Antidepressant Withdrawal Hell

ErinMedication32 Comments

Antidepressant withdrawal from drugs like Cymbalta are truly hellishI feel terrible. I have what feels like the flu: nausea, muscle aches, nerve pain, tremors, hot and cold flashes, weakness, and lethargy. It’s lasted all month. The cause? I cut down my antidepressant by a measly 3mg.

I don’t normally name my antidepressants on this blog, because meds affect everyone differently, but I’m naming this culprit: Cymbalta. I’ve been on it for about seven years, I think, but man, it has not helped me enough to warrant this kind of suffering in tapering off of it.

When I’m not wrapped up on the couch in agony with heating pads, chugging ginger tea, or Googling what to do I’m just feeling really angry and lost. I feel angry that a drug I took to help make my depression better could wreak such havoc on my body. I’m coming off the medication because of daily chronic migraine that has lasted over a year.

I was certainly surprised when I first admitted to having feelings of depression – hopelessness, despair, suicidal thoughts – that everyone rushed me to get on medication. But I thought, hell, if a pill can help, why not?

And medication has helped me in some aspects, like energy levels, but after spending fifteen years on different medications, I’m not doing very well at all. I can’t think like I used to, I can’t function like I used to before meds. I haven’t been able to work. That’s a problem! Not to mention the migraines it’s given me. Migraines are why I’m saying good-bye to my antidepressants.

Maybe if all the medication had truly helped my depression I would maybe not be writing a blog about depression. I’d be writing about how fantastic life is.

And now I’m getting off meds because enough is enough but this withdrawal is full-blown awful. I am so freaking sick. My psychiatrist, well, I’ve refused to go back and see her because all she would say is “just stop taking it.” My neurologist laughed when he heard what a 3mg taper of Cymbalta is doing to me physically. All I can say is thank God my family doctor believes me when I tell her these symptoms. She hasn’t been able to do much to help me other than just listen and encourage me, but that’s something. I can hold on to that.

A slow taper of Cymbalta is the best way to get off of it. They say it takes one year of slow tapering for every five years you’ve been on it. This is going to be a battle.

My psychiatrist who first put me on Cymbalta abruptly left his practice a few years ago after getting a brain tumor. During my worst moments I’ve thought about how much I just want to scream at him for putting me on this medication. In reality, however, I think I’d just be so happy to see him if I did run into him. He was/is (I don’t even know if he’s alive) the greatest person, and that’s why I trusted him with my life. He didn’t mean to hurt me with medication, he meant to help me. He just didn’t help me. All the medication he put me on hurt me.

I need to write to get through this. I need you. I have a lot to say, I’ve just been in a really rough spot. There’s a lot going on in my life that is making me just curl up inside myself the way I used to. I get this idea that if I don’t talk about things then maybe they won’t be real. Well, they are real. And like my favourite SARK quote says, “Expression is the opposite of depression.”


ErinAntidepressant Withdrawal Hell

32 Comments on “Antidepressant Withdrawal Hell”

  1. J

    It is a beautifully written post, as always, but it sounds like a really tough place to be.
    I am (still) thinking of you, and I respect you and your fight hugely.

  2. Marissa Mayer

    I’m really sorry to hear about the physical pain you’re facing Erin! While I’ve never taken antidepressants (my mother does not want me on them at all), I hope you know that you have a wonderful support team here cheering you on. I faced a period of time where I was frustrated I couldn’t take medications, so I did some research on my own. I tried taking some herbal supplements instead that help boost the serotonin levels in your brain. I recently started taking 5-HTP and it proved to be very effective. Unfortunately I lost a lot of weight on it (affected my eating patterns) but I felt TONS better. Now I only take it every couple of weeks when I feel like I’m heading downhill. I’m sure that the side affects are different for everyone, but maybe it’s something you would like to try. Praying for you always! Much love.

  3. Marty

    My heart aches for you, just know you are not alone in this hard journey. I have been sensitive to all medication so I totally believe you when you say you are having such strong reactions. I can’t even take multi vitamins anymore.
    One day at a time and thank you for finding the strength to share this with us.

  4. Vinny

    I just found your blog and read this post. I did know about the withdrawals of these types of medications. I feel for you! Having the problem to warrant the medication is one thing but to have this much trouble from the thing that is given to help us, sucks on such a higher level. Thank you for putting this out there! I am newly diagnosed and have not been on meds very long. I am not on Cymbalta, thankfully, but I will read up on the ones I am currently taking.

    Stay strong and keep writing. Looking forward to more of your articles!

    Thank you,

  5. Andrea

    If writing is helping, keep doing it! Don’t get bogged down with wondering if you’re posting too much. Even if it’s just a day to day update of what’s happening at that moment it might be helpful for you and others. You’ve made a big, brave leap and I’m so sorry that you’re feeling so awful. Your strength is astounding, even though at this moment you might feel weak.

  6. Julie

    Please hang in there. The sickness will pass. I used cymbalta for years. If you are in this much pain have you considered that you may have fibromyalgia. I found a very smart female doctor that was willing to coordinate my care and now she is my only prescribing Doctor. I wish you the best. Taper off slowly. I finally did but it took weeks of laying on the couch with ice packs, heating pads. Tens therapy and acupuncture. Today I am on Wellbutrin. I don’t recommend it unless you gain weight from the other antidepressants.
    God bless you through this painful period. Another door will open when you get this one closed. Keep moving forward.

  7. Kinnery

    i’m sorry things are so difficult right now. coming off cymbalta was one of the worst feeling things i ever experienced, mentally and physically. i hope you can be as comfortable as possible. <3

  8. Patrice

    Wow! Very well said Erin. I am so sorry that you are going through these withdrawal symptoms. It sounds really tough. It’s sad that the medicine doctors give us are for one thing but can totally affect something else. I remember when I first started taking antidepressants, I stopped because they made me more suicidal. My therapist also told me once before that Psychiatrists will only give you medicine and not necessarily help you fix your problem. It sounds like you had a good one. I pray that you get better soon. Don’t give up hope! Everything is going to be okay.

  9. Em

    I have experienced Cymbalta withdrawal before and it is truly awful- like having the worst case of flu and motion sickness you can imagine. I hope that your body starts getting used to the change very soon and know that you’re a strong person for getting through it!

  10. Mort

    Just came across this blog. Antidepressant withdrawal is so difficult and a beast that very few doctors know of. Pharmaceutical companies are the evil ones. They pay off studies to get the safety of the drugs passed and essentially lie to all doctors. Hang in there. Go as slow as you can. Im sorry. Im currently going through this. I was on a powerful ssri for anxiety while in school 10 yrs ago. The side effects became horrendous and i was ready to quit. My idiot doctor had me taper off in 1 month. Than my symptoms were blamed on something else. Took me months to figure out what was happening. These drugs need to be understood more to be prescribed. The withdrawal symptoms are 100x worse than the reason for going on it. Goodluck!

  11. Wendy

    I share your pain. I’m withdrawing from venlafaxine and my god it hurts! My jaw is agony, i have stabbing pains in my ears, constant vertigo, brain zaps, headaches and nausea and extreme tiredness. I have also faced the same attitude from my psychiatrist. I was (wrongly) put on risperidone even though i am not psychotic. Even though i was only on 1mg the withdrawal was so painful i was going down 1/8 tablet a month. The psychiatrist LAUGHED at me and told me i was being silly and that you don’t get withdrawal at that dose! I wanted to forcefeed her the damn things for 18 months to see how she coped with withdrawal! When i was started the venlafaxine withdrawal my jaw pain was so bad the gp prescribed me a parkinsons drug. It worked. The pysch told me i had to stop taking it! She then tried to push me on to valium, telling me they are not addictive and have no withdrawal. I refused. Then she pushed fluoxetine saying there was no withdrawal and you could just stop taking them without tapering!!! A quick look at my notes would have told her i took the damn things for 6 years and know there is a withdrawal! Bloody psychiatrists. I hate them

  12. John

    Hi, Great post. I can relate to it a lot. I’ve been on medication for 14 years and still am. If I even miss a couple of days I feel like I’ve got the ‘flu. These pills are powerful stuff. Your neurologist was mean, laughing at you. Stay strong, you can make it through. Please also check out my site:, John

  13. A

    My heartaches for you Erin.

    Keep fighting your fight.

    Just keep swimming Nemo. That little fun can’t hold you back forever. (Though it may feel like it)

    With the way the medications that are supposed to help us hurt us it’s not a surprise to me that suicide can seem like a relief. Please don’t let that take you from us.

    You need something to believe in as much as we do. I hope some of the encouraging comments gives you something to believe in and doesn’t overwhelm you.

    I’m pulling for you kid. I’ve had them too, from a different med, during a different, difficult time. Not as severe, but my first week on a new temporary job was the first week after I decided to quit cold turkey.

    I’d had enough from work and a boss & coworkers who’d made me feel like I was the scum of the earth. I had to learn a new job while having the dizziness and brain zaps. I didn’t understand what they were until I had them.

    You can do it, even when you feel you can’t. I believe in you.

  14. Michelle

    I believe you! I spent approx 6mths on cymbalta and ended in tears with the GP begging to get me off it. The very slow withdrawal recommendation also seemed impossible and I just had to go cold Turkey. On & coming off have been one of my lowest points of depression. Hang in there & stay persistent xx

  15. Roma

    I’m so sorry to hear about the pain you’re going through because of going off of your meds. *massive hug* I really don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry.

  16. Seema

    So.. I am pretty much on the same boat. Left my medicines, withdrawals left me with OCD harm. Yesterday, I was thinking about whether it is just me like I need the medicines again or I don’t know. I am now having suicidal thoughts which are better than harming someone else – my son. I’d rather kill myself. I am pregnant and am having a very difficult time. I have no support. My husband is always traveling. I am exhausted with all these emotional feelings that I feel like that’s it, I don’t want to live like this. I am done with my life! I can’t continue to live like this. This is so difficult! Don’t even know who I am anymore. I left my meds cold turkey when I found out I was pregnant. It’s been 4 months now. I did feel better in the middle but I am back again feeling hopeless and helpless.

  17. candidrealm

    I really like your writing and you really are strong. I also like to share my thoughts by writing, it really helps, I also have a blog:


  18. Shanelle

    I had the same symptoms when I missed 1 day of my antidepressants. It was horrible it felt like an incredibly horrific hangover. I hate to leave work early.

    Hang in there Hun.

  19. Dawn R.

    Dear Erin,
    While in no way can I relate to your physical pain, I have suffered on-and-off from depression since I was a teenager, some 40 years ago. This past winter was particularly difficult and I found myself blogging a lot less because it seemed like all I did was complain. One day, as I was cooking, I found myself having a conversation with the onion I was chopping and I had an idea to write a “Guest Blog” written by the onion itself, or perhaps my cats or some other non-person, someone other than me. It allowed me to separate myself from the dialogue, the never-ending internal conversation. I never posted the blog, but I found the rough draft in my notebook just yesterday and then today I saw your post. It’s not much, but it now seems timely, so I thought I would share it here. I wish you the very best…hang in there!

    A Guest Blog by The Onion (or the Cats)

    She is curled up, over there in the corner, in the fetal position. It feels good on her spine, to relax, to not have to stand fully upright and erect, prepared for battle. Battle against circumstances, battle against those who wish her harm, or bring her harm, even if not overtly or intentionally. Battle against her self, her expectations, and the many other unseen foes who frequently set up camp in the unprotected sanctuary of her mind, the ones who sap her energy, steal her strength, rape her resilience and cause her to relinquish her attempts at restoration.

    She will uncurl, eventually, to stand and rise and strike her warrior pose, prepared once again to battle for her happiness and her life.

  20. Ros Limbo

    You are amazing and strong. I have been thinking of getting of the meds as well. It makes it so hard to write. But I am so scared of what will happened. I’m scared of that dark place. I don’t know if I will make it out again. But I’m cheering for you.

  21. Hamza

    Wow Erin, What a great post in which you are honest about your relationship to antidepressants, something so hard to do when you are having to deal with the ups and the downs of the medicine while at the same time managing the symptoms of the depression and anxiety.

    Great article, hope to see more of your writing!

  22. Natasha

    I’m so sorry that you’re going through this Erin, but please know that you’re not alone. I weened off my medication a few years ago and it was the same absolutely hell that you are describing. I have faith that you’ll get through it and I hope that you’ll feel better and stronger when you come out the other side.

    I’ve been without medication for over a year now, using other methods to manage my depression and I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I know that different treatments work for different people; this is definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. But I hope that you find something that works for you and helps to lift you up! xoxox

  23. Helen Jones

    I’ve just come off super strong painkillers which was also hell. Ginger and lemon tea, ginger ale, ginger biscuits and bizarrely salt and vinegar crisps helped me with the physical stuff. I also had this horrible semi disassociation thing going on and wrapping myself tightly in a blanket helped a bit.

  24. Jess

    What a fantastic blog you have here! I’m glad I discovered it. I hope things will settle down for you eventually on the med side of things. I’ve heard so many horror stories!

    Just wanted to let you know I’m featuring your blog on a monthly feature I do every month. Keep your head up!

  25. AliceG

    Thank you for writing. YOur words are so relatable and even though our situations are different, I find a lot of what you write to be comforting. I’ve been going through divorcing a narcissistic addict for nearly a year. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve become depressed. My stress levels are through the roof and I dread coming home; I wake up feeling tired. I just want the divorce to be finished. He won’t even look at an app i found that i think we can use ( )….

    I was given meds 4 months ago and have decided that I no longer want to take them. I’m 4 days into stopping and feeling very strange. Terrible, actually. I’m hopeful though, having read this. And for that I thank you again,

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  27. Amy

    I was on Cymbalta for a few months a few years ago, I missed a tablet accidentally and felt so agitated, like I wanted to get my skin off me – have not trusted anti-depressants since. I was only on it for a few months because I fell pregnant so had to wean off it – I feel for you, thanks for sharing 😊

  28. Tony

    I recently decreased my Zoloft from 300 to 100 mg. normally I get the”brain zaps” and hand tingling I for the first time had minimal withdrawal. I cut back due to increased mania. Zoloft is the only one the does not give me extreme mania.

  29. Tony

    Been on all these meds for 12+ years and am so sick of it. Downside is 2x I tried to taper myself I got arrested both times. I decreased seroquel 400 to 250 the Zoloft 300 to 100 kept Depekote at 1000 very slow tapering my Xanax and kept ambien (30) the same prescribed 10 and last I will be tapering my neurontin I’m on 3200 daily I’ve never tapered Xanax or neurontin so ill do 1 at a time. So far I think I’m fine .25 taper a month on the Xanax 4 mg a day down to 3.5 now.

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