4 Things That Can Happen When You Come Off Antidepressants

Watch out for these symptoms if you’re easing off your meds.
Tanja Ivanova via Getty Images

There are 8.3 million people taking antidepressants in England – and about 10% of all women aged 18 and over take antidepressants.

At some point in the future, some of these people may want to ease off taking their medication – which is why it’s important to know about the effects of antidepressant withdrawal, something that occurs in about 50% of people who’ve taken depression medication.

What causes antidepressant withdrawal?

Antidepressant medications increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, among others.

When the levels of these neurotransmitters suddenly drop by lowering the dosage of a medication, it can result in a range of symptoms.

The two types of antidepressants that can lead to withdrawal are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Not all antidepressants cause these issues, though. According to one study, SNRIs and paroxetine were associated with a higher risk of withdrawal symptoms than other popular antidepressants.

If you’ve agreed with your GP that you’ll start easing off your meds, then you may experience some or all of the below symptoms, according to the NHS.

1. Flu-like symptoms

You might feel shivery, shaky or nauseous until everything balances out in your body.

2. Insomnia and tiredness

Experts at Harvard University say you might have trouble sleeping and could even experience unusual dreams or nightmares.

One TikTok user shared about how, no matter how much sleep she got, she still felt knackered: “My brain feels really bad and I’m just absolutely exhausted. I slept and had a full night’s sleep, but I just feel so exhausted.”

3. Confusion

This is really common as your body adapts to the hormonal changes.

“I was very, very out of sorts,” shares Sarah-Louise, a writer from Glasgow. “I couldn’t remember things, was getting confused mid-conversation, and would space out for hours at a time.”

4. Sensory disturbances

It’s not unusual to become hypersensitive of sights, smells and sounds when easing off your medication, and there are of course the notorious ‘brain zaps’ – a feeling that some describe as feeling like an electric shock to the head.

“The brain zaps were next level,” says Mathew, who preferred not to share his surname. “Mine were particularly bad because I had to come off my meds immediately due to a health issue in my gut, and so the symptoms felt like they were amplified by 100.”

If you do decide to come off your medication following the advice of your doctor, then don’t worry if you experience any of the above. And if you do, speak to your GP if you’re concerned.

Don’t stop taking your antidepressants or reduce your dosage without talking to your doctor first, as doing so can lead to withdrawal symptoms.