Depression Treatment Flu-Like Symptoms When You Discontinue Antidepressants By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be. Learn about our editorial process Updated on April 25, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / Bailey Mariner Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Causes of Flu-Like Symptoms Discontinuing an Antidepressant Symptoms of ADS Medications Associated With ADS Preventing ADS If you've recently discontinued an antidepressant, you might experience flu-like symptoms as part of withdrawal (known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, or ADS). You may have symptoms after missing only a single dose or taking it late. Or, symptoms may come on several days after you stopped your medication, making it harder to connect the dots. Causes of Flu-Like Symptoms Symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, chills, and muscle aches can indicate the flu. If it is flu season (October through March) you may indeed have influenza. However, flu-like symptoms occur with many infections. You can have similar symptoms due to colds (rhinoviruses), COVID-19 or other coronaviruses, human respiratory syncytial virus, adenoviruses, human parainfluenza virus, viral and bacterial pneumonia, Legionella, measles, acute HIV infection, herpes, hepatitis C, Lyme disease, and many others. Withdrawal symptoms from opioids can also mirror some of the symptoms of influenza. Discontinuing an Antidepressant Because any single antidepressant may be only 50% effective, you might think it isn't working and that stopping it won't have any effects. Or, you may not have refilled a prescription. You may simply have forgotten to take it. However, even if you aren't getting the desired effects, antidepressants change your body chemistry. Suddenly removing the drugs will result in a flip-flop of chemical reactions, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of ADS If you stop taking your antidepressant abruptly, without tapering your dosage, you can experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. You can experience discontinuation syndrome a few days or weeks after you stopped taking your medication, or even when tapering your doses, missing a dose, or taking a dose late. You might experience these symptoms for a few weeks. Some will experience only minor symptoms and miss the connection with their antidepressant. For others, the symptoms are so debilitating that they feel they cannot stop their antidepressant for fear of how it will interfere with their lives. Symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome include: FatigueNauseaMyalgia (muscle aches)InsomniaAnxietyAgitationDizzinessHallucinationsBlurred visionIrritabilityTingling or electric shock sensationsVivid dreamsSweating Medications Associated With ADS Discontinuation syndrome is most common with those drugs that have a short half-life, which is how long it takes for half the drug to clear from the body. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as Effexor (venlafaxine), tricyclic antidepressants, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can cause symptoms. Most selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram) have a short half-life. That can result in withdrawal symptoms when stopping abruptly. Prozac (fluoxetine) is the one SSRI which generally does not cause problems because it has a half-life of two to four days and its primary metabolite (breakdown product) has a half-life of four to 16 days. This long half-life gives it a built-in tapering off. Preventing ADS If you are planning to discontinue your antidepressant, seek your doctor's approval and advice. When you stop your antidepressant, you run the risk of withdrawal symptoms as well as a possible return of the condition you are taking the antidepressant for. If your doctor has given you the green light to stop, discuss how you should proceed in gradually decreasing your dosage. Tapering schedules can be quite variable. If your treatment has lasted less than six weeks, tapering is often done over one to two weeks. If you've been treated for six to eight months, tapering is done over six to eight weeks. A Word From Verywell By gradually decreasing your dose over time, as directed by your doctor, you will allow your body time to slowly adjust as the medication leaves your body. But you also should take normal precautions for preventing the flu and other infectious diseases. Stay up to date on vaccinations and practice good handwashing habits. 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Gabriel M, Sharma V. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. CMAJ. 2017;189(21):E747. doi:10.1503/cmaj.160991 Harvey BH, Slabbert FN. New insights on the antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2014;29(6):503-16. doi:10.1002/hup.2429 Bhat, V, Kennedy, SH. Recognition and management of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2017; 42(4): E7-E8. doi:10.1503/jpn.170022 Fava GA, Gatti A, Belaise C, Guidi J, Offidani E. Withdrawal symptoms after selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor discontinuation: A systematic review. Psychother Psychosom. 2015;84(2):72-81. doi:10.1159/000370338 Gury C, Cousin F. [Pharmacokinetics of SSRI antidepressants: half-life and clinical applicability]. Encephale. 1999;25(5):470-6. By Nancy Schimelpfening Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Depression Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.