Tuesday, November 24, 2015

On "brain zaps."

Man oh man.

baby confused upset funny face pooping

So, turns out I'm not the only one.

When the Antidepressants Are Worse Than the Depression over on Motherboard, written by Martha Stortz just spoke directly to me.

Last year I went away for a few days with family, and I forgot my SSRI (Effexor). Well, by the 2nd day I wasn't feeling great, and by the 4th I was hearing "zapping noises" in my ear canal/brain, and felt totally dissociated from the physical world. I ended up having to have my mother drive home because I didn't feel able to drive. I got home and took a pill and went to bed, to try and shut down my brain while the drugs made their way back into me.

Stortz discusses her experiencing weaning off of her SSRI similarly (though I did it 
cold-turkey/unintentionally):
Every day after the first step down was a struggle to get out of bed. I was often nauseated and I suffered from constant “brain zaps” whenever I moved my head, a phenomenon described by people withdrawing from SSRIs as an electric buzz or a shock. I couldn’t pay attention at work and cancelled any social interaction in favour of sleeping. It was almost like being depressed again but worse, because short of going back on the antidepressants and delaying the inevitable, there was nothing I could do to control the withdrawal symptoms.
Referred to as SDS (SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome) Stortz refers to an Italian/American study that shows SSRI withdrawal is worse that initially assumed.
The review showed that SDS can happen regardless of the type of SSRI. Furthermore,
gradually weaning off the drug doesn’t diminish the chances of discontinuation syndrome. Symptoms, which include nausea, rapid heart rate, and hallucinations, usually last a few weeks but can persist up to a year.
... 
I wish there had been more dialogue surrounding SSRI withdrawal so I had known what to expect, however. At no time did the doctor who put me on the SSRI discuss possible withdrawal symptoms, nor did the doctor who took me off the SSRI. Without that full disclosure, I was totally blindsided by the withdrawal symptoms, the severity of which is potentially dangerous for a person with previous mental health issues. If I didn’t have such a strong support system and even stronger Google skills to figure out what was going on, I would have likely assumed SDS was just what real life was like after SSRIs and either resumed SSRIs indefinitely or fallen back into my old withdrawn, anhedonic habits.
Seriously though. You hear "zapping." That isn't a reassuring experience for someone dealing with their mental health.


"Oh, so I legit hear things now."

What a fun step forward!

The "zapping" ended when I started taking my meds again. Since then my dosage has actually gone up, and I'm feeling better depression wise, I'm more functional. But, if I forget a dossage, I do feel SDS pretty quickly. And there's so little known about the withdrawal of SSRIs, and the long-term effects, it isn't very comforting. It's a risk. The alternative is, non-functional.

It's assumed dealing with depression is more important than the possible outcome of long-terms SSRI use. I hope to shit they're right in that assumption.

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