Depression Treatment Medication Tips for Antidepressant Withdrawal Relief How to Overcome Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome 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 March 23, 2023 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 / Hugo Lin Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Causes Symptoms Withdrawal vs. Relapse Tips for Relief FAQs For someone dealing with major depression, an antidepressant can be a lifesaver. But if you're feeling better and ready to try life without it, talking with your healthcare provider first is important. If you stop taking these drugs suddenly, it can cause withdrawal symptoms, sending you in search of antidepressant withdrawal relief. These symptoms are known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome and, while not life-threatening, they can be quite uncomfortable. Your provider can help you stop antidepressants in a way that reduces withdrawal. We also discuss antidepressant withdrawal relief options, such as taking an antihistamine like Benadryl for Effexor withdrawal. Causes of Antidepressant Withdrawal By some estimates, antidepressant discontinuation syndrome occurs in about 20% of people who have regularly taken an antidepressant for at least a month and suddenly stop taking it or who drastically reduce their dose. Some types of antidepressants seem to be more likely to cause antidepressant withdrawal than others, but you can develop it from any type. Although discontinuing an antidepressant does involve a type of withdrawal, this doesn't mean that you're addicted to the antidepressant. When you're addicted to a substance like drugs or alcohol, it causes changes in your brain that lead to cravings, the need for an increased amount of the substance, and a strong desire to use the substance even though it often causes negative outcomes. Antidepressants don't cause these long-term brain changes nor do they lead to cravings or addiction. Symptoms of Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome tend to be mild. They usually start within two to four days, and last just a week or two. Symptoms include: Flu-like symptoms: such as fatigue, sweating, achiness, headache, and feeling sluggishInsomnia: which may be accompanied by nightmares or vivid dreamsNausea: feeling sick and potentially vomitingBalance issues: such as dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or vertigo (a spinning or tilting sensation)Sensory disturbances: like tingling, burning, or feeling like you're getting shockedEmotional issues: like agitation, irritability, and anxiety Brain Zaps After Stopping Antidepressants: What You Should Know Antidepressant Withdrawal vs. Relapse For some people, discontinuation symptoms can make it feel as though their depression or anxiety is coming back, and indeed, stopping your antidepressant may increase your risk of relapse. Because of this, it's important to distinguish between discontinuation syndrome and relapse. The biggest difference between the two is that discontinuation symptoms typically begin within a few days after stopping your antidepressant whereas a relapse normally takes longer to occur and the symptoms develop more gradually. Discontinuation Syndrome Symptoms begin within a few days Dizziness, nausea, headache, or body aches are common Symptoms resolve after 1 to 3 weeks Depression/Anxiety Relapse Symptoms gradually develop over time Typically no acute onset of physical symptoms Symptoms continue to get worse over time Another difference is that discontinuation syndrome often involves physical symptoms that aren't associated with depression or anxiety, such as dizziness, nausea, or flu-like symptoms. With discontinuation syndrome, the symptoms eventually go away, usually within one to three weeks. But if you're having a relapse of your depression or anxiety, the symptoms don't go away and may even get worse. Additionally, if you start an antidepressant again, discontinuation symptoms will resolve quickly, but depression or anxiety will take longer to respond. How to Switch to a New Antidepressant Safely Tips for Antidepressant Withdrawal Relief Here are some tips to help you avoid discontinuation syndrome and get relief if it does happen to you. Stick to Your Schedule JGI / Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images Certain antidepressants, such as Effexor (venlafaxine), leave your system quickly and therefore are more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms. This can happen even when you're simply a little late taking your regular dose. If you happen to forget your antidepressant, it's okay to take it as soon as you realize you missed it. The exception is if it's close to your next scheduled dose; in that case, wait until then and get back on track. Consider a Switch Steven Taylor / The Image Bank / Getty Images Let's say you're taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) but it isn't working very well for you, or it's causing side effects that you can't live with. Rather than stopping it cold turkey and potentially causing discontinuation syndrome, talk to your doctor about switching to another medication, especially if you haven't been on it for long. Prozac (fluoxetine), for example, has a very long half-life, meaning that after you stop taking it, it leaves your body more slowly than most other SSRIs. For this reason, you're unlikely to have extreme withdrawal symptoms with Prozac. Keep this in mind when you and your doctor are discussing which antidepressant you should try or if you're considering switching to another one. You should be able to go directly from your current medication to another SSRI without triggering discontinuation syndrome, meaning that you won't need to wean yourself from the first drug before starting the second. The same is true if you're switching from an SSRI to a selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), such as Effexor (venlafaxine). In fact, you should be able to easily go straight from Prozac (fluoxetine) to any other antidepressant except for one in the class of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These medications have more safety concerns and potentially have more side effects than the newer drugs, so it's unlikely your doctor would put you on one unless trials of other antidepressants have not been adequately effective. Taper Off Slowly Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Blend Images / Getty Images If you and your doctor have decided it's time for you to stop taking your antidepressant, it's possible to avoid discontinuation syndrome altogether. Even if you're tempted to, the key is to not quit all of a sudden, but instead to taper off your medication. Tapering means gradually decreasing your dose over an extended period of time. How you'll do this will depend on how long you've been taking the drug, how high your dose is (if you're on a low dose you'll be able to taper off more quickly), and any other factors your doctor may consider. Consider Prozac Jonathan Nourok / The Image Bank / Getty Images Sometimes, even if you are slow and deliberate when weaning yourself off an antidepressant, you still may experience symptoms of discontinuation syndrome. One possible way to get relief is to take a dose of Prozac (fluoxetine) along with medications like Zoloft (sertraline) and Lexapro (escitalopram) that you are trying to taper. Your symptoms will likely go away within a few hours. And because of Prozac's long half-life, it will help smooth out the taper. Ask your doctor about this option if your symptoms are bothersome. If you were on a very high dose of Paxil (paroxetine) or Effexor (venlafaxine), you may need to take repeated doses of Prozac. Do Antihistamines Help With Antidepressant Withdrawal? Short-term use of over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) can help ease antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. However, if you take Benadryl for Effexor withdrawal, for instance, it's important to recognize that this drug has a sedating effect. Schedule a Follow-Up Dan Dalton / Getty Images After you discontinue your antidepressant, you should have a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider so they can evaluate your mental health and make sure any discontinuation symptoms have gone away. Frequent follow-ups may be necessary at the beginning of your transition to make sure that you haven't relapsed. So make sure you keep your appointments and let your provider know if you think your depression or anxiety is coming back. Be Active playb / Getty Images If you haven't been exercising regularly, make it a point to start when you discontinue your antidepressant. This may be difficult as your depression can easily sap your motivation but it is possible, and it will make you feel better. Start small and slowly and set reasonable expectations. For example, consider committing to a 20-minute walk two days a week. Make it social and enlist a walking buddy to help keep you accountable. If you have been staying active, keep it up. Aim for at least three times a week. One way exercise boosts your mood is by releasing feel-good endorphins and it gives you an outlet to relieve stress, all of which can help keep your depression at bay as you taper off and eventually stop your antidepressant. How to Stop Taking SSRI Antidepressants Safely Frequently Asked Questions How do you counteract Effexor withdrawal? Tapering your dosage over time can help reduce Effexor withdrawal symptoms, as can taking Prozac—which some refer to as a "rescue" drug for venlafaxine withdrawal. Learn More: Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms and Relief What supplements help with Effexor withdrawal? Effexor is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Some case studies have found that when combined with tapering, amino acid supplements like L-tryptophan and DL-phenylalanine may help ease SNRI withdrawal symptoms while vitamin D, cod liver oil, and a vitamin B complex can assist in other ways, such as by improving cognition and mood. Learn More: Supplements to Boost Mood and Brain Health What are natural remedies for antidepressant withdrawal? Reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in physical activity can help with antidepressant withdrawal. Some research also suggests that meditation may be beneficial as well, along with making dietary changes such as reducing gluten and dairy while eating more nutrient-rich, high-fat foods. Learn More: How to Fight Depression Without Medication 8 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 Bhat V, Kennedy SH. Recognition and management of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2017;42(4):E7-E8. doi:10.1503/jpn.170022 Gabriel M, Sharma V. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. CMAJ. 2017;189(21):E747. doi:10.1503/cmaj.160991 Wilson E, Lader M. A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2015;5(6):357-68. doi:10.1177/2045125315612334 Harvard Health Publishing. Going off antidepressants. Lin TW, Kuo YM. Exercise benefits brain function: the monoamine connection. Brain Sci. 2013;3(1):39-53. doi:10.3390/brainsci3010039 Henssler J, Heinz A, Brandt L, Bschor T. Antidepressant withdrawal and rebound phenomena. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2019;116(20):355-361. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2019.0355 Brogan K, Siefert A. Successful discontinuation of chronic polypsychotropic regimen and resolution of withdrawal syndrome through nutrition and lifestyle interventions: A case report. Adv Mind Body Med. 2019;33(3):22-30. Additional Reading Hall-Flavin DK. Antidepressant Withdrawal: Is There Such a Thing? Mayo Clinic. Published January 16, 2016. Harvard Health Publishing. Going Off Antidepressants. Harvard Women's Health Watch. Harvard Medical School. Updated December 31, 2017. 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.