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Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

What withdrawal effects can antidepressants cause?

All antidepressants can cause withdrawal effects. These are symptoms that can happen when you reduce your dose or stop taking the drug. 

This page lists some of the possible withdrawal effects for different types of antidepressant. You won't necessarily get any of these symptoms, but many people do experience some of them:

SSRIs and SNRIs withdrawal effects

Symptoms that may feel new to you

  • dizziness or vertigo
  • electric shock sensations in head
  • flu-like symptoms
  • problems with movement, such as problems with balance or walking, or involuntary movements
  • sensory disturbance, such as smelling something that isn't there
  • stomach cramps
  • strange dreams
  • tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Symptoms that may feel like your original problem

Tricyclics withdrawal effects

  • anxiety
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • flu-like symptoms, such as aching muscles, chills, headaches, nausea (feeling sick) and sweating
  • insomnia (inability to sleep)
  • low blood pressure
  • problems with movement, such as problems with balance or walking, or involuntary movements
  • restlessness
  • spontaneous orgasm
  • strange dreams.

MAOIs withdrawal effects

  • agitation
  • difficulty thinking
  • disturbed sleep
  • extreme sleepiness
  • hallucinations
  • irritability
  • psychotic experiences, such as paranoid delusions
  • problems with movement
  • strange dreams
  • unsteadiness.

I was worried about not being able to come off them... My doctor helped me to come off them in a controlled way, and apart from one dip just after I stopped taking them, I've been pretty OK since.

Can switching antidepressants help with withdrawal?

If you've been taking a drug with a short half-life, you may experience problems with withdrawal symptoms. In this case, it might be possible for you to switch to a similar drug, but with a longer half-life. You may find this drug easier to come off. For example, this may be switching from an SSRI with a short half-life to another SSRI with a longer half-life.

To compare the half-lives of all antidepressants, see our page on comparing antidepressants.

[When] I thought I should try to manage without the antidepressant, I did not manage to come off them, which I was incredibly harsh on myself about… I was then on [an antidepressant] until I had been well for a number of years, and then, with the help of my GP, I reduced and stopped the medication.

More information about withdrawal effects

You can find out about the withdrawal effects of specific antidepressants from the British National Formulary (BNF) A-Z list of drugs. Or you can speak to your doctor or pharmacist with any questions or concerns you have about the withdrawal effects of antidepressants.

Our pages on coming off psychiatric medication have more information about withdrawing from your medication. This includes help with making the decision whether to come off, and how to come off your medication safely. If you decide to come off your medication, our page on alternatives to antidepressants has ideas on managing your mental health without medication.

Remember: whether to continue or stop taking medication is your decision, and you have the right to change your mind.

5 tips for when you want to come off your medication

Watch Katherine from our Information team give her top 5 tips for when you want to come off your medication.

This information was published in September 2020.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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