Discontinue Syndrome

Aka withdrawal.

I have to admit, I made an unwise decision. Two actually.

I decided to discontinue my psych-medications without first consulting my doctor.

The next unwise decision I did was stopping abruptly without following a tapering schedule.

My lack of impulse control made me do it.

If only I could actually blame it on something or someone else. The truth is, I was desperate. I had done my research about the long term negative effects of antidepressants and antipsychotics, and decided it was time to come off of them. But I felt like I had to do it NOW! In reality, there was no rush. But I justified it with, just wanting it to be “over and done with”.

I do not regret my decision of discontinuing those medications but I do regret the “cold turkey” approach I took to stopping them.

Before I get into how I currently feel, first I want to talk about why I decided to do it.

The why’s

[Why I decide to stop my medication.]

  • Obesity

Antidepressants cause weight gain, which can lead to obesity and its accompanying health problems (such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, some cancers and stroke). I was on antidepressants for 10 months and gained 15 pounds. Despite my healthy diet and moderate activity, I was unsuccessful at losing weight. I can say, however, with a strict reduced calorie intake of 1200 to 1300, I have been able to maintain my weight and stop myself from further weight gain. Generally people lose weight with such a deficit, unfortunately not me.

  • Sexual dysfunction

In other words, I was hardly ever, never, in the mood. This made me like I was “broken”. Like I couldn’t fulfil the needs and desires of my significant other. Too much info? Sorry. But for me, it was a real concern, and I know there are many people that can relate. Beside weight gain, this is the second most reason decide to stop their psych-meds.

  • Diabetes type 2

There is a link between antidepressant use and problems with blood-sugar regulation. Antidepressants may worsen blood-sugar control because they can cause significant weight gain. For me, this was a significant reason why I wanted to stop. I do not want diabetes, or any chance of getting it.

  • Irregular heart rhythms

Taking high doses of antidepressants over an extended period of time can lead to heart rhythm abnormalities. I only have one heart and I’d like to keep it healthy and happy until the day I die as an old lady. I want to be able to walk miles, even in my older age, and I don’t want a broken heart to impede my chances of that.

  • Harm to the unborn child

I am of childbearing years, and still without a child. I suspect sometime in my distance yet near future (within the next 5 years), I will want to bring a child of my own into this world. But not while taking medications that can harm my, one-day, fetus or newborn. Studies have found a higher than average risk for low birth weight and premature delivery when antidepressants are taken during pregnancy, especially in the last three months. At birth, infants may suffer withdrawal symptoms, including jitters, crying, irritability, shivering, and, rarely, seizures.

The most important factor(s) to my final decision were:

  1. I knew I was ready
  2. I knew my mind could handle it without the extra help
  3. I knew I could do it on my own, with the addition to natural remedies

I went on to the medications for anxiety and depression. I knew I was only going to be on them for a short duration because I have always had the mindset that I can do anything on my own, as long as I set my mind to it. While I was on the medication, I made sure I was implementing techniques that could help me function on my own once off of them. I continue those lifestyle changes, skills and techniques now, such as eating healthy, exercising, meditation, mindfulness, music therapy, art, and herbal remedies. I will talk about the herbal remedies in a bit.

All of these reasons ultimately lead to my final decision of stopping my medications. For me, the risks outweighed the benefit at this point in my life.

The withdrawal symptoms I have experienced, so far:

  1. Dizziness
  2. Imbalanced
  3. Nausea
  4. Brain Flickers
  5. Anxiety (mild)
  6. Irritability
  7. Insomnia
  8. Dream-like state
  9. Hyperawareness to sounds

I stopped 4 days ago, and overall I am feeling okay. I can manage and function normally, and I know these feelings and sensations will not kill me. If anything, they are only uncomfortable and will only last for a short while. I read that only roughly 20% of people experience withdrawal symptoms, how did I become so lucky to end up in that 20%? I also read, that symptoms usually peak within a week then decrease pretty quickly, although there are some unlucky people that experience the symptoms for weeks to months.

A more comprehensive list of withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Return of depression or anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Shock-like sensations
  • Paresthesia (burning, prickly, or skin crawling sensations)
  • Visual disturbances
  • Impaired concentration
  • Vivid dreams
  • Depersonalization (a detached, out-of-body experience)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychosis
  • Catatonia (a state of unresponsiveness)

Sounds pretty scary right? The longer you are on a medication, the worse the withdrawals. This is why it is so important to talk to your doctor before deciding to stop your medication.

I decided to take natural remedies to help my brain heal and function as best it can while it is rewiring itself.

  • Multivitamin
  • GABA
  • L-theanine
  • Omega 3 Fish Oil
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Melatonin with Magnesium

These medications help with chemical and nutritional imbalances, improve mood, decrease anxiety, promote a calm and relaxed state, help with sleep or boost energy and have a ton of other benefits.

Moral of the story, have patience with yourself, things aren’t usually as urgent as they seem. If you want to get off your meds, talk to your doctor before you do it, they can come up with a plan (a tapering schedule) that offers minimal withdrawal effects. But before you do, have your own game plan… Make sure you’ve implemented measures to help you cope effectively when moments of depression or anxiety arise.

This article was dedicated to ME coming off medication, and I’m not saying that chemical synthetic medications are not okay. They just are not okay for ME. There are many people that require to be on them for life, and if that is what you need then that is what you have to do. You do what is right for you, and whatever allows you to live a high functioning and happy life.

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9 thoughts on “Discontinue Syndrome

  1. Paulie

    I admire and congratulate you on moving toward away from the synthetic controls. I understand what you mean when you said you felt “broken.” Not a pleasant feeling that.

    Like

  2. Susan

    After a serious back injury and eventual neuropathic pain in my leg, I agreed to take Lyrica ( an antidepressant noted to help with nerve pain). And yes, like you, I noticed changes in weight and apathy regarding intimacy, and then there’s all the other symptoms, I couldn’t sleep, changes in focus, I …
    Being a nurse and understanding how meds stay in the body is the only thing that kept me from going cold turkey. Still, I was impatient and tapered for only 2 weeks. Should’ve done even longer…the first two weeks off was a miserable experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel Page

      I am also a nurse and it still didn’t stop me from stopping abruptly and it should have. It was a silly decision, but luckily it’s been relatively mild experience for me so far. Everyone responds differently. My brain might just be ‘better’ at producing the neurotransmitters and readjusting on it’s own. I notice, the more I keep myself busy and distracted the less I notice things. The only two symptoms I have now are feeling off balanced (but it doesn’t affect my daily functioning) and periodic brain ‘flickers’. It’s hard to explain the sensation, it doesn’t hurt at all. I was on the medication for 10 months, as well as an antipsychotic and decided to go off both cold Turkey (about a week apart). I had zero symptoms with the antipsychotic, but I was also only on it for a month and a half. Had I been on the medication for years, I probably would have experienced more intense withdrawal symptoms.

      I hope you are doing well these days ♡

      Liked by 1 person

      • Susan

        Eh, I’m so-so. We’ve been short staffed with our charge nurse out for the last two weeks and the nurse in charge hovers/ micro-manages. She has a frantic type energy leaving me on edge and close to tears because I feel smothered.
        The stars are sure in alignment having read this post today – after work I went to see my primary. Fatigue, weight gain, headaches, and yep, teary eyed for the last 2 – 4 weeks. Constantly having a numb foot made me think, ‘ hmm, maybe I should get back on the Lyrica ( and not just for the neuropathy).
        My Md is going metabolic panels and following with overnight pulse oximetry to see first if I have sleep apnea.

        Self Care – a good friend says I’m not doing it – I know she’s right….not enough hours in the day.
        I’ve made this long. You are so kind to ask. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Heather Noble - We're All Fine Here

    I finally was able to stop taking my medications after 8 months of tapering. I was on Zoloft (SSRI) and Ativan (Benzo). I tapered off the Zoloft first and just a couple weeks ago I was able to stop the Ativan after tapering as well. The withdrawals were awful, even from tapering safely. Between the two medications I experienced:
    Depression
    Anxiety
    Suicidal thoughts
    Muscle and joint pain
    Memory issues
    Muscle spasms
    Tinnitus
    Insomnia
    Nausea/Vomiting
    Dizziness
    Hair loss
    Dissociation
    Migraines
    The “Benzo Flu”
    Chest pains and heart palpitations
    Diarrhea
    I went from not dreaming at all to having vivid nightmares
    Sweating
    Shortness of breath

    Be careful using medications that work on your GABA receptors. They can actually delay the healing process. I also read a lot of mixed reviews about fish oil for withdrawals and even tried it myself and it actually made my side effects worse.
    I found the things that worked best for me were eating healthy (when I could manage to actually eat), staying active, even if I would just pace around the house, and keeping mind busy. I still have side effects like occasional ear ringing, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and muscle/joint pain but for the most part things have gotten better. It felt like it was never going to end but I reassure you that it will get better. Also, please don’t feel ashamed if you have to reinstate your medications a little. It’s common in people who quit cold turkey (and even in those who taper of long periods of time).

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    • Rachel Page

      Thank you for your advice.
      I have noticed a worsening of my symptoms for a few hours after taking the herbal and vitamin supplements but then usually it helps calm them down for the rest of the day.
      I didnt start taking the supplements to help with the withdrawals, I started taking them for overall mental wellness. Gaba and L-theanine are great at calming the brain. Gaba works to calm excited nerves. Fish oil is an essential omega 3 fatty acid that is required for healthy neurons. They provide the protective coating around the neuron. Overall, they decrease cardiovascular disease, promote focus and concentration, and reduce inflammation to name a few.
      My doctor and psychiatrist recommended Fish Oil as part of my daily diet.
      Multivitamins are great for overall health, and I had a deficiency in B12, so I take a Vit B complex.
      Everyone is different though, and it is a matter of finding what works for you. A lot of the time it requires trial and error.
      Overall I am feeling alright. The only symptoms I am really experiencing are imbalance, and periodic brain flickers. But they arent affecting my daily functioning.
      I hope you are feeling better these days ♡

      Like

  4. Lolly's Library

    I am terrified of coming off my anxiety medication. I did actually go and talk to my Doctor about coming off of them about a month ago. He said I shouldn’t until November, because then it’ll be a year and then we can talk about it then. He said too me the sooner you come off the quicker your chances of relapsing. Until then he suggested that I find ways to cope. So when it does happen I will be prepared! So I am going to start getting multivitamins etc, I already take fish oil tablets.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. iceman18

    I’ve done it both ways, with and without a doc. Can’t believe I did it without a doc, not something I would recommend. Sans the child bearing part, my reasons were all the same as you listed.

    I first experienced depression at 24. I went on antidepressants at 32 and remained on antidepressants until June of last year (33 years) and then, under my doctors care, titrated off the medication over a 5 month period. I just crossed over the year mark of not having any (zero, zip, natta) symptoms of depression. That is a first for me. For 33 years I was always in some level of depression, within a given year.

    Over the years, I have tried on a number of the labels and diagnosis’s, wanting so badly to have a clean, proper and sophisticated explanation for all my troubles. I bought into the American healthcare model that kept me sick for a long time.

    Western medicine is flawed because of the conflict of interest that is embedded in it. The healthcare model and economic model co habitat. Treat the symptom, never the cause, and it’s a “win win” for everyone…except the patient.

    Happy to now be on the other side and enjoying life!

    Like

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