: your physiology, duration you took your medication, the dosage, and whether you quit cold turkey or tapered.

It should also be noted that while some individuals experience a bulk of the zaps immediately following discontinuation, some experience the zaps during more protracted phases of withdrawal. In other words, some individuals may have no zaps for weeks, and then experience them seemingly out of nowhere.

Factors that can influence the severity of brain zaps

There are several factors that are thought to influence both the severity and duration of the brain zaps. These factors include things like: individual physiology, level of anxiety, the drug that was taken, how quickly a person discontinued, and whether they are currently taking other medications.

  • Individual physiology: Since not everyone experiences brain zaps, it should be noted that severity of the zaps will vary based on the individual. People with certain genes and/or more resilient nervous systems may not ever experience zaps even when quitting cold turkey. Some individuals will experience the zaps for longer duration than others. Keep in mind that your experience with these zaps may not be the same as someone else in terms of sensation, severity, and duration.
  • Medication: Another huge factor in determining the duration and severity of the zaps is the particular medication that a person was (or is) taking. In most cases, the zaps occur upon discontinuation or skipping a dose of an antidepressant medication. While it is most commonly experienced during SSRI withdrawal, other classes of antidepressants and medications (e.g. benzodiazepines) have been suggested to cause zaps.
    • Cold turkey vs. tapering: If you want to decrease your chances of experiencing severe, persistent brain zaps, make sure you taper off of your medication slowly. The more gradually you taper, the less likely the brain zaps are to occur. If you quit cold turkey, you are significantly increasing your chances of experiencing these jolts.
    • Duration of treatment: How long were you taking your medication? Those who were on a particular drug for a long period of time are more likely to experience the zaps. This is due to the fact that the drug induced more changes in neural functioning and neurotransmission over the long-term than it would have over the short-term. In general, the shorter the duration for which you took your medication, the less likely you are to experience zaps.
    • Half-life: What was the half-life of your drug? Medications with extremely short half-lives are more likely to cause zaps upon discontinuation or missing a dose. A common example of a medication with a short half life is that of Paxil (21 hours). People are much more likely to experience zaps from Paxil than Prozac (with a longer half life of several days).
    • Specific drug: Some would suggest that the particular drug that a person takes will influence the zaps. Certain drug formulations are thought to be of greater potency and affect neurotransmission more than others. The more potent the serotonergic drug, the more likely a person will experience zaps.
  • Other drugs: One factor that not many people consider is that of taking other drugs. Often times people who are taking other medications will not experience brain zaps because the other medication and/or supplement is mitigating the zaps. This is why many people transition to other medications like Prozac or claim that certain supplements help them cope with the zaps. If a person isn’t taking any other drugs or supplements upon discontinuation, the zaps will likely be more severe than those who are still medicated.
  • Level of anxiety: Some have speculated that when a person becomes more anxious, they are more prone to the zaps. This could be due to the fact that anxiety stimulates the central nervous system, and thus could be preventing repairs from occurring after withdrawal. In other cases, people with high anxiety may perceive the brain zaps as being worse than they actually are and/or believe that there is some more significant health problem.

Theories about causes of brain zaps

Brain zaps have long been described by individuals dealing with first-hand experience of antidepressant withdrawal. The zaps feel like jolts of electricity through the head, neck, or other areas of the body such as the spine, arms, and/or legs. In most people, the most common area to experience these zaps is in the head, thus being referred to as “brain” zaps. There are several theories in regards to what may cause them. While certain factors are suggested as causes, the specifics are unknown.

REM Sleep and Serotonin

One hypothesis is floating around the internet that suggests brain zaps are linked to both REM sleep and serotonin. Some people experience brain zaps after waking up from sleep and/or when they fall asleep. A theory is that REM sleep (rapid-eye movement) may influence serotonergic processes in the brain, and the “zaps” are a byproduct of the rapid-eye movement. Whether this has any credibility is debatable. Those who have felt the zaps while sleeping may be able to provide more insight into this experience.

Transitioning out of drug-induced states

Some experts believe that they are a result of the brain suddenly attempting to transition out of the drug-induced neurotransmission to which it had adapted. There are many reports of brain zaps, some of which have been so severe that doctors thought they were experiencing seizures. A couple of British psychiatrists described brain zaps as, “sensory symptoms or symptoms of disequilibrium in brief bursts” when a person moves their head or eyes.

Analogy: Scuba diver surfacing too quickly

They emphasized that this generally occurs during discontinuation from a psychiatric medication. An analogy that has been used to describe why brain zaps occur is a scuba diver who is at the bottom of the ocean, but rises to the surface too fast – resulting in unwanted effects. Other psychiatric authors have suggested that brain zaps are likely influenced by serotonin’s role in sensory functions and muscle movement.

Paresthesia

When a person quits an antidepressant, the person then may experience paresthesia or various sensations as a result of abnormal serotonin levels. These authors describe the fact that major changes to neuronal networks can occur during antidepressant treatment, thus leading to zaps when the brain attempts to function without the drug.

Length of treatment and dosage

Authors have also suggested that both length of treatment and the dosage taken may influence the severity of brain zaps. Additionally, other researchers have hypothesized that in addition to serotonin playing a role in the zaps, norepinephrine may also be a contributing factor – especially for individuals who come off of SNRIs.

Pre-Seizure symptoms?

Researchers have stated that these brain zaps could be similar to pre-seizure symptoms seen in cases of epilepsy. Since there is evidence that the noradrenergic system plays a role in seizure development, it would make sense that norepinephrine could influence brain zaps.

What do brain zaps feel like?

They are relatively difficult to describe because they affect each person differently. For some they are more severe and resemble electrical jolts, while for others they are less severe and easier to cope with. Most would agree that they feel some sort of “electrical” sensation within their head as a result of them. Below is a list of various descriptions of the zaps based on first-hand experiences.

Descriptions:

  • Electrical shocks
  • “Flicking cards” through your head
  • Electrical jolts
  • Light-bulb going off in your head
  • Lightning strikes in the brain
  • “Pop rocks” in the head
  • Pulses of electricity
  • Shivers of the brain
  • Strobe light flashing in the brain

Note: These sensations are often accompanied by sensations of dizziness and/or vertigo. Others may experience symptoms of nausea and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

How to stop brain zaps…

There are no known medical treatments that are prescribed specifically to stop the brain zaps. In most cases, people will have to put up with them and understand that with proper time, they will eventually subside. Below are some recommendations that may help you better deal with the zaps.

  • Conduct a slower taper: If you quit your medication cold turkey, you may need to start taking it again, and then conduct a slower, more gradual taper off of it. Many zaps are caused when people quit their mediation too quickly and/or from too high of a dose.
  • Go back on medication: Another option that some people pursue is simply going back on their medication. After a person is back on their medication they can then decide to taper more slowly and/or switch to a different medication.
  • Take Prozac (longer half-life): A strategy for minimizing brain zaps and general antidepressant withdrawal symptoms is to transition to a drug with a longer half-life. Often an experienced psychiatrist will recommend transitioning to Prozac and eventually withdrawing from the Prozac, which should reduce the chances of the zaps.
  • Supplements: Many people swear by taking various supplements to reduce the severity of brain zaps. Whether these supplements actually work to alleviate the zaps is unverified. Many individuals have said that supplementation of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids improve these zaps to a significant extent. Some have suggested that they completely cure the zapping.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: Many people claim that the best way to deal with brain zaps is to take omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplements. It is unknown why the fish oil helps, but many have testified that it works wonders. While most user accounts suggest taking “fish oil” some would speculate that “krill oil” would provide similar results.
    • Vitamin B12: Some have suggested that getting proper vitamins helps significantly to minimize the zaps. In particular, many people have recommended taking Vitamin B12 supplements and have found them especially helpful. The combination of the B12 with fish oil is able to decrease the severity and frequency of zaps in some people.
  • Time heals all: Understand that although the zaps may be somewhat painful, frustrating, and annoying, they will eventually subside. Even if it seems like they are a permanent neurological problem, rest assured they are not. Eventually your brain will figure out how to repair itself and as your neurotransmission restores itself, you will no longer feel the zaps. For some people the zaps may last days, for others weeks, and for others even longer, but they will subside in time.

Are brain zaps considered dangerous?

If there’s one thing to know about these brain zaps, it should be that they are not considered dangerous. There is no scientific evidence supporting any claims that these jolt-like sensations cause any brain damage or interfere with the health of neurons. Although they may be highly-uncomfortable to experience, at least you don’t have to worry about them killing brain cells.

Have you experienced brain zaps?

Many people have experience brain zaps upon discontinuation from an antidepressant medication. I personally remember quitting Paxil CR and wondering why it felt like my brain was being tortured in an electrocution chamber. For most people, the brain zaps suck, but will eventually subside. If you have a personal experience with “brain zaps” feel free to share it in the comments section below. Also feel free to mention any supplements and/or strategies that have helped you cope with the zaps.

Take the “Brain Zaps” Questionnaire

Patients know that most medical professionals are unwilling to acknowledge “brain zaps” and usually attribute them to worsening of neuropsychiatric conditions and/or a somatic disorder.  Because brain zaps are a legitimate [yet largely unacknowledged] phenomenon among psychiatric patients, a subset of professionals (and many patients) agree that it would be useful to develop guidelines for their prevention and/or treatment.

After being presented with a patient experiencing severe brain zaps, a clinical psychiatrist decided to conduct an investigation by formatting a questionnaire.  I was asked to include the questionnaire on this page.

If you’re interested in helping medical professionals better understand “brain zaps,” feel free to participate in the following survey:  Click here to take the “Brain Zaps” Questionnaire.  The questionnaire results will be used to develop guidelines for brain zap prevention, minimization, and/or treatment.  (UPDATE: Questionnaire is now closed).

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{ 758 comments… add one }
  • Patricia September 16, 2018, 12:47 am

    I had brain zaps since I was a child. I was not on any medicine. Just one day I started having them it was terrible. I didn’t know how to explain it to my parents, but I knew when I move my eyes it got worse. I now take a low dose of cymbalta and it is so much better. Sometimes when I’m getting sick I can feel it creeping back in. But this was a nightmare for me as a kid trying to explain it and people thought I was losing it…

  • Pratik September 14, 2018, 9:20 pm

    I am so glad I found this article but also sad reading all these people victim of these medicines. I was on Effexor and klonopin for sleep. Got off the klonopin due to its habit forming qualities and recently due to the loss of my job I had to quit the Effexor cold turkey.

    The zaps started the second day off meds , today is my third day and I have been in bed all day. The zaps effect my balance to the point I don’t trust myself to be in the garage tinkering incase I do pass out. I am going to try the fish oils and pray this ends.

    Going on meds was a huge mistake, when you run out of money you see the “help” stops.

  • Moira September 11, 2018, 11:01 pm

    I recently switched from an SSRI to an SNRI. Unfortunately I was advised to switch immediately from one to the other. No tapering. I’d never heard of brain zaps and have to admit I was relieved to find out it was a “normal” response.

    Of course now I just want them to stop. It started off feeling like a twitch in my brain, now it feels like a shock, and more severe feeling ones seem to spread to other parts of my body. I hate this feeling so much.

  • Emily MSN September 1, 2018, 12:32 pm

    I have struggled with these for so many years have Major Depressive Disorder and take venlaflaxine ER. All other meds SNRI and SSRI’s have caused this while taking as well. Being a Nurse I press on with the zaps, and have static sounds in my ears as well.

    I believe this to be from the additional tinnitus I’ve had since my teens. Brain zap happens ringing is interrupted by static sound. Thank you for the tips I will add fatty acids and give them a whirl.

    My patients over the years have expressed the same zap sensations, and I have assured them they are not alone. Thank you for the article and comments. I have the zaps while on the med and they are 100 times worse off of the med.

  • Sue August 31, 2018, 12:11 am

    What the article says is true – any medical professional I’ve talked to about brain zaps seems to think they aren’t a real thing. Very frustrating! A pharmacist yesterday told me I just need to get some sleep. While this was true, lack of sleep isn’t causing these symptoms. Stopping Cipralex is.

    I started melatonin last night and slept a little better (been having terrible insomnia). I was woken up less often by zaps, and the extra sleep helped in the morning. I’m also taking about 4000-6000mg of Omega 3 daily, vitamin B, and started magnesium today as well.

    It seems to slightly take the edge off. I’m only on day 4 of being off my SSRI though, so it’s hard to know what’s to come. The zaps get worse later in the day, and I do notice them when I shift my eyes to the side, or blink. Of all my symptoms, brain zaps are the worst.

    Second worse is an intolerance to noise, irritability, confusion, dizziness, upset stomach, terrible headache, teeth clenching, twitching… I’ve read it can take 3 months. I may try acupuncture. I don’t want to be on the drugs anymore and am determined to see this through.

  • Mary August 24, 2018, 3:44 am

    I cut my 10mg to 5mg for 2 weeks and then this week stopped Paxil totally and am very uncomfortable – brain zaps, head buzzing, constant dreaming at night, a racing heartbeat, and unsteady walking.

    Tomorrow I am going back to 10mg for a few weeks and then cut back way more gradually as my doctor said there is no rush. I appreciate knowing I am not the only one and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Chad August 15, 2018, 8:07 pm

    Have had GAD and panic attacks for 21 years now. Lexapro did the job for most of those years but after a blood clot put me in the hospital for a few days the panic attacks came back with a vengeance. Lexapro not longer worked even at a higher milligram. New doctor started me on Effexor.

    Seemed to help but the side effects were awful. Switched me to Celexa and had the same results. Anxiety was better but side effects out weighed results. Then came the worst of all: Paxil. It did its job but again the side effects were just awful. Went back to doc and he put me on Remeron and I quit Paxil cold.

    Looking like that was a bad idea. The zaps start in the morning and seem to get worse as the day goes by. Great to read all the comments here. For some reason its nice to know other are going through this crap with me. I am trying the B-12 and Omega 3 regimen today.

    I will let everyone know how it turns out. I am now on day 10 without Paxil and the zaps, dizziness, and vertigo seemed to spike on day 8 and is still going strong. No worse, but it is definitely kicking my butt.

  • Lisa August 13, 2018, 2:54 pm

    Try fish pills – omega 3 fatty acids (1g-2g a day) and L-tryptophan every night before bed. Does a lot to raise serotonin levels and rebuilds receptors and membranes (the fish oil). Worked for me!

  • haresh August 11, 2018, 5:29 pm

    Thanks a lot for this article. I started antidepressants called Set CR 25 mg at night and 12.5 mg in morning. There were few other tablets I used to take. I started those in Jan and stopped it in June. Due to these antidepressants I felt many side effects like constipation for continues 2-3 days.

    Dangerous dreams seeing myself falling from heights and wake up shockingly. I stopped taking those medicines without consulting doctor. After a month of quitting I started feeling strong brain zaps, I was so tense. Thankfully your article came across and now I am aware of those jolts.

    I have consulted an Ayurvedic (Herbal medicine doctor). I have started herbal capsules named depresol. Let’s see how long it takes to get rid of jolts. I don’t want to go for allopathic treatment again. Once again – thanks to you.

  • Tina August 11, 2018, 3:02 am

    Thank you for this post. I have been researching this all night. I am on duloxetine (cymbalta) for depression, started in January. A couple of months ago, I didn’t take them for about 3 days, on the 3rd day, the ‘zaps’ started and have been happening on a daily basis now even though I am still taking the meds.

    I had no idea coming off them would do this. My psychiatrist did not warn me of this. I feel terrible on them but I have no choice but to take them now. Anyway, I woke up today sick, chest congestion, coughing and as my fever went higher, the zaps got worse and worse. I can’t even move my eyes without zapping out now.

    It is miserable. I can’t get in to see the neurologist for another month but I am going to call the psychiatrist Monday to see if he can switch me to something else. I have severe scoliosis and low lying cerebellar tonsils so he put me on cymbalta to help with the pain.

    It doesn’t. It make me even more depressed and miserable. Going to keep pumping the bc powders and ibuprofen to keep the fever down and hopefully that helps. So there’s my input… *miserable in Bama*

    • Het August 16, 2018, 7:10 pm

      I really feel for you, coming off of duloxetine was one of the worst experiences I ever had. Now I’m in the throes of withdrawing from escitalopram and came on here looking for ideas on supplements to combat the brain zaps.

      I’m breaking my tablets up into tiny pieces – an eighth or smaller – but can’t seem to get completely off them. The fluctuating serotonin levels are giving me migraines. Going to try some fish oil, B-vitamins and magnesium I think. Good luck everyone, you’re not alone!

  • Nicole August 9, 2018, 3:44 am

    I am withdrawing from venlaflaxine 37.5 mg for a week now and experience strong brain zaps. Last night, I had an acupuncture treatment and it seriously helped. Zaps are down by 90% instantly. The second treatment in a week should stop them all at once.

    From what I experienced during and after this treatment, acupuncture, because it is working on the neurological system, seems to help repair the pathways for the normal flow of neurotransmitters. Anyhow, it really works instantly. Go for acupuncture and kiss the suffering goodbye without any other medication.

  • Ansel August 7, 2018, 2:22 am

    Thanks for posting this article and allowing comments. It’s really helpful reading everyone’s experiences and knowing that these aren’t dangerous. THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR POSTS!

    I took entirely too much ecstasy Friday and after a long day of withdrawal Saturday, I decided to take a hydrocodone Sunday and the zaps started. I’ve experienced these when taking high levels of opiates but never with just one hydrocodone.

    Going to take some fish oil and ride the week out and make better decisions, these zaps are so uncomfortable.

  • Beckie August 3, 2018, 3:45 am

    Thank you so very much for this information about “brain zaps.” It’s so good to know that I’m not alone with the zaps, dizziness, nausea, headaches, tinnitus… It has been so helpful to read other people’s experiences. I was on Paxil for 16 years due to job related stress.

    Over the years, I went from 10mg to 40mg per day as my stress increased (or as the dosage of Paxil became less effective over time.) I finally was able to retire and my stress level went down to zero, so I decided to taper off Paxil under my doctor’s supervision. I have been tapering off for 7 months now and I am just ready to be done with Paxil for good.

    First, I went from 40mg per day to 20mg per day with no withdrawal symptoms at all. That was a 3 month period. Then, I went to a schedule of every other day for a month with only some mild dizziness and headaches on the morning of day 2… which subsided a few hours after taking my dose of Paxil.

    Then, I tapered off to every 3 days for a month…and that’s when the brain zaps and vertigo began. I would start getting them in the morning of the 3rd day upon waking up. Just blinking my eyes would get the zaps and dizziness going. Sometimes these were accompanied by nausea and tinnitus.

    But as soon as I took my dose of Paxil the zaps would disappear until the morning of the next 3rd day. After 4 weeks of this, I woke up on day 3 with no zaps…but they started that evening and were worse on day 4. I started taking my dose of Paxil every 4th day for a month.

    I was able to stretch it out to every 5 days for a month. I finally got up one day 5 morning with no zaps! The doctor said I could probably stop taking Paxil at this point. But now after 8 days without my meds… I started again with the zapping and dizziness… though it isn’t as severe as it was.

    I’m going to try the fish oil and B12 to see if I can cope with the zapping instead of taking another round of Paxil. I’ve been trying to get off this since Jan. 1.

  • Cliff Best August 2, 2018, 4:35 pm

    About a month ago I decided enough was enough and tapered off the 600mg of Lyrica I was taking a day for GAD… the side effects over a year or so were not good. I reduced in three weeks and I have not had any Lyrica for a month. Had a bad time with withdrawals but that has stopped.

    However, brain zapping has just started. It’s very debilitating and a bit scary. I feel like I am going to have a seizure but do not! I also take 40mg Citalopram (for 20 years). I have not read whether lyrica withdrawal causes zaps – perhaps someone has more experience. I am 68 years old and have suffered from severe anxiety all my life.

  • Amber July 28, 2018, 9:17 am

    I’m thinking this is what I have, because I have searched for months on what it is, gone to the hospital several times with the answer of “it’s anxiety you’re feeling.” I have anxiety, and I am pretty sure it’s not that. The brain zap description fits me to a T. Experiencing one right now actually.

    I am on 130mg of Methadone. There’s high serotonin levels in it. I started experiencing these zaps after a couple months of taking it so I am going to assume that’s why. It sucks because I can’t just start getting off of it.

    I can’t take suboxone to help treat my issues so I’ll have to wait until I’m ready to be off. Brain zaps are literally the worst.

  • Michele July 11, 2018, 6:05 am

    I have zaps no matter what antidepressant. I have tried to taper off or change from one to another. Withdrawals are crazy. This also occurs when trying to quit Ambien. For right now, my Doctor is just leaving everything alone. A low dose of Zoloft and low dose of Ambien has been working great. I know however everyone is different.

  • Kenny July 11, 2018, 4:45 am

    I have quit taking Escitalopram and the Brain Shivers are unbearable. If I move my eyes side to side it feels as though I’m being tased in my face and head. I have tired to let time take its course but found the intensity only increases with time.

    I found the only relief was to go back on the drug and within 48 hours the Shivers were gone. I tried to taper myself down by breaking my pills into half’s and quarters but once I had quit taking them completely the Brain Shivers return. My spouse says it will just take time, but time only increases the intensity of them making me less hopeful they will ever subside.

    I cannot function normally when I’m off the Escitalopram and have even considered suicide to solve the problem, but I know that’s not the answer. Please if anyone has any idea how to get rid of these please let me know. Sincerely, KQ

    • Danny July 29, 2018, 1:00 am

      Kenny, I have felt things I never thought the body and mind were capable of feeling coming off drugs of all sorts. They always say there are no withdrawal symptoms and I always tell them they are very wrong. You MUST give withdrawal a very gradual slope, at least two months, to taper off or you will feel badly.

      There is a Serotonin Syndrome that can develop if you don’t. Remember, these affect neurotransmitters, the electro-chemical connection between nerves. You need time.

  • Nikki July 9, 2018, 6:27 pm

    Hey y’all! I’ve been on Zoloft for 3 weeks and have had NOTHING but yucky symptoms. Then Saturday I started getting the brain zaps. I will admit – on the 4th I had some drinks but the alcohol is way out of my system and I’ve been experiencing the zaps for 3 days still. I’m to the point of quitting cold turkey because I’m extremely miserable. Has anyone come off Zoloft only after 3 weeks and had extreme withdraws? THANK YOU!

    • lulu July 12, 2018, 3:09 am

      Hi Nikki, Don’t quit cold turkey! Talk to your doctor and taper off very slowly. I got brain zaps when I didn’t take my Zoloft on time or if I missed a dose. But I got them much worse when I tried to taper off on my own.

      I was on a low dose of 50mg so I thought tapering off over 3 weeks would be okay. It wasn’t. I’ve had brain zaps and dizziness and nausea for over 3 weeks now. It’s finally getting better but I wish I had consulted my doctor and tapered off much slower. Good luck!

  • Claire June 27, 2018, 10:49 am

    I have lots of experience of these. Now in my 50s, but coming off anti-depressants in my 20s, they stopped eventually. If I miss or am late with a dose of my current antidepressants I get them.

    I started getting them once after taking co-codamol for 3 days! – I took one more dose then they stopped, and today I have them, all I can think of is that I have not taken any paracetamol, as I usually do daily for headaches. Took some, and they seem to be going.

    They are debilitating – I cannot bear to be anywhere except at home when I get them. They also seem more severe now than when I was younger. All I can think of is that my body is very sensitive – examples being in pregnancy I could feel my babies kicking at a much earlier stage than you are supposed to feel it, also I could perceive my contractions starting when they were only the tiniest of sensation, with no pain.

    I never made it off venlafaxine because of them – I tapered right down, but then went down with depression again, so they are back up.

  • Jenna A June 25, 2018, 1:14 am

    I was taking 50mg sertraline (Zoloft) for about a year for anxiety and stopped taking it cold turkey when I couldn’t get a refill from my doctor office. About a week into not taking it, I started having dizziness when I moved my eyes, turned my head, and stood up.

    That went away mostly and now in week 3 of not taking it, I am having tons of brain zaps. Just moving my eyes causes them to start. I was super worried about it and looked up what they were.

    I am hopeful that the zaps will stop soon but I feel like maybe they won’t and I feel like crying. I know this article says they aren’t dangerous or will last forever but what if they don’t ever go away? I don’t feel like myself. :(

    • kat July 8, 2018, 7:27 pm

      I’ve been off effexor after tapering down for 3 months. Be assured – the zaps will decrease with time. I hope your withdrawal is not long. Mine was unpleasant, but not unbearable. I really think this was due to my being on two anticonvulsants – one is Klonopin, the other is lamictal. Good luck to you. It will not be permanent.

  • Amy June 18, 2018, 1:05 am

    I was on Celebrex for several years for fibromyalgia. I ran out and hadn’t ordered any. After about 5 days I ended up at the emergency room not knowing that I was having withdrawal symptoms. Got back on for long enough to start tapering off of it.

    I was taking 2 30mg per day. My doctor prescribed 20 mg tablets. I went from 60mg to 50 to 40 to 20 and eventually cutting the 20 mg in half taking 10 mg per day for a week at each dosage.

    It has been almost a month and I am still zapping bad, I have severe tinnitus, dizziness and nausea. I am going to try the Fish Oil and B12 out of desperation. I am praying that it will work.

  • Sam June 13, 2018, 12:42 am

    I was taking Lexapro (escitalopram) for about 8 months when my new psychiatrist decided to try me on Effexor (venlafaxine). I was only on it for about 5 days because of bad side effects (racing heart, sweats, etc). I figured since I hadn’t been on it for very long, I’d be fine. I was absolutely wrong.

    The first day after stopping the Effexor was torture. Horrible nausea, dizziness, extreme anxiety, cold sweats, balance issues… you name it. The second day I felt far better, but these brain zaps remain and today is day 3… with every zap, it’s like I’ve got this whooshing noise in my head, and it’s DEFINITELY affected by moving my eyes and/or head abruptly.

    It’s not painful, but it’s definitely uncomfortable and disconcerting… almost makes me feel like I shouldn’t be operating “heavy machinery.” I’m hoping that this won’t last for too long.

  • Brooke June 1, 2018, 3:14 pm

    I just recently started stopped taking Paxil, and even when tapering off I still experienced this. These brain zaps are a very weird phenomenon. I have the “buzzing” feeling in my head almost constantly, but I swear if you watched me (especially last night trying to fall asleep) I looked like I had tics.

    It starts with a weird “jolt” in my brain (not an electrical sensation, but a feeling as if someone just kicked my brain) and then my body follows by an quick twitch. I can’t control it and it was happening almost every other minute for about an hour last night.

    • Lacie June 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

      I stopped taking paxil about 10 years ago and I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. I hope it’s better for you by now. The withdrawal also caused me to twitch, and that stuck around for months.

    • Casey July 7, 2018, 10:14 pm

      I tapered off of 150mg Zoloft and switched to 150mg Wellbutrin ER – and your description Brooke, is exactly what’s been happening to me since I stopped Zoloft. It’s been 15 days and it seems to be getting worse.

      It feels like it happens multiple times a minute all day and it jolts from my brain to my fingertips. It’s very uncomfortable and frustrating. I really hope it stops soon. :(

  • Charlotte May 28, 2018, 3:24 pm

    I feel like I experience something like this when I sleep too much, particularly after a heavy night or 2 of drinking with a lack of sleep (which leads to feeling anxious and perhaps lower levels of serotonin?).

    I’m not sure if it’s the same as brain zaps (as I’ve also experienced these in the past after MDMA use) but it feels like my brain is stuck in sleep for a moment and that I’m trying to pull out of it while semi-conscious, and it kind of hurts (like an electric shock perhaps) then I feel really dizzy and a bit nauseous.

    It’s really unpleasant and has happened to me after napping in the day too. Any ideas if this is the same thing?

    • kat July 8, 2018, 7:40 pm

      Are you withdrawing from anything? If not, I would consult with a neurologist. Hope you find out what is going on.

  • Sean C May 22, 2018, 6:12 pm

    These articles and the ability to post and share our experiences is so helpful. I have been taking Paxil – 30 – 60 mg daily for 4 straight years (doctor prescribed 1 or 2 daily as needed – I would only take 2 – 60 mg about once a week). 7 days into cold turkey stop – I’ve tried tapering but I suffered withdrawal the same as I do now so I must just push through!

    I have to quit because it has brought my libido to zero. No anxiety what so ever and the few crying spells have been tears of some of the most profound joy I have ever felt (I have an extremely strong faith and pray throughout the day for several years now). I feel psychologically terrific but the Brain zaps are horrendous – I can trigger one just by moving my eyes side to side – every time!

    I get one about every 10 seconds. The worst symptom is a relentless, constant and very loud tinnitus that is the worst symptom of all – it’s going on all day every second. I’m also getting restless leg syndrome the last night hit both legs and both arms – had to get up and walk around the basement for two hours to hold it at bay.

    Those aside I am so much luckier than others and will pray for all my brothers and sisters enduring this now as well. They say all good things will pass – so don’t bad things?! Hang in there all – Godspeed!

  • Tarryn May 20, 2018, 7:42 am

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’m on day 2 of coming off Venlafaxine and my doctor told me I was probably hearing things or it was my jaw making sounds when I told her about these brain zaps. I had no idea it was a thing until I read this!

    THANK YOU! I’m really struggling with it. It affects my whole body, I’m constantly nauseas and it’s happening all the time. I’m going to buy supplements tomorrow and pray to every possible thing that these zaps subside. 🙏

    • Will May 29, 2018, 2:41 am

      I’m two days off Venlafaxine too, and they’re driving me crazy!

      • Tarryn May 30, 2018, 12:34 am

        I take 3 fish oil tablets and 1 vitamin B12 and the brain shocks stopped instantly! Please please give this a try!!!

        • Carole June 12, 2018, 4:06 pm

          Tarryn – I’m going to the store today to get this. Thanks for posting. I pray it will help me like it has helped you. I am interested in how you came up with this.

        • Durrell June 14, 2018, 8:35 pm

          Hey did the shocks stay away? What dosage fish oil and B12? Thanks.

          • Tarryn July 2, 2018, 10:00 pm

            The zaps stayed away! I’m now about 3 months in and haven’t had one in about 2 and a bit months. I came about it just by reading other people’s comments. And so happy I did so much research!

            I’ve spread the word by telling my GP and psychiatrist. If it helps you, please spread the word to your GP too!

          • Tarryn July 2, 2018, 10:02 pm

            I take 3 x 2000mg fish oil tabs, 1000mg of Vitamin C and 1 Vitamin B12 tablet all in the morning.

  • Cyndi Tustin May 2, 2018, 1:46 pm

    I was put on Tramadol as soon as the so-called “opioid crisis” began and it hardly touched my pain levels. I told the doctor and he told me to keep taking it and that “eventually it would start working”. Well, it still hadn’t so I just stopped taking it altogether figuring the risk of organ damage from taking it, outweighed the benefits (which was absolutely nothing).

    About 18 hours later the extreme fatigue and brain zaps were horrific. I’m trying to raise my grand daughter and take care of my 2 aging parents by myself. I can’t afford downtime AT ALL.

    So, long story short… thanks to my misinformed doctor and the makers of the drug who failed to mention any of these side effects, I’m back on it again just so nobody else suffers. Well played Big Pharma, well played! 😠

    • Derek July 4, 2018, 9:11 pm

      I am experiencing the same after Tramadol was prescribed for a recent foot surgery. Tramadol for pain limited its effect to say the least – but side effects and brain zaps after stopping are bordering on ridiculous!! I have never experienced anything like this – not painful but talk about stopping you in your tracks.

  • Alyssah April 29, 2018, 8:40 am

    I had been taking Effexor XR for about a year and my insurance stopped covering the specific kind I needed. So basically ever since then (few days ago) it’s been complete torture. I may even file a lawsuit against the behavioral health department for negligence and allowing anyone to go through what I’ve been going through.

    I didn’t know what these zaps were, but having them for just a few days combined with vomiting, dizziness and headaches makes me wish I was dead even more than before I started on this death sentence of a drug.

    • Leese May 22, 2018, 8:49 pm

      Effexor XR withdrawal was the absolute worst for me… and that was like 10 years ago. I still remember sitting on my bed covering my ears and crying because of the incessant “whoosh, whoosh” brain zaps over and over. Eventually it stopped. Now the same thing is happening with Zoloft, but not quite as bad.

    • Nancy June 6, 2018, 11:15 am

      Yes, I know exactly how you are feeling! It’s horrific and took me completely by surprise. I had no idea the withdrawal would be so debilitating.

      I’m back on a lower dose of Effexor (25mg) just because I have to go to work! However, I’m going to start taking the Omega 3 and the B12 ASAP so that it hopefully won’t happen again in a week when I attempt to go off it again.

  • leslie April 28, 2018, 11:25 pm

    Just weaning myself off of several months of Cymbalta 60 mg. Brain zaps are ridiculously bad… diarrhea, flu like symptoms… very vivid dreams. I am shocked that such a short duration of use can cause such difficult withdrawal symptoms.

    I used this drug for advanced degenerative joint disease coupled with fibromyalgia and Sjogren’s syndrome. Did nothing for the pain. Kept my mood very flat and stable, but definitely not worth what I am experiencing now.

    • Grammy June 7, 2018, 12:02 pm

      I’m coming off Cymbalta 30 mg for my chronic lower back pain and these withdrawal effects are horrible! Thinking back over the past 6 months while on the drug I have to admit that it only minimally helped my pain and made my depression worse.

      I hate that the docs office has forced me to go cold-turkey off this med (long story… I created my own comment about it) or didn’t give me enough until they could see me again, but I’ll be glad when these symptoms are done so I can turn my back on any future psychotropic medications for good.

  • Karen April 27, 2018, 6:40 pm

    I was on citalopram for 10 years plus. Went off cold turkey 1st week of April. Brain zaps galore. I took 2 Benadryl before bed last night for allergies – this morning minimal zaps. Took another at 1:00 PM today – so far no zaps. It is 2:00 PM. Don’t know if it is coincidence, but I feel better today.

  • Melissa April 23, 2018, 4:48 am

    I was on Cymbalta for 2 months and had to stop cold turkey due to insurance issues. I have not had it for about 3 weeks and just now feeling this. At first everyone kept saying I had vertigo but it was not adding up. So I just googled (feeling like you are being shocked when you move eyes) and found this.

    So relieved to find out it is not a tumor or anything like that. I get my insurance back in the next few days so I will be starting back on the meds to stop these zaps! Good luck everyone.

  • Nik April 11, 2018, 5:38 am

    I have been having brain zaps for 30 years. They have been steadily getting more frequent and now are associated with tinnitus. Last night was the worst ever with bad dreams and heightened symptoms. I am currently reducing a small dose of steroid, prednisolone but have not had antidepressants.

    • Bo May 15, 2018, 5:58 am

      I have also been experiencing brain zaps associated w/tinnitus. I have never been on any kind of anti-depressants, although I do take an opioid for pain from a severe leg injury. Only other meds are for blood pressure and thyroid.

      My tinnitus and zaps started about the same time around the first of the year. I became very sick w/flu new years weekend associated with extremely high fever after which I noticed the noises. I don’t exactly hear ringing, I have 3 different distinct sounds: 1-the screaming jet engines
      2-chirping crickets and #3 my favorite (NOT) crickets with cicadas!!!

      It’s unbelievable how real #3 sounds, it’s the most prevalent and probably going to drive me insane. But the zaps, the zaps are the most frightening thing I have ever experienced!!! I have had them around the same time frame as the tinnitus. I don’t know which came first or which caused the other but they are scary.

      No pain associated with mine but quite severe. I’ve tried to explain it to my wife and daughter but describe myself as a kitchen appliance peacefully running on 110V when suddenly I’m hit with a billion volts for a mili-second, then I flatline for a second!!! So uncomfortable!!

      I have not discerned any noticeable pattern, mine come at all times of the day. Anybody else experience these without being on antidepressants or benzos?

      • Temps June 27, 2018, 8:44 pm

        Hi, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with the zaps. I am as well and I get them when my blood pressure is too high. There isn’t much info on the link between the two problems. My doctor keeps wanting to treat my BP with metoprolol which raises my BP and gives me more brain zaps. It’s unbearable.

        So the only treatment I have for both is a drug I use every night for insomnia, tizanidine, which is a muscle relaxer. I’m now taking it throughout the day until I can get back to the doctor for a different blood pressure med.

        I just thought the link with high BP might be part of the issue for you too. FYI: I’ve tried antidepressants but it’s been a few years now, and I take klonopin here and there. If anyone else has the zaps with high BP, please let me know. Good luck all!

  • Carolyn April 5, 2018, 2:39 am

    I began experiencing these “brain zaps” a little over a year ago. I struggled with anxiety so badly. Panic attacks are the worst. After having my daughter almost 2 years ago I suffered with horrible anxiety attacks. After seeking help my doctor changed me from Prozac to Effexor. Within days I could tell a difference.

    I couldn’t believe how much it helped me. Over time I ended up on 150mg of Effexor and have been on that dosage close to 2 years. It never occurred to me until now that I didn’t start having these brain zaps until after having my baby which was the same time I started Effexor. I was at my wits end last fall. I felt as if I had a mental breakdown because I did not understand what was going on with my body.

    I would experience these jolts/electrical sensations/zaps when I was overtired. Exhausted, and running on little sleep. I was never a good sleeper to begin with, but anyone with children know how much sleep you lose when having a child. I started noticing these symptoms when my body was going on without enough sleep.

    I just thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t understand why I had this going on inside my head just because I was physically tired. I couldn’t understand why my body was going through this. Until now. I recently found out I’m pregnant again.

    Effexor is not a medication you can’t take while pregnant so I have been slowly tapering myself off the med for the last 2 weeks. This was when I noticed I’ve been having more frequent zaps. I also take Xanax as needed. For the past year I’ve taken 0.25mg (1/2 of my 0.5mg I have) almost every night before bed. I didn’t want to rely on this to help me sleep, but I NEEDED a good nights sleep.

    So along with the Effexor I have also cut out the Xanax. These last 2 weeks have been such a challenge. By having more frequent brain zaps I finally got online to see if I was the only person to have ever experienced these. I was so relieved to read that they can be the cause of withdrawal from medication and/or getting off meds.

    Had I known this was something I might deal with when first starting the Effexor, I never ever would’ve started it! I absolutely love how Effexor helps manage my anxiety a great deal BUT I would rather go without than suffering anymore of these. It is scary and the most uncomfortable feeling. This topic isn’t very popular or at least not talked about much.

    I mean I have never heard of such a thing until I experienced them myself and decided to look up my symptoms. I hope everyone that is dealing with these things doesn’t have to endure them too long. I pray mine don’t last much longer either.

  • Bonnie April 4, 2018, 12:25 pm

    I am 63 yrs old. I was on Effexor for hot flushes for 6 months, started to wean myself off them in the last month (1 very second day) as cooler weather was approaching & hot flushes are not as severe in winter. My Dr suggested to do this.

    I saw my Dr today & complained about an unusual feeling in my head when moving my eyes from side to side & felt very tired 5 days when I came off Effexor. Dr told me today I may have vertigo. Now I feel after reading the comments I am having these brain zaps.

    I also have rheumatoid arthritis or a inflammatory arthritis & take immune suppressant drugs for it. Thank you, the comments have been helpful. Bonnie

  • jamie April 2, 2018, 9:55 pm

    I was on paxil for almost 4 months. I started with the 10mg and gradually increased to 40mg per day. It was my doctors recommendation to increase the dosage anyway. Before I took paxil, I was experiencing strong anxiety and eventually paxil healed it, no doubt. It’s been 3rd week now without paxil and I am having strong brain zaps for almost 4 days.

    I experienced some bearable withdrawal symptoms following the first days of quitting it, such as: illness, dizziness, muscle jerks etc. but brain zaps are killing me. I still feel thankful to paxil to heal me from a strong anxiety but, zaps are hell. When I move my eyes vertically no zaps occur but horizontal movements lead to immediate and strong zaps.

    I am well aware that it’s not a persistent impact, but it’s hard to keep my mental state up with this sort of experience. I was feeling so bad before talking to my doctor, but she was confident that those are just part of the withdrawal process and will diminish. Nothing really helps for zaps, no remedies at all! All you can do is endure, if not, start it again and taper very-very slowly.

  • Joe March 31, 2018, 12:46 pm

    I came off 60 mg cymbalta completely a week ago and the withdraws are terrible. I was tapered off it over the course of a week. This is the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. The brain zaps are the horrifying and very uncomfortable.

    It’s like my brain pulses forward in my head and gives me a split-second tunnel vision effect. And then there’s the dizziness, nausea and all the other terrible withdraw symptoms with that drug. Has anyone tried anything that actually works to get them to stop?

    • christina m bloom April 21, 2018, 1:16 pm

      I wish I knew if there was anything out there that could help. I’m weaning myself off of effexor and the brain zaps are terrible. Mine feel like electrical shocks going through my brain.

    • Rich July 12, 2018, 11:43 pm

      My zaps are accompanied by a quick feeling of blackout and then head pain for days. I am on blood pressure medicine only. Doctor has told me to take melatonin.

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