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How To Stop Brain Zaps

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Brain Zaps + 4 Brain Zaps Natural Remedies

Brain Zaps and Antidepressants – Why Do they Happen?

By Jillian Levy, CHHC

Brain zaps also sometimes referred to as brain shivers, brain shocks or head shocks are described as being one of the most unbearable withdrawal symptoms when stopping certain depression and anxiety medications. Brain zaps get their name from the uncomfortable sensations they cause that are described as feeling like sudden zaps, electrical buzzes, tremors, shakes or jolts in the brain.

According to a New York Times analysis, the fear of dealing with withdrawal effects like brain zaps is believed to keep millions of people on antidepressant medications every year, even when they think they can cope well without them. For example, a 2017 survey of 250 people who were considered long-term users of psychiatric drugs found that nearly half of users experienced severe antidepressant withdrawal symptoms when attempting to discontinue use of their drug. Half also reported they could not/would not stop taking the drug because of potential withdrawal symptoms.

Can brain zaps be prevented and/or treated? Currently there is no medical intervention or medication that can be used to reliably control brain zaps. However, natural remedies have helped many people avoid serious antidepressant withdrawal symptoms, including: tapering off from drugs slowly, managing stress/anxiety, increasing GABA naturally and taking supplements that support cognitive health.

Sinking Dropping Or Falling

This feeling is particularly scary and jars you from the brink of sleep into being wide awake. Usually, youll be jolted awake by the sensation that youre dropping off a cliff, or youve just had a fall and are about to experience a painful landing.

The term for this is sleep myoclonus, or hypnic myoclonus, and occurs when your brain is shifting from one sleep phase to another. The physical jerks that happen as a result are referred to as hypnagogic jerks, and they most often appear during the light stage of sleep right as youre drifting off.

Wait What Are Brain Zaps

Brain zaps isn’t necessarily the technical name for this phenomenon, but it’s the one that has stuck, Brian Barnett, MD, an addiction psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic, tells Health. “People used to call them electrical shocks brain shivers, but it seems like brain zaps have taken over the terminology,” he says.

Essentially, people get brain zapswhich reportedly feel like “an electrical sensation in the brain”after they stop the use of antidepressants, says Dr. Barnett, but the science on them is still a little fuzzy. That’s because brain zaps weren’t really recognized by the medical community until the late 1990s, says Dr. Barnett.

We dont know a lot about what causes this, admits Dr. Barnett. Its something that has not been studied extensively. However, he explains that theres some speculation that brain zaps might be triggered when a person moves their eyes from side to side. Research published in 2018 in the journal The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders backs up this claim, highlighting the apparent association of brain zaps with lateral eye movements.

Because brain zaps havent been extensively studied, we dont know how many people they affect. Its somewhat of an unclear picture: how common these things are, says Dr. Barnett. in 2017.)

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Can Lexapro Cause Brain Zaps

Many antidepressants hold serotonin for longer periods of time than is natural, possibly causing a misfire or brain zap. There is no current evidence that brain zaps present any danger to the person experiencing them. They can occur during a dosage adjustment of SSRI and SNRI antidepressant drugs.

Brain Zaps Are Reported As Symptoms In Cases Of:

Good luck with the withdrawal symptoms and brain zaps when ...

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

Antidepressants help regulate the level of neurotransmitters, like serotonin and GABA in the human brain and they, in turn, impact brain function. Since antidepressants influence brain chemistry it is conceivable to conclude that after the treatment has run its course, the brain will need to adjust and relearn how to function without medication. As a result, some patients can experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. It is also called SRI discontinuation syndrome since culprits are usually antidepressants inhibiting serotonin. Brain zaps are one of the most obvious symptoms of this syndrome. Besides brain zaps, patients can experience flu-like symptoms, sleep problems and mood disturbances.

REM Sleep

REM sleep or eye movement, in general, is also suspect of causing brain zaps. While it can happen when quickly looking from one side to the other, people also complained of experiencing brain zaps while drifting off to sleep. This experience is linked to serotonin levels, which are also associated with antidepressants.

Side Effects Of Certain Medications

It is also possible for brain zaps to occur while taking medication, as opposed to when patients finish taking it. This is, however, a rare occurrence. Make sure to check if brain zaps are listed among the possible side-effects of your medication.


Brain zaps can also be one of the symptoms of menopause as a result of changes body undergoes at this time.

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Natural Treatments For Brain Zaps And Prevention

1. Taper From Drugs Slowly

At this time, more research is needed regarding the most effective antidepressant withdrawal treatments. One thing that may be able to limit symptoms like brain zaps is slowly tapering off drugs, rather than stopping cold turkey especially if you have been taking a high dose or using the drug for a long duration of time.

You might be able to decrease your chances of experiencing brain zaps when you stop your medication slowly however, this strategy is not guaranteed to work. Unfortunately, studies have found that even when someone slowly tapers from a drug, many of the drugs have relatively long half-lives and can still cause significant withdrawal symptoms. This leads many people to restart the drug and to stay stuck in a vicious cycle.

2. Manage Anxiety and Stress

Although you might experience brain zaps for no obvious reason, they seem to be more common among people who are under a lot of stress or dealing with anxiety. Some people report that the intensity, duration and frequency of their brain zaps gets worse when they are dealing with elevated stress.

Other stress-relieving activities that can be helpful include: yoga, exercise, meditation, time spent in nature, prayer, joining a faith-based organization/community, reading and journaling.

3. Increase GABA Naturally

4. Try Supplements to Support Your Overall Health

How Can I Prevent Brain Zaps

‘Anyone suffering from this condition should be reviewed by their psychiatrist or GP, to rule out any other causes,’ he says. ‘There are many things that could be done to avoid experiencing these brain zaps.’ These include:

  • Reducing the dose of the medication gradually before completely stopping it
  • Switching to another medication that is less likely to cause discontinuation symptoms before stopping the medication.
  • Stopping antidepressant medication under the supervision of a doctor, generally speaking, reduces the possibility of having unpleasant experiences such as brain zaps

Luckily, as far as neuroscientists know, brain zaps arent anything to worry about in and of themselves. They usually become more infrequent over time.

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Cymbalta Treatment And Brain Zaps

Brain zaps and other symptoms of withdrawing from Cymbalta therefore can be seen as the brains reaction to suddenly being removed from the abnormal environment to which it has adapted, like a deep sea diver who returns to the surface too quickly. The authors of a 2003 paper in the journalPsychopharmacology suggested that paresthesia resulting from antidepressant withdrawal may be connected to the role that serotonin plays in controlling muscle movement and sensory function, noting that shock sensations often intensify with movement. Significant alteration of neuronal activity may occur during treatment, possibly increasing with higher dosages or longer duration of treatment, they wrote.

Stopping Or Coming Off Antidepressants

How to get rid of brain zaps at home remedies and treatment

Talk to your doctor before you stop taking antidepressants. It’s important that you do not stop taking antidepressants suddenly.

A dose of antidepressants should be slowly reduced, normally over 4 weeks, but sometimes longer.

This is to prevent any withdrawal symptoms you might get as a reaction to coming off antidepressants suddenly.

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Coming Off Your Medication Can Cause Antidepressant Withdrawal And Could Set You Up For A Relapse Of Depression

Can going off your medication cause antidepressant withdrawal symptoms ? About 10% of women ages 18 and over take antidepressants. As many of us know, these medications can be a godsend when depression has robbed life of its joy and made it hard to muster the energy and concentration to complete everyday tasks. But as you begin to feel better and want to move on, how long should you keep taking the pills?

If you’re doing well on antidepressants and not complaining of too many side effects, many physicians will renew the prescription indefinitely figuring that it offers a hedge against a relapse of depression. But side effects that you may have been willing to put up with initially sexual side effects , headache, insomnia, drowsiness, vivid dreaming, or just not feeling like yourself can become less acceptable over time, especially if you think you no longer need the pills.

The decision to go off antidepressants should be considered thoughtfully and made with the support of your physician or therapist to make sure you’re not stopping prematurely, risking a recurrence of depression. Once you decide to quit, you and your physician should take steps to minimize or avoid the discontinuation symptoms that can occur if such medications are withdrawn too quickly.

Brain Zaps: An Underappreciated Symptom Of Antidepressant Discontinuation

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Brain Zaps:

An Underappreciated Symptom of Antidepressant Discontinuation

Alexander Papp, MD,a,* and Julie A. Onton, PhDb


Objective: To describe the characteristics of the electrical phenomena of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome known as brain zaps and their effect on quality of life.

Methods: We examined 595 unsolicited posts made by individuals frequenting a popular lay mental health website. The site was accessed between December 13, 2014, and December 12, 2016, and its content was saved in a text document. The posts had been accumulating on the site since December 2014. These posts were analyzed and separated into 648 separate statements regarding antidepressant intake. Of the statements, 378 contained reference to symptoms experienced in the context of antidepressant discontinuation. These posts were further analyzed for specifics of the medications involved, temporal characteristics of the medication intake, associated symptoms, specifics of the zap experience itself, and effect of the zaps on quality of life. As this was a convenience sample, only qualitative analysis was performed.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2018 20:18m02311

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Report Problems With Your Medications To The Fda

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

The opinions expressed in WebMD Communities are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Communities are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider Communities as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Is Brain Shivers Or Brain Zaps A Medical Term

How to Stop

Not really. For lack of a better term doctors sometimes codebrain shivers under the term paraesthesia.

Paresthesia is defined by the National Institute ofNeurological Disorders and Stroke as:

  • A burning orprickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, butcan also occur in other parts of the body. The sensation, which happens withoutwarning, is usually painless and described as tingling or numbness, skincrawling, or itching.5

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How Severe Can A Brain Shiver Be

This is a question that doesnt have any definite answer. A typical brain shiver can last differently from person to person. They can either be long-term, spanning from weeks to months or short-term, spanning from hours to a few days.Here are some things that may affect the severity of your brain shivers:

Common Side Effects: Nausea Headache And Dry Mouth

A quarter of patients reported experiencing nausea while taking Cymbalta in clinical trials, making it the most common side effect of the drug. Headache was reported by 16 percent of users and dry mouth developed in 14 percent of 4,843 patients who took the drug. One in nine patients reported drowsiness.

The most common side effects of Cymbalta include:

  • Nausea

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Serious Side Effects And Warnings

Cymbalta users have also suffered serious, and at times, fatal side effects. The drug may cause seizures or convulsions, manic episodes, changes in blood pressure and falls.

It can be life-threatening when used simultaneously with other central nervous system stimulants. Other serious side infects include liver damage, skin reactions, eye problems, abnormal bleeding and a potentially fatal condition called serotonin syndrome.

A Low Serotonin Hypothesis

Brain Zaps! – Scary Anxiety Symptom (SUCK)

It was once thought that low serotonin was the cause of anxiety disorder . To treat this chemical imbalance, patients were given antidepressant medications that were thought to increase the deficient chemicals, and over time, restore them back to a healthy level.

But people taking these medications often experienced brain zaps as a side effect of these medications. Theorists speculated that brain and head zaps were caused by low levels of serotonin and how the medications were trying to elevate them.

There are problems with this theory, however. Many people have low levels of serotonin yet dont experience brain or head zaps.

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What Causes A Funny Feeling In Your Head

There can be many causes of having a funny feeling in your head. If by funny feeling you mean having a brain zap, brain shiver, head shock, or head electric shock feeling, these can be caused by:

  • Side effects of medication
  • Chronic stress , including the chronic stress caused by anxiety
  • We explain each of these above on this web page.

    A Sense Of Panic Or Worry

    Nocturnal panic attacks or worry as youre falling asleep often occur with no clear trigger, but they can awaken you suddenly. Similar to daytime panic attacks, you could experience a racing heartbeat, sweating, or hyperventilation. While theyre extremely uncomfortable and scary, they are typically not dangerous.

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    What Are Brain Zaps

    Brain zaps are head shocks that usually follow the discontinuation of antidepressant medications which is why they are typically considered a withdrawal effect and associated with antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.

    What Do Brain Zaps Feel Like?

    Most people who have suffered from brain zaps say they come out of nowhere, usually last only a few brief moments and then disappear. There doesnt seem to be clear triggers or any warnings that one is coming. Some people find that they deal with brain zaps when falling asleep or shortly after waking up from sleep. Brain zaps might also be triggered by alcohol use, anxiety or stress.

    Brain zaps can cause some of the following symptoms and sensations:

    • Sudden brain shivers, jolts or buzzes in the brain. Some people feel like their whole head is affected, while others say only a small part of their brain feels like its involved. Sometimes brain zaps may also feel like blood rushing to the head.
    • Seeing short bursts of white light
    • Sudden movements of the eyes or head
    • Dizziness and sometimes vertigo
    • Ringing in the ears
    • Tension in the throat and difficulty swallowing
    • Nausea and loss of appetite

    What Causes Brain Zaps?

    What is discontinuation syndrome? Its a temporary condition that can occur following the interruption, reduction or discontinuation of antidepressant medications. Examples of SSRIs that can cause discontinuation syndrome include: Sertraline , Citalopram , Escitalopram , Fluoxetine and Paroxetine .

    Controlling Stress & Anxiety Levels

    " Brain Zaps"  stoppen â wikiHow

    Even though some individuals might suffer from brain zaps without notable reason, studies under medical supervision concluded that this condition usually occurs among people dealing with stress and anxiety.

    Individuals with brain zaps concluded that the frequency of their condition elevates when they are stressed or anxious.

    If a person suffers from stress and it has been chronic, he is more likely to experience the worse effects of brain zaps for several months or even years.

    That is why to prevent or treat brain zaps it is recommended to manage stress and to allow one’s body to recover after dealing with activities that made them anxious and exhausted.

    People suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression are recommended to work with a knowledgeable therapist, coach, or counsellor who could help them control their stress and manage symptoms of brain zaps for many years.

    Aside from that, performing activities that could relieve stress, such as journaling, reading, being a part of a community group, prayer, visit nature, meditation, exercise, and yoga, are also helpful in preventing and treating brain zaps.

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