Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brain Zaps

Brain Zaps according to Wikipedia
Brain zaps, also known as "brain shocks," "brain shivers" or "head shocks" are a fairly common withdrawal symptom experienced during discontinuation (or reduction of dose) of SSRI and SNRI antidepressant drugs. The symptom is described as brief but repeated electric shock-like sensations in the brain and head. The effect is not only confined to withdrawal periods for all sufferers, but also are experienced while actually taking the prescribed medication (although less commonly), and have been known to continue for years after withdrawal from the associated medication.
The phenomenon is most commonly associated with paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat), fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Effexor), sertraline (Zoloft), duloxetine (Cymbalta), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro).

"Brain zaps" are said to defy description for whomever has not experienced them, but the most common themes are of a sudden "jolt," likened to an electric shock, apparently occurring or originating within the brain itself, with associated disorientation for a few seconds. The phenomenon is most often reported as a brief, wave-like electrical pulse that quickly travels across the surface of (or through) the brain. Some people experience these "waves" through the rest of their body, but the sensation dissipates quickly. They are sometimes accompanied by brief tinnitus and vertigo-like feelings. Immediately following this shock is a light-headedness that may last for up to ten seconds. The sensation has also be described by many as a flashbulb going off inside the head or brain. Moving one's eyes from side to side quickly while open has also been known to trigger these zaps and sometimes causing them to come in rapid succession. It is thought to be a form of neuro-epileptiform activity. [1][2]
As withdrawal time increases, the frequency of the shocks decreases. At their peak, brain zaps have been associated with severe headaches. They may last for a period of several weeks after the last dose and usually resolve completely within a month or two. However, anecdotal reports of "zaps" during a protracted withdrawal are known to last a year or longer.

I have not been avoiding blogging on purpose, but have been having difficulty with this particular withdrawal symptom since discontinuing my Effexor. My eyes have been hurting and are sensitive to any stimuli. I weaned myself off slowly as directed, but still am having this strange eye phenomena occur. Unfortunately, it gets worse if I look at a computer screen or if I am tired. Thankfully, today my eyes seem a little better and my headache seems to be less.
I found this definition for Brain Zaps last night while at work. It fits pretty well to what I have been experiencing, especially that it occurs when I look from side to side. I really had no idea what it was although I was suspicious of withdrawal.
I also read that Benadryl or a one time dose of Prozac takes care of this symptom. Since it is slightly better today, I will bring some Benadryl with me to work but only take it if my eyes feel worse again. So far I have completed this entire post without any eye burning sensations or brain zaps! YAY!
Oh, and thanks for all the encouragement to CHEAT on NaBloPoMo!


Family Adventure said...

Ouch. That does not sound good. I hope this is a transient side effect for you, or that Benedryl can do the trick!

Take care of yourself! Heidi

Gina said...

I hope that you can feel better very soon, my dear.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is so interesting! I just finished studying (8 hous :( )
about the nervous system. This fits right in , in fact I might do further research and write a paper thats due next week on this subject.

Hope yah feel better real soon.
c-yah soon, Rita

Lainey-Paney said...


Surcie said...

I had the same thing when I went off the paxil I was taking for PPD. Bleh.

hellomelissa said...

i'm sorry! :(

someone i know vomits while withdrawing from ssri. ugh.

Andie D. said...

I am so afraid of coming off of the Effexor that I am dreading it. I missed a dose once, and, well, it SUCKED.

I get the brain zaps on a semi-regular basis. When I'm off? Constant.

Anonymous said...

I have recently come off cipralex, which I believe is the equivalent of lexapro? I weaned myself off slowly and spoke with my doctor. I have been off the tablets completely for 10 days, and have been experiencing a 'living hell'with the dreaded brain zaps which are totally debilitating. I have carefully read the leaflet in the tablet box and certainly these withdrawal symptoms are not mentioned. Do the drug companies really know the after effects of these medications? I think not. I just hope these zaps will end soon.


Anonymous said...

I am withdrawing from Cymbalta and the brain zaps are horrible, especially while I'm driving. Sometimes I feel like my brain just wants to shut off. Anyone have any suggestions as to make them go away? I refuse to start taking the medication again. HELP


Di said...

I have been experiencing brain zaps for about 3 years. At times I start to lose bladder control. I have not been on any of the drugs mentioned. I had an MRI to test for M.S. and tumors. All came back, "normal" whatever normal is. Neurologist acted like he didn't know what was going on and I came away from the appointment frustrated and feeling like he did not believe me.

lizzy said...

i never knew what these were called
and i was always worried to tell anyone what i felt
but this seems to sum it up lol
now that i have some sort of idea of what it is i feel a lot better

thank you for posting this!

Anonymous said...

The pharmaceutical companies know exactly what happens with their medications , they can't make money unless they make you a permanent patient , that is the goal of most of these medications. I've had these symptoms before and had the strangest one today that i've every had, and I'm still taking lexapro been weening off for months , just started taking omega 3 two days ago.

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Zoloft Birth Defects said...

Psychiatrists are the only doctors who should be prescribing these drugs, but the FDA will never force that issue because big pharma would have a cow. So it's up to individuals to protect themselves and know not only the risks, but the -magnitude- of the consequences.
OB's don't know how Zoloft or any other antidepressant affects your brain chemistry, nor is sympathy and empathy the same thing as counseling.
Zoloft birth defects can be quite overwhelming to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Ive been experiencing the same thing. I had no idea whet it was until I read about it. I thought something was really wrong with me. However, my issue isn't from stopping my medication. It's from being on it which the article said was more rare. How long is this going to last??? I can't get off the meds I'm on (the zapping is going on as I write this).
Its the worst at night. And I've felt it go down into my legs too. I hate it.
How long is it supposed to last?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear Benadryl helps. I suspected as much, but as soon as I read that I took one. Been off Prozac for about 3 weeks or so.. Zaps worse in afternoon and evening. Flared up today after being very minimal for several days. Read online that vit B complex helps.. Oddly enough, been drinking Crystal Light Energy this week and didnt have one today. Maybe coincidence. Either way, these feelings make me so uncomfortable and I feel almost embarrassed. Teaching is difficult when the sensations come on.

MrKappa said...

It probably just means your a little more sensitive to sensations others aren't. It's called being an anesthesiac when you are incapable of feeling finer sensations. I'd lay off the benadryl, and try to enjoy them, I found them to be rather nice. You might like the newer phenomenon called ASMR which is basically the brain tingles without any prescription medication.

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