Zoloft Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the most commonly reported symptoms experienced while coming off SSRI medications is termed brain zaps, described as feelings of electric shock passing through the brain/head/neck.
Brain zaps, or shivers, can be severe, unbearably so, and come on unexpectedly—sometimes in rapid succession. Why they occur remains a mystery but thought to be related to neurochemical changes as the body and central nervous system attempt to adjust to or compensate for reduced levels of sertraline or other SSRI medication in the system.1
It is highly likely that the body was depending on the drug’s artificial support of serotonin levels, and that the person may be experiencing a sudden deficit while their own natural mechanisms are attempting to come back online to compensate.
Zoloft withdrawal symptoms include:
- Brain zaps, shivers, shocks passing through the brain, head, neck
- Mental fog, confusion
- Mood swings, crying spells, irritability, etc.
- Aggression, hostility
- Return of original symptoms, sometimes intensified
*The FDA issued a mandatory “black box warning” on SSRIs because of an increased risk of suicidality.3
Discontinuing / Quitting Zoloft ( Sertraline )
Coming off Zoloft (sertraline) can take a considerable amount of time. Individual differences such as age, general health, dosage, length of time on the drug, and other factors all have some impact on withdrawal. One could expect the process to take at least some weeks or longer.4
The FDA and other regulatory bodies recommend never abruptly stop taking antidepressants. Rather, the safest approach would involve a slow Zoloft withdrawal process. By easing a reduction in dosage, over time, various other measures can be utilized for added support while tapering off Zoloft such as nutrition, adequate rest, and a less stressful daily schedule to allow time for self-care, etc.
Some people opt for inpatient care during this often difficult period of readjustment. There is wisdom to this choice, as the withdrawal manifestations are not only difficult on the individual but also challenging for the family members and friends who may misunderstand the process and convolute the situation.
What is Zoloft?
Zoloft (sertraline) is an antidepressant medication developed in the 1970s with FDA-approval granted in 1991, allowing Pfizer to bring it to market.
This SSRI drug is prescribed in treating adult depressive disorders, panic disorder, OCD, social anxiety, and others. By 2013, Zoloft was the most prescribed antidepressant in the United States. Sertraline is categorized as an SSRI drug and is considered a potent serotonin reuptake inhibitor. However, it also is referred to as an SDRI drug due to its secondary (weaker) dopamine reuptake inhibiting characteristic.
It has been suggested, though not conclusively proven, that increasing dopaminergic, as well as serotonergic activity, may be relevant to the medication-based treatment of depression.
Like all SSRI drugs, Zoloft can produce certain side effects that present when withdrawing from the drug, also known as discontinuation symptoms. The following information covers some of the most common questions asked and searches done on the drug.