WHAT ARE ANTIDEPRESSANTS?
There are several types of antidepressants. The ones that are prescribed the most are SSRIs (Lexapro, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft) and SNRIs (Cymbalta, Effexor, Pristiq). SSRIs influence a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin by increasing its availability. This neurotransmitter signals calming and soothing effects. SNRIs also help increase availability of serotonin, but additionally have an effect on the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
HOW DO ANTIDEPRESSANTS WORK?
SSRIs and SNRIs are synthetic chemicals. If your nerves are deficient in serotonin and/or norepinephrine, the medication will not increase your body's own production of the brain chemicals. Rather, they are "reuptake inhibitors" that slow down the rate at which serotonin and/or norepinephrine are recycled, thus allowing your brain's receptors more time and opportunity to bind to these neurotransmitters.
CAN ANTIDEPRESSANTS BE HABIT-FORMING?
While antidepressants are not typically considered habit-forming they can be very difficult to discontinue. Proper tapering can take weeks or even months depending on the type of antidepressant, dose, length of treatment and individual sensitivities. However, when antidepressants are tapered appropriately individuals can maintain emotional stability and continue to function at a high level.
WHAT ARE THE WITHDRAWAL EFFECTS FROM STOPPING ANTIDEPRESSANTS?
Antidepressant discontinuation symptoms can be significantly distressing and cause impairment to day to day functioning. Discontinuation symptoms most commonly last from 1-4 weeks, but there have been reports of symptoms lasting up to several months. Symptoms of discontinuation may include:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Headaches, Sweating
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia, nightmares, constant sleepiness)
- Sensory and movement disturbances (imbalance, tremors, vertigo, dizziness)
- Electric shock-like experiences ("Brain Zaps")
- Dysphoria, Anxiety, Agitation
- Cognitive Disturbances (confusion, hyperarousal)