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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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{ 771 comments… add one }
  • Courtney April 9, 2016, 4:14 pm

    I have been taking Effexor and Suboxone for approximately 8 years. My Effexor prescription ran out and I thought nothing of it. Then I started experiencing what I called “mini-strokes.” My whole body would jerk and I actually would blank out for a moment. Unfortunately, I had 2 car accidents coming off Effexor- both were minor, but both times I damaged my car.

    The 2nd time a police officer pulled me over and ran a field sobriety test which came up negative. I could not figure out what was going on and went to psych ward feeling so messed up. I really thought it was from Suboxone or alcohol withdrawal – I was a casual drinker. Now I feel so much better that I wasn’t crazy.

    I was at the emergency room and none of the doctors figured out what was happening. I really thought I was having seizures. Thank you to your site!

  • Judy Hill April 8, 2016, 6:28 pm

    I experienced the “brain zaps” (popping noises) years ago (80’s) while falling asleep. I had just stopped taking an MAOI (actually tried all 3 available at that time) that put me in a state of mania. My doctor at the time said I wouldn’t have experienced the mania had I not been bipolar.

    I disagreed with him because I don’t have the usual highs and lows that accompany bipolar patients. My depression is more dysthymia in nature…my personality is more flat-line – lukewarm with no feelings of euphoria.

    • clks April 10, 2016, 6:53 pm

      Have you looked into hypnagogia – I have that and ‘hear’ all sorts of noises in the night, usually it sounds like springs going in a mattress. sometimes it sounds like someone is blowing a massive raspberry inside my entire brain complete with sensations. This I think is what you are describing. Hypnagogia is a sleep disorder brought on with insomnia, which is very common in people with mental health issues. Brain zaps as described here are not audible they are more of a sensation.

  • Almo April 5, 2016, 2:48 pm

    You have no idea how much this has helped me! Not only has these shocked feelings increased for me lately, I was freaking out because I’m also in my first trimester and thought it was caused some how by the loosening of my jaw joints. I actually spent half an hour last night trying to figure out what causes these when I discovered I was also suffering from my hearing cutting out while sitting next to a fan.

    My logic was jaw loosing, = earring effects = cuz you’re preggo. I took time to plug each ear, and wait for a shock. I timed them, then, I moved my jaw into different positions. Covered each eye… Discovered it was my eyes!! My eyes!? How does eye movement cause, what I lovingly called, “tweaking”.

    To me, it started off feeling like that jolly feeling when you start to fall asleep and get that sensation of falling. Now I know, it’s actually related to eye movement! After experiencing these shocks more than 10 times a min, I knew I had to do something. I have now gone back on my SSRI mess at a low dose and will wean off slower this time. Thank you so much for you’re information! You age saved my sanity.

  • Alex April 4, 2016, 5:51 am

    I am suffering on the brain zaps after discontinue SSRI (I took it for 15 years). I couldn’t believe that the intake of Vitamin B complex and Fish oil capsules have removed the symptoms almost immediately. Thank you so much for the extensive information. Everybody can stop this stuff, it’s worth it to get back freedom and health.

    • Amy April 14, 2016, 6:57 pm

      Hi there, Do you remember the mg of each vitamin you were taking daily? And how long did it take to go away?

  • Duane April 1, 2016, 5:27 pm

    In the past few months I was taken off Fluoxetine (having been on for close to 9 years), put on Cymbalta which didn’t seem to have the desired affect. Quit cold turkey and now on Trintellix.

    Wow. Thought I was going crazy or close to dying when I was experiencing these strange brain zaps. Thanks to everyone for sharing that this is quite common when changing meds.

  • Buster March 31, 2016, 9:34 pm

    I have had the most disturbing time stopping this SSRI; brain zaps, dizziness, lack of coordination, disturbing thought process; anxiety, the list goes on. I took Celexa, 20mg, for 13 plus years and last August had what I believe a full blown anxiety attack while driving on the highway, followed by a series of head sensations, weird feelings like out of body stuff and just feeling totally disconnected from everything.

    I went to my Doctor and she sent me for: MRI, EEG, ENT, immunologist, countless blood draws – had an elevated Sed Rate, cardiologist. Nothing specific came back in all of these tests. I weaned myself off, because my instincts told me it was the Celexa. My doctor did not agree until after 4 months of testing and hellish feelings. In February I started the process 20 to 10 for a week and then 5 for a week. I think I did this too quickly. Any thoughts?

  • Amy Dobney March 31, 2016, 9:01 pm

    Accidentally dropped taking Paroxetine after my prescription ended. Won’t be able to see my doctor for another 5 days.. It’s been about 5 already. I was alright for the first few, but then grew very tired. My body was very slow. Today though, I woke up to these zappings. Work was total hell, as every time I turned my head or looked to the left or right of my eyes – ZAP! Move too quickly, and I zap. I’m extremely tired of dealing with not being able to move my neck quickly. The zap feels like a pulse going from the back of my head to my eyeballs. My vision blackens and blurs for a second before adjusting. Leaving behind a pulsing headache.

  • Katie March 31, 2016, 3:44 am

    I get mine and I have not stopped taking my Paxil or Kolonpin. I take them everyday at the same time and have never missed a dose. I’ve had the zaps before but this is the longest they have lasted (2 weeks).

  • Kelsey March 30, 2016, 3:43 am

    I have been weaning off of cymbalta for months now… Brain zaps are so bad they make me nauseous. Lately it has been very hard to walk up/downstairs, drive, and sleep. I’m taking B12 and have increased water intake. Any other suggestions?

  • Serenity March 30, 2016, 12:11 am

    I experience brain zaps but I have never taken any medications. Why do I experience them then?

    • Tina August 12, 2016, 4:17 pm

      Hi Serenity, That’s my question too. After a flu, I started getting a great number of the symptoms described here. I’ve done the full workup with many specialists, even the ENT at Mayo Clinic. No one knew the cause. Did you ever get the answer to your question? Or find anything that helped you? Thanks, Tina

  • Rick March 29, 2016, 4:11 pm

    Hello to everyone, I been on and off paxil for years. I used to get the zaps bad, in fact one time it was so bad that I would get knocked to the ground from the zaps. Over time it’s gotten better, this last time I stopped paxil was about eight weeks ago. The reason I stopped is all sorts of things where going on. A little history, I have so much never damage from working and I have chronic pain from head to toe.

    I had to quit working and now on disability since the early 90’s. I got so depressed I didn’t want to live. I was put on many different antidepressants and ended up on paxil going on roughly 10 YRS. After my body gave out I have been on opiates and get steroid injections plus a pain pump, so opiates don’t help with the zaps.

    About six weeks ago I was diagnosed with type one diabetes and a few weeks before finding that out I thought it was some of my meds. I was going through withdrawals, worse depression and a few other problems, so I was trying different things and one was stopping the paxil. Since I stopped, the zaps are very minimal, hardly any shakes but my ears ring.

    I believe I’m gonna be alright this time but I worry because I still am depressed but off the paxil for the first time in years without all the crap, just so happy for that. Now if I can only get out the front door, I might be able to lead a new life. I PRAY to GOD and the BEAUTIFUL WARM COMFORTING BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT to protect and keep me safe.

    Don’t stop trying, I never did. Believe in yourself, believe in GOD. Only you and you alone can make the difference. May GOD BLESS YOU ALL.

  • Michael March 27, 2016, 4:47 am

    Like everyone Else… I’m so glad I found this site. It hit on every single level that I was experiencing and gave me exact answers as to why they were happening that match my situation. I have high anxiety as well, so i’ve been really worried that this was a more significant health issue. Again, I’m glad I found this site.

    Withdrawing from Effexor and my anxiety combined made these shocks absolutely terrifying in jail. I had no one to give me answers and I had absolutely intense jolts every time I was just about to fall sleep. I could feel my eyes start to rapidly move and then I’ll just get a jolt that would make me actually pop up. The price you pay for going to Joe. Took them several weeks to give me my anti-depressant medication.

  • rob March 26, 2016, 6:07 am

    I have had brain zaps for a few years now and only get them wen I am very hungover, I had a breatherlizer in my car and soon figured out that they stared wen the alcohol level got back to 0.000, I’ve nearly had a seizure and its thrown me off the bed with how severe the jolts can be, I put it down to dehydration cause I’ve never had any medication!

  • Todd March 25, 2016, 5:45 am

    A lot of people seem to have brain zaps from ending medication.. I’ve been having them on and off since I was a young child, and now I’m 20 and they are still occurring. I never had a name for them until a month or two ago but now that I know what they are called it’s been interesting. I’ve had them go away and return many times but for me they seem to be stress related.

    I’ve also noticed that since I was little they have been occurring when I’m in new places, especially if I’m either not supposed to be there, or theres something particularly spooky about it. I would be interested to know if anyone else has had any causes similar to this.

    Another thing I found interesting is that they never bothered me too much. I just have the sensation and move on. I never thought much about it until I finally knew what it was called. Anyway, good luck to everyone!

  • Tami Dalrymple March 24, 2016, 8:31 pm

    I have experienced these on and off for quite a while. Biggest problem with this theory for me is, I’m not on any antidepressants, and haven’t been for years for this to be part of my problem. I guess I must chalk it up to anxiety and stress. I notice it a lot more when trying to sleep. Happens more and more. At least I know I’m not crazy.

  • Susan March 24, 2016, 12:55 pm

    I had these brain zaps around 1996 and they were disturbing. Sent to neurologist and they did MRI finding 6 lesions which had a list of things they could be from such as mini strokes, migraines, and many other things but not Alzheimer’s as not in correct part of brain. Neurologist felt there was no concern and the zaps did eventually go away but now they are back 20 years later. I am curious how many of you have had an MRI and been shown to have brain lesions of some sort.

    Wondering if I should go and find out if there have been any changes and whether these lesions cause zaps or zaps cause lesions. I have been on b12 for a couple of years now as I was deficient. Also been on magnesium for a month due to major Charlie horses in my legs and feet. I have fibromyalgia since 2003 due to car accident and have been on narcotics, fentanyl and Percocet for pain relief for many years. Have reduced under doctors care since August of last year and almost off altogether before this started again.

    I had 1 doctor that had me on 8 gabapentin a day and I reduced myself by 1 every 2 weeks and finally finished last week before the brain zaps started. I saw someone else mention that they took this drug as well. I was told that was suppose to help my chronic pain but never really did. I am tired of being in medications and they obviously affect our bodies in the long run. Please reply if any of you had an MRI that showed similar results as mine.

    • Eva April 15, 2016, 1:52 pm

      Hi I did have MRI and they find several white spots but my neurologist said nothing to worry about. Most people has this age. I’m 55. And she said I should see a physiatrist. I will see one in May but I won’t take other depression pills. I have had brain zaps since I went on remeron. Never again.

  • Julie Velasquez March 23, 2016, 3:58 pm

    To me they almost feel as if I am watching an old horror movie in black and white and there is a static movement on the screen. Its like all my thoughts go black and white for a few seconds and kind of shake a bit. It usually causes my whole body to twitch as well. I recently started lyrica for possible multiple sclerosis symptoms and neuralgia etc. The lyrica has helped the pain but made the “zaps” or “static” as I call it more common.

  • Geraldine O'Shea March 21, 2016, 10:00 am

    I am so glad I found this article, it has helped me immensely. I came off Sertraline about 6 weeks ago cold turkey and the brain zaps were terrible. I googled my symptoms because I had never heard of brain zaps before, and I came across this site. After reading the bit about omega 3 fish oils I thought I would give it a go. So about 4 weeks ago I started taking omega 3 and B12 together and I have noticed in the last week a significant improvement in my head, so much that the zaps are barely there anymore. I will continue to take my supplements and hope the zaps disappear altogether. I hope this works for others as well as it has for me. Good luck everyone. ☺

  • Samantha Hudson March 18, 2016, 1:16 pm

    Hi. Thank you for writing about this. A few years ago I was diagnosed with bpd. They took me off all my meds and made a new cocktail for me. Whilst this change happened I got these brain zaps which are exactly how I explained to the mental health nurses, the doctors, the psychiatrists and not one of them knew what I was talking about and looked at me like I was making it up. Now I’m having them again and I am going to show them this article that it does actually happen!

  • Misty March 17, 2016, 3:31 pm

    I just experienced my first brain zap last night as I slept. I have not been on any of the kind of medications you described, so it’s not medicine related or withdrawals that does this to me. I do not remember what my body did as I was sleeping, but I remember the feeling in my head. It was not on one side of the brain but all over.

    I could not think of anything or even produce a single thought or even remember any memories. I’ve never had seizures in my life. It lasted what seemed like 5 or 10 minutes but who knows how long it really went on. I tried to open my eyes and get up out of bed but couldn’t, it was like my body completely shut down. It is by far the most scariest thing that’s ever happened to me.

  • FC March 16, 2016, 9:10 pm

    I have been on Xanax, Ativan and Valium over the years. When one benzo became less effective, my doctor would rotate them to prevent a tolerance. Now, I want to rid my body of these little devils. I have horrible brain zaps, profuse sweating, hot flashes, chills, body aches, sleep problems, etc. I am trying a taper, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

    I am very frustrated and I am just worried about a seizure or stroke. I can’t begin to tell you how horrible these pills are for your system and your brain. I wish I had never taken a second look at them. I sympathize with all of you who are also going through this. Prayers for all of us. :(

  • Katie March 16, 2016, 1:02 am

    I got the zaps first about nine years ago when I tapered off Effexor. They did go away in time, but however, every once in awhile I would feel it if I moved my eyes too fast to the side. However, just this past weekend I got the stomach flu and I experienced the same intensity and frequency of brain zaps that I did when coming off the drug. I was on antidepressants for 16 years, I really think they have damaged me somehow. I also suffer from otosclerosis, I’m not sure if they are related.

  • Mike March 15, 2016, 7:45 am

    For me, they feel like an electrical pulse, and if you know Star Wars, it sounds like a light saber is quickly whizzing past my ears/head. It’s really weird to explain it that way but that’s the closest sound description I could come up with. It feels like you’re jolted like a blow to the head. Like static. They’re startling and happen to me only when I lay down to sleep if I forget to take my viibryd antidepressant (which has saved my life) – it’s a daily dose so at about 20 hours without it, they start. Super annoying and creepy but yeah – harmless.

    • FC March 16, 2016, 9:12 pm

      Yes, Mike. That is exactly how I would describe them. Does you head also feel “like it will explode,” with light sensitivity?

  • Eva March 13, 2016, 2:15 am

    I’m having brain zap all the time over 5 months now. I got the brain zap when I went on remeron 4 months ago and now I’m trying to come off, but getting even worst brain zap. My doctor recommend Prozac to take it. He said sometimes it helps for brain zap. I’m scared to take other depression pills, but I have no other choice. Worried I have some brain damage. Taking fish oil, Mg, Ca, B12 any other suggestions?

    • Rick March 29, 2016, 4:17 pm

      Sweetheart, You’re gonna be fine. You must keep a positive attitude. I WILL PRAY FOR YOU.

  • Anthony March 10, 2016, 6:31 pm

    I have been reading about the brain shocks and am surprised that alcohol withdrawal was not mentioned. I know that is the result in my case. They started 1 week after I stopped alcohol intake. Hope they stop soon. It has been a week.

  • HHF March 7, 2016, 4:23 pm

    I have suffered from chronic neck pain and had ACDF in c5/c6 in my neck. I recently have suffered with disc degeneration in my lumbar region l5 to S1. I think I suffer from PTSD, nightmares and lack of sleep are a real challenge. Over the past 4 months I have had continuous tinnitus in both ears which is so loud!

    To compound the issue my brain zaps just before falling asleep can go on for 15-20 minutes. I have back pain so like to sleep early but feel anxious as I know when I try to sleep the zaps begin. Then reawaken me 4 or 5 times; I hope they pass soon.

  • Jerry Phelps March 7, 2016, 4:47 am

    I am a 48yo male. I had 3 strokes in may of 2015. The MRI showed that it affected the emotional system of my brain. For months following the stroke I would get very emotional when I tried to speak. I could look at the sky and try to talk and choke up when I tried to talk. I consulted my family physician and he prescribed Lexapro.

    I discontinued the medication about 4 months ago and had a side effect that I thought was strange. I could hear and feel pulsating sounds in my head. The reminded me of driving on a highway and passing construction barrels such as a wosh wosh sound. I went back on the medicine and they stopped. However I was having other side effects that I did not like.

    I had severe itching in my lower legs, a major decrease in Libido, and always wanting to take a nap in the afternoons. Again I discontinued the medication and the pulsating sounds came back. I have done a little research and think I may be having what is called “brain zaps”, what can I do about those?

  • jacqueline pepi March 4, 2016, 4:03 am

    I have just come off cymbalta 5 days ago. I was only on them for 4 weeks and stopped suddenly as I was getting palpations, low blood pressure and just felt awful. 4 days after “brain zaps” now affecting me. I wish I had never started cymbalta again as I had terrible electric shocks in head and chest at night. Back then I tapered off them very slowly for 3 months.

    I can’t believe that only after 4 weeks that I now have these continuous sudden short bursts of dizzy jolts. It sucks and I regret putting myself through these side effects. I will never take antidepressants ever again. I think vitamins, good food, and good affirmations and comedy movies are far more effective for me than the chemical sideshow side effects.

    Good luck to you all, hang in there and never lose sight if who you are and be kind to yourselves.

  • k March 3, 2016, 8:24 pm

    I have never been on antipsychotic or ant depression medications and experience this constantly… since it cant be withdrawals what’s my excuse for it then?

  • SP March 3, 2016, 7:48 pm

    I’ve been having brain zaps since I was about 12 years old (over a decade before ever having a SSRI antidepressant). Strangely enough, I used to get them EVERYTIME I went to babysit. It may have been stress-related. But it didn’t happen specifically if the baby was crying or anything, just all the time while I was there.

    No matter if I was chilling with the kids, if I’d just gotten there, or was about to leave, was making their dinner or reading them a book. It didn’t matter how calm or normal the activity was, I had brain zaps while baby sitting, and they stopped when I went home. I still get them, and I’m in my mid-30s. Doesn’t happen around kids anymore, but they still happen.

  • Jared March 2, 2016, 11:47 pm

    I’m an ex opiate addict and I’m telling you that these mere “brain zaps” ain’t sh*t. I was put on sertraline during my my initial attempt to quit opiates. 2 years ago it was when I first started on zoloft. Shortly after I initially began zoloft I relapsed terribly. Let me tell you now I went through hell and back withdrawing from opiates and that withdrawals from zoloft isn’t even in the same ballpark. All I can say is hang in there and this too shall pass.

  • Ellie March 2, 2016, 3:46 pm

    I’ve had brain zaps for years – just once in a while, mostly when lying down. Recently they have been more frequent and I’ve had other weird sensations in my head…which is why I am googling for answers. I don’t take any meds, have never been on anti-depressants. No drug use, though I do drink a little. Doctor said they might be a type of migraine… I also am prone to anxiety, but I’m not sure how that plays in. I’m sick of them!

  • Paul Nordstrom February 27, 2016, 1:35 pm

    I get these zaps in my head (I call them fuzzy electricity)… when I wake up, but mine are triggered by Meniere’s disease episodes. The Meniere’s disease involves the inner ear and having vertigo and vomiting. After awhile they go away. When I had another recent Meniere’s attack, they came back. I only feel them when waking up from sleep. For my condition, I avoid salt and caffeine. I’ve never been on any antidepressants.

  • Beth Mock February 26, 2016, 3:44 am

    I have been having these zaps. I’m not discontinuing any meds. I have had these zaps over 4 months. My mental health provider is not sure what it is. I do take klonopin PRN. Could it be that?

  • Alicia February 25, 2016, 8:32 pm

    I am so glad to have found this. I first experienced this sensation when tapering / coming off of Effexor XR a long time ago. It came bake with taking Wellbutrin, and it’s 50-60% of the time even though I take one 150mg in the morning and 1 in the evening at the same times each day. I can’t take the extended release version of bupropion as I had an allergic reaction.

    This feeling really impacts my life – it makes doing my job hard and hiking around outdoors is tough. I get a bit of vertigo with it. It’s always something – either the depression or anxiety or the side effects from all the meds! I’ll try supplements, I really hope that helps! I’ll take any other ideas or suggestions!

  • Gilligangsta February 25, 2016, 5:02 pm

    I am having them now from discontinuing Cymbalta for fibromyalgia. I also had them several years ago when discontinuing Effexor. I’m heading to my GP to get a low dose of Prozac to stop them. Every time I move my eyes, my brain shakes like a maracas. I’ve had very unpleasant, vivid dreams and loose bowels. I stopped the Cymbalta because it increased my blood pressure into the danger zone and also caused constipation so severe that it was unmanageable.

    • SP March 3, 2016, 7:51 pm

      Oh man, Cymbalta can be awful. I was on 30 mg a day, and if I missed taking my morning dose, just 3 hours after missing a dose, I’d be dizzy, off balance, and in a pretty much constant state of brain zaps until I could leave work and get home and take the meds. And it never helped with my chronic pain either. I used to have super low blood pressure (would faint randomly) but Cymbalta raised it enough I’m not in the normal range and don’t faint anymore. I guess it has worked for THAT. But I feel your pain. Cymbalta is vicious.

  • Claire February 25, 2016, 12:05 am

    My brain zaps never went away either after SSRIs 15 years later and I am left with permanent trouble sleeping, they diagnosed the zaps as myoclonus which it isn’t or a DIND drug induced neurological disorder, which is more like it but very vague. Then I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder and should never have been on SSRIs in the first place, not on their own especially.

    There is all of this hereditary too down my mum’s side as she has had similar problems and I’ve also since developed ms! Also note – omega 3 fish oils significantly helped completely rid me of the problem but seemed to worsen sleep problems so I can’t win. But if they help someone else it is worth a try.

  • Tatie February 24, 2016, 3:28 pm

    Thank god, I thought I was going insane. I was very frightened. What a relief.

  • Julia February 24, 2016, 12:24 am

    I have had brain zaps which make me feel like I pass out for a split second. Went for a CT scan and was negative. Now going to make sure it’s not a carotid artery block. I am on wellbutrin and paxil. My Dr just increased my paxil dose 20 mgs… Will see if this helps.

  • Bob February 22, 2016, 10:57 pm

    Hi Guys, I’m new here and forgive me if this has been asked before but there are so many comments I couldn’t read them all. I was on Paxil for about 10 years. When I got off them I had brain zaps for about a year. They finally went away. About 6 years ago I started taking Pristiq, an SNRI.

    I never miss a dose and always take the prescribed dosage. The thing is, over the last few months I have been having brain zaps while taking the meds with no reduction in the dosage. Anyone else encounter this? Thanks, Bob

    • Daryl Ann June 3, 2016, 12:39 am

      Hi Bob, I take Effexor, now, but did take Pristiq. They are the same type of antidepressant. I just wrote a comment that my zaps are often occurring when I am involved with running about 3-5 miles, and not when decreasing my 150 dose, so I wanted to tell you that it does happen to someone else who is not decreasing a dose. Best of luck to you!

  • Andy February 20, 2016, 5:41 pm

    After getting brain zaps on a number of occasions I stumbled upon someone who told me 16mg of Betahistine 3 times a day. It did the trick and yes it worked. I’m now on 3rd withdrawal still works great!! I don’t know why, but it works for me. Good luck fellow Tesla brains :).

  • Dave Nichols February 17, 2016, 9:36 pm

    I’ve experienced ‘brain zaps’ for just over 30 years. I’ve always just called them ‘electric shocks’ which start somewhere around the top of my left leg and travel up my body through the left side of my neck and end up at the front left of my brain. They make me feel dizzy but they also heighten my consciousness.

    Sometimes I have to brace myself when walking as I feel I might veer off to one side or fall over. I’ve been on many types of anti depressants during that time and felt the electric shocks on a daily basis and sometimes dozens of times during a day. They usually last less than a second but sometimes they have lasted for five or six seconds which at the time feels like a very long time.

    I can also experience them in multiple bursts; four or five straight after each other. The electric shocks are definitely worse when I am physically unwell or changing from one antidepressant to another, but they are still a constant in my life. It’s been interesting reading other people’s experiences.

    When I first felt them I thought I was going to have some kind of seizure. They are part of my life now so they don’t really bother me as I know they only last a short period of time. Cheers, Dave

  • Samantha Gelb February 17, 2016, 6:10 pm

    1st let me start off by saying reading the article & soooo many comments, it almost brings me to tears B/C I’m not the only 1 experiencing this. When I was a teenager the Dr put me on BuSpar (buspirone) & I got this Brain Shock daily. Once I stopped the meds I only got a “Brain Shock” very rare, few & far between.

    I’m an adult, a mom & I have anger issues. I mentioned to my doctor who put me on Sertraline 25 Mg & it did absolutely Nothing. So after a few months I stopped (I just found out it was Zoloft) cold turkey. It’s been about a week+ I stopped taking it & these Brain Shocks are CONSTANTLY ALL DAY WHILE I’M AWAKE.

    It feels like someone keeps hitting my brain with a baseball bat. It’s awful Thank God I have an appointment w/ my doctor tonight…

  • Robin February 16, 2016, 7:39 pm

    I get these zaps and was told years ago it was an allergic reaction to a painkiller medication I was on. This was changed and slowly it went away. 7 months ago the zaps came back full force and after numerous tests and CT’s etc., I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was told this was one of the symptoms of this disease. Did I go years misdiagnosed with MS. Looking back and realize all the symptoms I had and all the tests and no one put it all together until now.

    You know your body! If something is wrong it will continue to remind you somehow that you need help… find out what you have. Don’t settle for little answers from several docs. Get the big answer from the right doc. I almost lost a sister because she was told she was obese and needed to lose weight. Her widow maker artery was clogged 99%, and without a stent would have passed away by now. Her body told her, there is a problem and I know it!

    • Eva March 8, 2016, 9:22 pm

      Hi, did you get any medication for MS? Did it help for you brain zaps?

  • Amy M February 16, 2016, 3:15 pm

    I am now on day 4 of no longer taking Cymbalta. In the past, I haven’t made it more than 2 days because if the severity of my “brain zaps”. This time, however, I am sticking it out. Last night, as I tried to go to sleep, the zaps were so bad I would immediately wake up. My zaps are definitely triggered more by moving my eyes back and forth.

    It’s a buzzing, swishing noise that I hear internally, simultaneously with vertigo. I have had a few crying episodes as well so far. Shame on the manufacturer of Cymbalta for not being upfront and honest about this medication from the start. I’m so upset with them that I absolutely refuse to give them another dime. I’m forging on without it… zap after zap.

    • SP March 3, 2016, 7:56 pm

      Same thing happened to me. My doctor started me on 60mg of Cymbalta and it was bad, really bad. I went down to 30mg for a year or so because I was super hooked already (and we were hoping to would fix my chronic pain, but it didn’t). Then I spent a year separating my capsules in half to get 15mg a day, since Cymbalta offers no taper doses to help you cut down and wean yourself.

      Now I’m at 20 mg, the smallest capsule they make, but thinking of dividing them again and trying 10mg/day and seeing if I can manage that. I have other chronic problems and if I just go cold turkey, I won’t be able to function at work or home. I feel your pain, and you’re right: it is really dishonest and shameful what Cymbalta is doing/has done.

  • Mary February 15, 2016, 6:01 pm

    A few months ago I sent off Effexor (150) which I had taken for over 20 years. I thought I was losing my mind until I found this article about “Brain Zaps”. It’s nice to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am going to be OK.

    The zaps have been extreme to a point that I am bouncing off the wall when I get up out of bed. Stopping and thinking before I try to move is the best medicine. Am going to pick up some fish oil today and try it. Use to take but haven’t for about six months.

  • Alastair February 15, 2016, 3:45 pm

    At the risk of sounding weird, I actually like my brain zaps. I’ve taken SSRI’s most winters for SAD for over 15 years. Every year when it’s time to stop, the zaps appear and last for a couple of weeks. I’ve got used to them now and sort of enjoy the sensations. It may be the fact that I’ve had loud tinnitus for 30 years, so I’m used to brain noise.

    This year I was put on an SNRI because it was supposed to help with pain from 2 broken vertebrae. I stopped taking them 8 days ago and the result is much stronger zaps than normal. Maybe this is due to norepinephrine? As to longevity – time will tell, but I’m not overly concerned because they will eventually fade and in the meantime I’ll enjoy the zzt,zzt,zzt (if you practice enough you can control the speed and loudness of the zaps with your eyes, which is sort of cool.)

  • Lizzy February 13, 2016, 2:16 am

    I have been on Effexor for almost 6 years. I am currently going off of it. I was bumped up to 225 mg XR and that is the dosage that I have been going off of. My psychiatrist tapered my dose every week, lowering it by 50%. So I went from 225 to 150, then 150 to 75, then 75 to 37.5, and now I am on nothing. The brain zaps are SEVERE, happening at high frequencies throughout the day.

    A lot of times it’s my eyes shaking (if that makes sense) and it seems like my insides are shivering. Can anyone recommend anything that can help these zaps? Since they aren’t a “normal” headache, no over the counter pain pills have been helping and I simply do not know what to do anymore. The mood swings and zaps are getting to be too much to handle. Any advice or insight is greatly appreciated.

  • John B February 13, 2016, 1:50 am

    I stopped taking Prozac around the 1st of January. I believe I was misdiagnosed Bipolar and severe anxiety. I started having very strong suicidal thoughts and temptations. I never have been suicidal in my life. I decided to stop taking the medication instantly without the recommended taper. For the first couple weeks, I did not experience any adverse side effects.

    However right around the 3rd week of being off the Prozac, I started experience some pretty intense brain zaps. They are still happening on a pretty regular basis. Also, I have noticed that now I have tinnitus… which also sucks. I feel I was misled on what exactly these effects were.

  • Amilea February 12, 2016, 1:46 am

    Wow! I was wondering what was going on with me. As soon as I read that first line I knew this was talking about me. I thought I just had vertigo, but there constant shocks just seem different. I’m currently out of my medication so I’m guessing this is why I’m experiencing this. Everytime I walk or sit, turn my head my head just gets these electric shocks. Feels like one side of my fave is going left and the other right. It makes me a little unbalanced and dizzy but I manage. Thanks for this explanation.

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