How Long Does Withdrawal From Cymbalta Last?

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In This Article

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a prescription medication used to treat depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and diabetic neuropathy. It is what’s known as a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI. SSNRIs have a powerful effect on the brain, working to increase the activity of neurotransmitters called serotonin and norepinephrine. When SNRIs are discontinued, some people experience withdrawal symptoms.

Overview

When you quit Cymbalta, it can take your brain some time to adjust to being without it. During this time, you may notice some dizziness and flu-like symptoms. Headaches, nausea, and vomiting are all common in the days and weeks following your last dose of Cymbalta. More distressing symptoms include nightmares or disturbing dreams, and a pins and needles sensation that comes and goes throughout the body.

Although these symptoms are typically mild, they can be alarming when they come as a surprise. Most people are not warned about the potential for withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking antidepressants. If your doctor did warn you, they may have used the term “antidepressant discontinuation syndrome,” which can be a bit misleading.

A pooled analysis of six different placebo-controlled research studies found that 44.3% of people quitting duloxetine (Cymbalta) reported withdrawal-like symptoms, compared to 22.9% of people in the placebo group. The most commonly cited symptom was dizziness, followed by nausea and headache.

The majority of participants in the duloxetine (Cymbalta) studies categorized their symptoms as either mild or moderate. Among those experiencing withdrawal symptoms, about 65% said that their symptoms went away in about one week.

Signs & Symptoms

When you stop taking Cymbalta, your brain has to adjust to lower levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. It can take days or weeks for your brain to settle into its new normal. During this time, you may experience a number of symptoms, including:

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • pins and needles
  • nightmares
  • anxiety
  • strange sensations like brain zaps
  • trouble sleeping
  • irritability

Symptoms typically appear within two to four days of stopping your dose and last for a few weeks. While tapering—slowly decreasing—your dose is a common treatment strategy, some research suggests that even with this strategy, you still may experience some withdrawal symptoms.

Compared to other SNRIs, like venlafaxine, Cymbalta withdrawal is relatively mild. If you have read elsewhere about an intense withdrawal syndrome from SNRIs, the authors were most likely referring to venlafaxine (Effexor).  

There is one report of a withdrawal seizure and one report of withdrawal symptoms coming and going over a period of ten months. 

Coping & Relief

To help make it easier to come off Cymbalta, your doctor will likely recommend a taper lasting at least two weeks. Tapering a medication means working with your doctor to develop a plan to take progressively smaller doses of a drug over an extended period of time. It is unclear whether or not a slow Cymbalta taper will always prevent withdrawal symptoms, but it is generally considered the safest way to stop an antidepressant. 

Work with your doctor to develop a tapering schedule that fits your needs. Your doctor may want to switch you to a different antidepressant or provide medical support for your withdrawal symptoms. Other ways to ease the withdrawal experience include: 

  • Working with a therapist. Talk therapy can help ease anxiety, soothe irritability, and even reduce physical discomfort.
  • Seeking support from friends and family. Letting your loved ones know that you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms can help prevent conflict and reduce confusion.
  • Practicing self-care. It is important to keep your body and brain in good shape by eating healthy and working out at least three times per week.
  • Trying herbal remedies. If you are having trouble sleeping, try taking an OTC supplement like valerian root or melatonin at bedtime.
  • Treating pain and nausea. You can treat headaches and stomachaches with OTC pain relivers and anti-nausea medications. 
  • Avoiding relapse. If you see signs that your depression or anxiety is coming back, talk to your doctor about alternative treatment options.  

Warnings

Although quitting Cymbalta cold turkey is rarely dangerous, it is best to consult your doctor before attempting to do so. Tell your doctor why you are interested in quitting and ask about tapering options. 

Long-Term Treatment

After Cymbalta, you may require ongoing treatment. The nature of that treatment will depend on a variety of factors, including the state of your mental health and your reasons for stopping the medication.

Unlike other medications, like antibiotics, that work for almost everyone, antidepressants can be really hit-or-miss. A medication that your friend calls a lifesaver, might make you too dizzy to play with your kids or too foggy to work.

Brain chemistry is an incredibly complex system involving not only neurotransmitters like serotonin, but also nerve cells, genes, and brain structures. If it were as easy as turning up the dial on one neurotransmitter and turning down the dial on another, depression would be much easier to treat. That said, if Cymbalta didn’t work for you, ask your doctor to recommend something else. Treating depression can involve a process of trial and error.

If you are quitting Cymbalta because you feel your depression has lifted, that’s fantastic. But it is important that you keep in touch with your psychiatrist or therapist to be sure that stopping the medication doesn’t cause a reemergence of your depression. Depression is a disease with a very high reoccurrence rate.

About 50% of people who recover from one episode of depression will have more depressive episodes in their lifetime. If you have had more than one episode, there is about an 80% chance you will have another.

If you have had one or more episodes of severe depression, you may be a good candidate for maintenance therapy. Typically, this means continuing with a therapeutic dose of antidepressants to reduce the risk of relapse. Other forms of maintenance therapy include psychotherapy. In the meantime, keep an eye out for symptoms that your depression is returning. Common symptoms include:

  • feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
  • experiencing outbursts of tearfulness, anger, or frustration
  • losing interest, pleasure, or excitement for enjoyable activities
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • feeling tired all the time
  • feeling worthless or guilty
  • fixating on perceived failures or faults
  • feeling anxious, agitated, or restless
  • moving, speaking, or thinking slowly
  • thoughts of death or suicide

Resources

If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). You will be connected with staff or volunteers at a crisis center near you. The people on the other end of the line can help you calm down and figure out what to do next.

If your doctor isn’t helping, consider finding a new psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist in your area. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a searchable directory of qualified providers. You can also call them at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). 

If you have health insurance, you can also search the company’s list of local providers who accept your insurance.

A Word From Verywell

If you gave Cymbalta a good try but you still don’t feel like yourself, don’t give up. There are other medications, doses, and combinations of medications that you can try. If you don’t think you need medication anymore, that’s great, but don’t neglect your mental health. A qualified therapist can help bolster the effects of antidepressants and help prevent a relapse. Just like medications, there is no once-size-fits-all therapist. Keeping trying until you find a combo that works for you. 

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Article Sources

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