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After Two Decades, I Decided to Go Off Antidepressants

I had my first panic attack when I was 9 years old. One minute, I was in music class, belting out “Camptown Races.” Then, in less time than it took to sing “all the doo-dah day,” nausea and weakness swept over my body. With sweaty palms and trembling legs, I asked my teacher if I could go to the school nurse. Within 30 minutes, my mom showed up and carted me to the local emergency room, where an ER doctor suggested I see a therapist for anxiety.

It wasn’t a one-time thing. After a few repeat panic episodes, my mom pursued the best solution she knew: medicine. On a spring afternoon in fourth grade, I walked into a child psychiatrist’s office for a consultation and walked out with a prescription for an antidepressant called Luvox.

The little pink pills relieved my anxiety almost immediately. I exchanged my fears of lockjaw and fatal car accidents for more normal grade-school worries about sleepovers and school play auditions. From that point on, varying doses of SSRIs — Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa — were a part of my life.

Then, last year, I decided to wean myself off the medication I’d relied on for two decades. By that point, I’d made a lot of progress in managing my anxiety through therapy and had begun to see antidepressants as more of a burden than an asset. Thanks to my Lexapro, my libido was nonexistent and my extra pregnancy weight wouldn’t go away. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t fully experiencing the joy of mothering my two toddler sons. Something about my way of being just seemed flat. Didn’t my kids deserve to know an unconstrained, unmedicated version of their mother?

But in the process of quitting antidepressants, I realized there was something I needed to abandon more than Lexapro: the belief that being strong means being unmedicated.


As of 2017, 13 percent of Americans take antidepressants. The term “antidepressant” applies to several different classes of drugs, the most popular being SSRIs. Standing for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs are typically used to treat mood disorders like anxiety and depression. The drugs work by increasing the brain’s supply of serotonin, an emotion-stabilizing neurotransmitter. In one study, 60 percent of people who took an antidepressant noticed improvements in depression symptoms within two months; research also shows SSRIs to be more effective than placebos in treating panic disorder.

As for the fine print, SSRIs also have well-documented side effects, including decreased sexual desire, weight gain, insomnia, headaches and nausea. And it’s debatable how well SSRIs work for anxiety in particular; some experts argue they can do more harm than good.

When I announced my decision to part ways with Lexapro, my soft-spoken, ultra-zen psychiatrist supported me. “I think you can do it, but we’ll need to come up with a plan for a slow taper,” he said, after laying out the risks. Given how long I’d been on SSRIs, we agreed the one thing I shouldn’t do was quit cold turkey.

My psychiatrist switched me to a liquid form of Lexapro and told me to reduce my daily dose of 10 milligrams by one milligram every two weeks.

Discontinuing SSRIs can be an extremely difficult process. Studies on long-term use have shown that the longer someone is taking an SSRI, the harder it is to quit. Some people develop discontinuation syndrome, a real, diagnosable condition that comes with physical symptoms like restlessness, tremors, nausea and vomiting, along with neurological symptoms like dizziness, trouble concentrating and the sensation of “brain zaps.” People can also experience increased feelings of anxiety and depression during discontinuation, but Dr. Anna Lembke, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, says flare-ups generally don’t last more than a few weeks, especially with a gradual taper.

Tapering is something of a hot topic among psychiatrists, and prevailing opinion in the field is changing. For years, it’s been standard for doctors to recommend 2-4 week tapering regimens. But two psychiatric researchers recently published a paper recommending an “extended tapering regimen, reducing [a patient’s] dosage by smaller and smaller increments, down to one-fortieth of the original amount.” This method takes months or even years, but researchers say it accounts for how antidepressants change brain chemistry, while the old way does not.

My psychiatrist switched me to a liquid form of Lexapro and told me to reduce my daily dose of 10 milligrams by one milligram every two weeks. He also prescribed supplements and dietary changes to support serotonin production in my brain.

I followed his instructions to the letter. Every morning, instead of swallowing a pill, I poured unflavored liquid into a syringe and squeezed it into my mouth. And every night I swallowed a handful of vitamins. Each time I cut my dose, I felt out of sorts for about a week, which Lembke says is typical. “At first, we expect people to feel worse, but that may be withdrawal-mediated anxiety and depression,” she said. “Once their brain adapts to the new dose, a person might go back to their original baseline. It’s important to wait until the withdrawal is complete, then reassess.”

Some days, when I felt too anxious and uncomfortable to engage fully with my kids, I parked myself on the couch and let Curious George marathons do the parenting for me.

I couldn’t tell if my anxiety had resurfaced or if I was just experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Either way, I was struggling. In addition to brain zaps and dizziness, I felt like I had the flu. My appetite waned. I was irritable and restless. My whole body felt achy and fatigued. Some days, when I felt too anxious and uncomfortable to engage fully with my kids, I parked myself on the couch and let Curious George marathons do the parenting for me. Then I felt guilty. It was all so overwhelming.

But I didn’t want to undo my progress, so I forged on, reducing my dosage to 5 milligrams over three months. Once I adjusted to this dose, it felt like a comfortable midpoint between panic-stricken and emotionally clogged. Still, I assumed I should continue tapering until I hit zero. There was just something so intriguing about the prospect of living without medication.

But my doctor urged me to stay put for a while. If I wanted, I could resume tapering in a few months, or a few years, or whenever I stopped feeling like myself at my new, reduced dosage. By winter, 5 milligrams no longer felt right — but not in the way I’d hoped. Pummeled by the flu and the oppressive darkness of Minnesota in January, my anxiety came back in full force.

I holed up in my room, terrified I’d never get better. After two months of debilitating anxiety, I did what I swore to myself I wouldn’t: I scheduled an appointment with my psychiatrist and begrudgingly increased my dosage to 10 milligrams. I felt like I was giving up my chance of being an emotionally authentic person, but my doctor wasn’t having it.

“Don’t think of it as a failure,” he said. “You’re doing what you need to take care of yourself.”

I couldn’t appreciate his advice until my anxiety calmed down enough for me to put my tapering experience in perspective.

Originally, I wanted to quit Lexapro, or at least drastically reduce my dosage, to show myself and my kids that I was strong enough to thrive on my own — without pills to keep serotonin coursing through my synapses. But after coming full circle, I was able to see that being strong isn’t about taking (or not taking) medication. It’s about taking care of myself, just as my doctor said.

“Don’t think of it as a failure,” my doctor said. “You’re doing what you need to take care of yourself.”

If I were on medication for epilepsy, diabetes or any chronic illness with more acute physical symptoms, I doubt many people would call me strong or courageous for choosing to manage my disease naturally. The truth is, I’ve summoned plenty of strength and courage since I first went on antidepressants. I’ve spent years learning how to control the anxious thoughts that plagued my 10-year-old self. I’ve worked hard to build and maintain relationships that give me the stability I didn’t have as a kid. I pour myself into writing and parenting, both of which lend an empowering sense of purpose to my daily life. I advocate for my mental health needs whenever I can, and ask for help from friends, family and professionals when I need to.

So many times during my taper, I was motivated by self-discovery. I wondered if a “real version” of me was hiding beneath the medication I’d been taking most of my life. I envisioned the emergence of a resilient, vibrant, does-it-all woman. But I didn’t need to go looking for her. She was there all along.

Show Comments (83)
  1. Ella

    I appreciate your reflections and thoughts on the tapering process, and find it a relief that you have a psychiatrist who not only supported your decision to taper but suggested a slow taper. That is rare to find and I am hoping the awareness of antidepressant withdrawal/discontinuation can grow within the medical field. The advice from many MDs is simply antithetical to what the literature shows, that there is an exponential drop in receptor occupancy and that to have a successful taper, one must decrease by 10% dosage increments every month (not every two weeks).

    I am someone who went through the horrors of a too-fast taper which included debilitating anxiety and violent thoughts, beyond anything I have ever experienced, as well as physical symptoms like excessive sweating and brain zaps. Would never wish this experience on anyone, but far too many go through this pain without connecting it to their taper. For further reading on this subject, for anyone who may be taking ADs and wishing to taper, I highly recommend the following resources: the Mad in America website, the book “Your Drug May Be Your Problem” by Dr. Peter Breggin, and the online forum Surviving Antidepressants.

    1. Erica Gerard

      Thank you for this, Ella! I’ve tried to go off anti-depressants twice in the decades I’ve been taking them, and both times were so unbearably unsuccessful that I’ve been turned off from trying again even though I desperately want to be pharm-free. I have heard that many times people who go off their anti-depressants relapse even worse than the initial episodes that brought them to the drugs in the first place. Have our brains changed this much? I feel totally stuck and hopeless that I will ever be able to go off my stupid drugs, even though I swear they aren’t even doing anything anymore at this point. I will check out the forums and book you suggest. Maybe I will find some hope there! Or maybe I just need a REALLY slow taper, like you mentioned. Anyways, thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      1. Jennifer

        Erica you nailed it. You can get off this if you do an extremely slow and cautious taper. I’m 97% off Lexapro after being o it 17 years. Praise Jesus. My taper is going to take over 2 years but I’m glad I’m doing it.

        1. Kara Honaker

          Are you using liquid Lexapro? How are you doing your tapering?

        2. Lana Smiley

          Jesus is the answer! He came to set us free and give us (His people) abundant life👍.

          1. Windy Hall

            John 10:10

      2. jackie

        I been on antidepressant for 7 years and been tapering about 2 mg at a time out of a 230 mg dose. Slow and steady wins the race.. maybe as you feel better you can reduce faster but no rush. You have to go to a compounding pharmacy to get the pill compounded to smaller amounts, or what I do to taper is I put my 25 mg pill in 25 mg go water and have it dissolve then I take out 2 mg with a syringe and drink the rest
        look at surviving antidepressants .com

      3. scott

        Awesome article. Definitely taking care of yourself should always be priority #1. It can be frustrating to feel like you are giving up or undoing your hard work. If the method you are using is too grueling, then that means its not really working, and probably won’t work long term. I would suggest trying other methods until you find one that works. And if you never find one, then that means staying where you are is your best option. I could never ween off of lex without another SSRI to help. Prozac is a miracle drug for me because it almost completely takes away all withdrawal effects for me. So then yes I become dependent on the prozac. But, i am able to ween off of prozac much easier than lexapro. So basically i switch to prozac for the sole purpose of weening. That is the trick i use. It sounds like you might be like me, where lexapro withdrawal is just too much of a shock to your system. It is a nightmare to ween off of. Anyway, I figured I would share what works for me. Thanks again for the great article.

    2. Tammy Smiley

      Thank you … I hope to find some hope with your suggestion from Dr Peter Breggin. It’s been 2 .5 years off them for me and my body is doing crazy things I think very well could be from being on Prozac 20 years. I enjoyed your article Ashley. Sending best wishes to you. And all in this horrible battle!

  2. Sarah

    Can you tell me how to find a medical professional who can help me taper slowly? I live in the Twin Cities.

  3. Robin

    I weaning off right now after 28 years of antidepressants that I only started taking for PMS because that time of the month I would get well PMS. I’m struggling right now with my emotions. Praying it gets better when its all out of my system. The good things are I am losing weight, my libido is coming back and my “feelings” are too. But its not been an easy ride yet.

    1. Elaine

      I went off Lexapro after 18 years on it and did a 4-6 weeks taper. I had so many withdrawal symptoms that I didn’t realize what they were until I was a month in. I have a lot of anxiety issues, like breathlessness, feeling of a lump in my throat and insomnia. I don’t want to go back on Lexapro but I hate feeling like this.

      1. Taylor

        I’m in a similar position. I was on celexa for 7 years. I tapered off and I’m now experiencing blurry vision, lump in throat, breathlessness, and stomach ache. I don’t know if it’s withdrawal or a relapse. I’m going to ride it out and hope for the best. I hope yours gets better too xoxo

      2. Jennifer

        Please go to the surviving antidepressants forum. They can help. http://Www.survivingantidepressants.org

      3. Kim

        Elaine, I have been off Lexapro now for 2 & 1/2 months. I have tried many times over 20 yrs and have always felt the need to recommence medication. ( there’s no shame in that) this time however, I have a watcher (because we’re always the last to know we’re slipping back) & I have successfully finished withdrawals. What I have found is I have to work on things every day. I use CBT and acknowledge feelings as they arise. I had forgotten what it was like to really feel emotion & although it can be confronting, I’m actually enjoying it! Good luck in your journey. With or without medication: you are enough x

        1. Dave

          I stopped Lexapro cold turkey after 20 years of SSRIs. I’ve tried to stop a few time in the past, but failed miserably.

          I would have continued taking Lexapro, but getting my meds during the lockdown was difficult for me. So I’ve been off for 1 month now… Cold turkey, and I feel fine. I don’t fully understand why this time is different, but I suspect being in lockdown at home since March has helped me recover… I haven’t left the house much since March. The stress of what used to be a normal day for me commuting to and from work, interacting with several people daily hasn’t been a factor for more than 2 months. During that time I went through the same withdrawal symptoms I felt when trying to quit in the past. I feel like now may be different because I have the luxury of being at home, getting more rest, being able to use that extra energy towards helping myself get better.

          I may be way off, but I can’t explain why this time is different.

          1. Kristen

            I appreciate your comments particularly as i was looking for the experiences of someone who had quit cold turkey. My doctor said I was on such a small dose (10 mg for 4 1/2 years) that I could probably just stop. So, one day I did just that. It’s been 4 weeks, and in this past week the withdrawal has hit me. Anger being the worst one. Irritability, feelings of being trapped (hey, we’re in a pandemic so is that the withdrawal or just our life experience?). On the upside, emotion has been returning, as well as libido. But…is it worth it? I’m on the fence with how I feel about it. I’d like to think I can manage without the Lexapro, but I’m afraid to think how long these symptoms could go on…

        2. Heather

          Kim- how long did it take until you were mostly through withdrawal? I’m at 6 weeks now off of Zoloft and struggling with depression (I went on it for anxiety).

      4. Bee

        Hey I am experiencing these same symptoms. What did you do in the end?

    2. Maia Marron

      I too started on SSRIs to help with severe PMS…now that I’ve stopped the SSRI the PMS has come back like clockwork (along with a debilitating withdrawal). Have you noticed the same thing?

    3. Marcy

      I’m in a similar situation with having taken Prozac for the past 30 years and I am considering the idea of finally weaning myself of them completely (with doctor guidance). The reason I went on them in the first place was exactly the same reason as you. My question to you is this was written in May 2019 and given that you are still working on this I am wondering how you are feeling now? I am encouraged by the positive things you had to say in your post and I’m wondering if you still feel that way.

      Thanks!

    4. DS

      Hi

      How did it go?

      I’m where you were. On ADs for 24 years originally for PND. Am so sad I lived my life on them.

  4. DeLee

    Thanks for your article – I have been on Lexapro for about 10 years and thought I needed to try another antidepressant because I had some break through anxiety as menopause approached – this has been an awful process with all sort of awful physical and mental feelings … I think I just need to go back on My Lexapro

  5. CB

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I have been on Lexapro for the past 10 and have recently started the taper. The doctor I currently see suggested what I thought to be an aggressive taper and I took it on myself to slow down the process. I have been completely off the drug for two weeks and I am experiencing many of the side effects mentioned above. While not severely debilitating, they are irksome and have me wondering if I should just return to my 10mg regimen. I have decided to wait it out, use some meditation and see if my body will adjust. Long term, I will do what it takes to take myself.

  6. Scott wi

    I was on Max dose of venlafaxine for 20 years. I missed doses before and would bave reaction in a a day or two, eg. Being on acid. I decided a month ago I was going to quit cold turkey. It took about 2 weeks for me to level out. Now i feel again dream again I am my old real self again . I am healthier than I’ve ever been doing and enjoying.

    1. Annette S.

      I was on 40mg of lexapro (30-40 over time) for about 15 years, on one or another AD for over 17 years. I hated the way I felt on them, refused to add another Med. After all, the pharmaceutical industry MAKES CUSTOMERS, NOT CURES.
      So about 2 weeks ago I went off it, completely, cold turkey. I hate docs, but I hate meds more. The withdrawal sucks. But I’m not sure it’s any worse than the way I felt on the meds. I’ll take my chances. Good luck to all, follow your gut.

    2. Antidepressantangel

      Are you completely off the meds now?

    3. Sue H.

      Thank you for your success story. I need to hear more like that.

    4. may brown

      that seems so quick to level out, I am now coming off pills for 4 months and still getting brain zaps ,pain all over my body, deep depression, crying, anger, bad dreams, I feel in the depths of despair.

      1. Gabrielle

        Try CBD. I take 10 mg daily and I’m almost off my buspirone. God bless you 🙏

        1. Riki

          Hi Gabrielle- I actually started Buspar because I wanted to taper off Lexapro. Found it so helpful at first- less so as my Lexapro taper has continued. Interested in your thoughts on Buspar- one major thing I have noticed is major IBS-type issues since starting…

          Thanks so much!

        2. Carly

          I’ve tried CBD before and feel like it never worked. How long did it take to get into your system and what are the noticeable differences for you? What company do you use?

    5. Josie Spence

      That’s incredible you were able to come off in 2 weeks. I’m so pleased you’ve succeeded.

  7. Cathy Chirnside

    I was on first Paroxetine and then latterly Citalopram (in NZ) over a period of 20 years being treated for depression. I put on a huge amount of weight becoming pre diabetic developed fatty liver and generally became very unwell. Over several attempts I tried unsuccessfully to wean myself off the drugs and had decided that it just wasn’t possible as the discontinuation symptoms were so unbearable. I told myself and everyone else that my antidepressants were like insulin. I believed my brain didn’t produce serotonin so I had to take the drugs for ever just as a diabetic needed to take insulin. However in 2018 I tried once more and I am delighted to say that by reducing my dose very very gradually over a number of weeks and months from 40mg daily I finally took my final dose at the end of November 2018. However the fun is not yet over as I found out that my brain is not yet over its need for support and I have had issues with extreme anxiety. Something which I have never had issues with before. This appeared over Christmas and New Year last year initially and I sought the help of a Naturopath who treated me with Vitamin B complex, Magnesium and a herbal blend of passionflower, magnolia and a couple of other things. As a Registered Nurse this journey into the world of natural medicine was something new but I was determined to avoid any more pharmaceuticals for my mental health and the natural products did the trick. I was well for several months when here in Christchurch we were hit with the tragedy of our first experience of terrorism and I was plunged once again into another bout of intense anxiety much to my disappointment. The increase of the products I have been on has dealt with my symptoms and I am pleased to report that my depression has not returned and my anxiety is well under control again now. The only good part of it all is that the anxiety has caused loss of my appetite and I have lost around 35kg in weight which has been to the benefit of my overall health. Reversing my pre diabetic condition and fatty liver.
    However what I do want to say to anyone who has been on antidepressants for many years. You can come off them. Its hard work and not very pleasant at times but as long as you get good advice and you are well supported. Look after yourself and be aware of your mental health. Natural health products may be a way to do it and help with the discontinuation symptoms.
    I hope this is of help.

    1. Will

      What a great story, and just what I needed to hear!

  8. Heather Hubbard

    Your taper was way too fast….I am reducing 5% monthly. You should join a Facebook group called “Zoloft should be illegal” (even if you are on a different SSRI). It will give you the correct tapering method. Unfortunately the doctors have no idea how to taper patients off of these drugs successfully. You are better off listening to those of us in the trenches.

    1. Jennifer

      You are absolutely correct Heather.

  9. Matt

    Google taperstrips. They are made to help people ween off meds.

  10. Steven

    This nightmare started in 2006 a doctor trying to build a client base, I can see now looking back on it. It started with celexa and lexapro. Im a single parent of 2 boys . One of which has spina bifida , i the weight gain was from lifting him , OH BOY WHISTLE WHISTLE , not so my dr kept telling me to loose weight, I am very active, 5’4″ 190 now after being at 240 . I finally got mad and told her that the only thing i have done different is take your PILL so I quit a year ago what a mistake. My skin feels like an over coat . I was told I had COPD nope it was the Pills. Now my arms don’t even feel like mine . I slept like 2hrs a night for 11 months if I was lucky . We all so don’t deserve this . I am lifting again trying to get through this. Please any encouragement would help. I am 52 and confused.

  11. Emily Pearson

    Thank you for sharing your story! Its so hard to know whats best for yourself. Ive struggled alot with wanting to be off SSRIs and wondering if it was the right thing to do to come off them. Ive recently just taken my last pill 3 days ago! I weaned off Zoloft from 100 mg over a 5 and a half month period. Its been a struggle, but Ive also been trying out different diets to see if it helps with my moods. Right now on a more Paleo diet, no processed carbs (no gluten), no added sugar, trying to limit my alcohol. Im listening alot to Evan Brand on youtube, hes all about natural healing. I really think diet and a balanced gut microbiome can drastically help us with mental issues. Ive been feeling pretty good! I hope it helps for the long run!

    1. Rusty

      Try abstaining from the alcohol instead of limiting it and see how much better you will feel. I’ve been sober for 8 months now and the difference in my mood and level of depression is significant.

  12. Jennifer

    To the writer if this article your doc tapered you way too fast. Especially given the fact you started at age 10 and were on it so long. I’m tapering off le apeó after being on it 17 years. After starting my taper 2 years ago I’m down to 0.3 ml/mg of liquid Lexapro. Lexapro is a very powerful SSRI, much stronger than other ones. There is a fantastic website called survivingantidepessants.org. I can’t recommend them highly enough. These are extremely ha d to get oof but it can be done if you know how. This site, which is free, has people who will walk with you through this journey of getting off this stuff. It’s amazing how little doctors know about these drugs and how to properly taper off of them. Disclaimer. Do NOT go off your meds without your doctors support

  13. Marion

    I gather that all the people on this site want to get off anti-depressants. I had a severe post partem depression for 5 years through both my children. I had talking therapy and it helped me immensely, but after still being tense and down and even physically depleted, my therapist recommended I see a psychiatrist who specialized in anti depressants. I didn’t think I’d walk out with a description but he said it was very low dose–which it was. That was in the early
    80’s (!) and I felt very guilty and looked forward to when I could quit.

    In a short time I felt better–not high but even. I found a new peace. Still carrying the belief that it was a cowardice thing to do, I had to stay on them to bring up my children safely and without such pain; no one gave you support in those days. As time went on I had serious losses: my mother, father, younger sister, and older sister. More recently I lost my son and 6 months later my husband. I myself have cancer. I am still an active person even though I’m (incredibly) turning 80. People say I look 60, even late 50’s. But besides that, I have upped my dose during 35 years from 10 mg (or maybe 5.) to 80 mg. I did get a lower dose for a time, but
    I immediately regressed.

    My sister was hospitalized with deep depression and my mother suffered from it too.
    As a mature person, I realize that I do need this medicine. I DO believe it’s like diabetics taking insulin. It has made my life richer, more productive, and more enjoyable to be alive. The pill is Prozac. I haven’t had any bad side effects; even my libido and weight are the same. For anyone who is only worried about the stigma–which it no longer is–I want to say that I feel “myself” with it and am grateful for it.

    Sadly, I had a good friend who suffered from extreme depression. The doctors couldn’t seem to find the right drug for her. (Once when I saw her she was obviously over-drugged.) When they changed her meds for the 4th or 5th time–her husband was away–and she killed herself and her two children. (A blow to all of us). I count myself lucky that the pill has worked for me; I’m barely aware that I even take it. I have weathered a lot and enjoyed a lot. Also,
    being a writer, I have to endure a LOT of rejections! Still, I do not regret taking Prozac.

    1. L

      I appreciate your story. I’ve endured many losses and emotional abuse. My son took his own life, my mother attempted to, and my niece took her life. Other relatives have had suicidal ideation. I’ve been on meds and want off, but I feel better on them. Your situation encourages me to leave well enough alone.

  14. Lisa

    I feel you quit too soon. That was not long enough through the Withdrawal phase. I had to go through a difficult withdrawal for 3 years, you have to stick it out. Sometimes we get rebound anxiety that’s worse than ever-but then it goes away. Those symptoms were not going to last forever.

  15. Linda

    Be extremely careful with medications; both going on and off them. Thinking we all need exercise before hitting medication. Our brain is the best organ in the body. Proceed. With. Caution.

  16. Karen

    Depression and anxiety are seriously some of the worst afflictions in existence. They attack us by making us desperate enough to try medication to treat our symptoms. And then they creep into our minds to taunt us, saying that we aren’t strong enough to live without them.

    I took Effexor for a year maybe I forget. But I just recently used Prozac to wean off of it because that is a hard drug to stop. Anyway, The Who tapering process took about a month and I feel the depression returning full force. It’s so bad. I feel like life isn’t even worth living and that nothing will ever get better. I also know I will not harm myself because I have my daughter. It’s just hard to feel so hopeless. I seriously feel like life will never hold happiness.

    I messaged my doctor about possibly taking Effexor again. I felt like it wasn’t working for me because I didn’t feel that great when I was on it. But I realized by stopping it that it was working because it’s so much worse to feel like this. I am so negative right now people don’t even want to talk to me. It’s hard. I’m sorry for everyone on this message Board who struggle in the same ways as I do.

    1. Char

      Hello Karen,
      I’ve been on Effexor for years. The Dr. just increased my dose. After reading all these posts, I’m going back to the original dose. I can totally relate to how you feel. This is my first time to read anything like this. I’m extremely depressed now and just stumbled onto this site. People who’ve never experienced real depression just don’t get it.
      I get so tired of trying to put on a happy face. I’m almost 70 yrs old. I’ve had depression all my life. When I was a child I was referred to as a “moody child”. Just know you aren’t alone. I’m seriously considering a support group. My husband is ready to divorce me and I really don’t care. You can almost forget about your sex life…it’s dead. Depression to me is a life sentence of highs and lows. I’ve been off antidepressants several times. I did it the hard way, just stopped. I honestly feel better on antidepressants. I know they stop working after a while, at least for me. At my age I just do what it takes to maintain. I do think many women are depressed due to a hormonal imbalance. I take bio-identical hormone replace and it’s a gift from God. I have faith and it keeps me going. I will say this, I don’t fear death. With death comes peace.
      Prayers to all !!!

      1. Janine

        What is the bio identical hormone? Thanks if you can share the name.

  17. Jana Maltby

    Karen- I’m sorry you’re suffering so. Hang in there and see what life brings. It’s so hard, tho, when that dark cloud descends so intensely. You are not alone. I appreciate your honest, blunt post and i hope your mood lifts soon. If your daughter understood what you’re going through she’d tell you she’s so proud of you, and that she loves you even when you’re down, even when you can’t be the mom you want to be sometimes. Peace Sister!
    jana

  18. Ella

    I was on 10mg of Lexapro for almost 4 years, and spent a few months within that time on 20mgs. I gained 40lbs, but the weight gain didn’t start til the end of the 2nd year. I still had ridiculous anxiety and decided I wanted to try at life without meds. To wean, my psychiatrist told me to break the 10mg pill in half, take that for a week, and I’d be “fine.” He told me there are usually no major symptoms coming off Lexapro, not that he knew of, and not for such a small dose. I accepted because I didn’t want to fuss. That, what he said, it isn’t true, is it?

    I started getting sick, a resting tremor in my hands, and those massive & loud shocks in my head. He told me to calm down, that worrying about the symptoms is what’s causing them. The tremor is what bothered me most (it’s kinda frightening), but I didn’t want a hefty ER bill so I just held out hope it wasn’t permanent.

    I’m reading these now and thinking I needed a longer taper. It’s been a month, and the discontinuation symptoms have greatly improved, but I’m so ready for this brain shake and intermittent face tremor to go away.

    I’ve lost 3lbs since being off despite my doctor telling me both I have something called “anorexic behavior,” and that I was an overeater. That it wasn’t the Lexapro that contributed to the weight gain. I wondered if they couldn’t “hear” it, the direct juxtaposition in the diagnoses. Also, I’d turned 30 so my vegetarian diet and active lifestyle just wouldn’t cut it anymore. ::insert eye roll::

    I don’t know that this is the best we can do when it comes to depression and anxiety treatment. Food and diet can reverse type II diabetes in some, drastically improve symptoms in others; therefore, the insulin excuse isn’t always the most valid. I also think more research should be done on the effects of serotonin alone on not just appetite, but metabolism.

    The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to help with depression symptoms, and it is believed it has to do with how food affects serotonin production, which we’ve found isn’t CNS produced, but produced in the gut. There’s gotta be more of a link there.

  19. Bernice

    On various pay meds for over 25 years for depression and serious anxiety.decided to get off this year April. Meds were not helping. Had all kinds of physical symptoms. Protein was spilling in my urine. Dr. Did wean me off in 2 weeks. Trying natural supplements which takes longer to work. During Accupuncture. Anxiety is still bad.

  20. Laura Gonzalez

    I can appreciate the authors position, I too tried to wean off Lexapro. Unfortunately, my provider used the medical model and it was too quick a decline. I thought I was losing my mind. I had flashes of light and heard conversations in my head. I was so scared and became distraught ultimately succumbing and resuming my dosage. Almost immediately is started feeling better. I felt like a failure. I was comforted with the thought that I felt better. I have never had an addiction, but somehow this felt sordid like an addiction. I am too afraid to try again.

  21. Susan

    I am many many years and had to go to SSNI, at 100 mg per day .
    I want to get off this stuff , and am having good success with taking it every other day .
    Check out info. on how long the drug is in your body . I will be reducing again at a lower mg per every other day . Going VERY slow on reduction and will be advised by doctor also. Had some headaches but not too bad so far.

    1. Susan

      SNRI – correction

  22. Mis

    Thank you for your beautiful post! I’ve been on “Lexy” for 15 years and was considering getting off of it forever. I think I’m more like you as in I need it to take care of myself. I feel much better and happier on it than not. Your very open post helped me decide. Ps, I have had forced withdrawal in the past when I couldn’t afford it, it is no joke! Now if my doc would just call the pharmacy back, haha, no pressure, brain zaps are interesting….sigh.

  23. Stimpy

    I have been on Zoloft for 7 years, with 3 failed attempts at going off the med. My doctor is adamant that I need to be on the medication for life. I have spoken to 2 other specialists and they all insist on the same prognosis. I have suffered from hypochondria, social anxiety, ruminations and depression since young but was able to function somehow until 2012 when all hell broke loose. I don’t blame the doctors for their prognosis because I have seen how people in similar predicaments have no choice but to rely on the meds.
    However, by studying myself and my mind I have developed a system to recover from these maladies. I am also a very experienced meditator and I can say with certainty that meditation can be a double edged sword if not used appropriately in the right situation. I feel all those therapies like CBT and ACT are mostly worthless in treating a tormented mind. Even the standard relaxation techniques are hardly helpful; like fighting a tiger with a broomstick.
    Anyway I am now 2 years into my quest to go off the med, without informing my doctor. I have dropped from 25 mg Zoloft to 12.5, and now 6 mg. Every time I drop the dose within 3 months the symptoms will return. But instead of panicking, I use the sensations to hone my methods and desensitize my mind. I feel I am in the better state than I have in my entire life. By end 2019 I intend to go completely off Zoloft. Hope this gives courage to anyone else hoping to come off their medications.

    1. Ron

      I was on lexapro for about 6 years at 20mg and just wasnt feel like it was doing much for me. I initially was prescribed it due to a rough period of stress and anxiety and this seemed to be helping. But my depression was always present and cbt wasnt doing much for me. I’ve always had at least a mild form of depression going back to childhood. Anyway my dr tapered me off lexapro and started me on 10 mg of trintellix which I had never heard of and within 30 minutes of taking would get quite nauseous and i wasnt finding much relief. So a month ago he suggests a cheek swab genetics test that may show other meds that would be better. In the meantime though i stopped the trintellix and didn’t notice much change but after a week or so i started getting these anxious panicky feelings and mood swings. Now the test shows I should take something called vraylar which is mostly meant for bipolar disorder. I took it once (3mg) and feel like it made me extremely anxious even though I have no way of knowing if the drug caused it or just my wacky brain.

      Anyway I have 1.5mg pills now of vraylar I’m supposed to be starting even though part of me would just rather go back in the lexapro because at least that kept me somewhat “normal” feeling.
      Meanwhile I’m exercising and trying to eat better, search for more meaningful work and back in therapy. Do I really need to be on meds forever?

    2. Me

      Would you please say more about how meditation is a double-edge sword?

  24. Brogan

    I tapered off,but been completely off lexapro for almost a month, now im experiencing neck and back stiffness ,anyone else experience this?

  25. Leti

    I’ve been on antidepressants for more than 20 years, since I was a teen. I hope to get off Prozac, which I started back in 2004 due to a severe depressive episode in college. I feel like being on SSRIS have interfered with my short term memory, caused motivation issues, and stunted my brain development.Plus I have ADHD and prozac makes my ADHD symptoms 20 times worse. These drugs though, have been lifesavers when I needed them, so I’ll give them that. A week ago I reduced my 10mg dosage to 5mg and am expecting an increase in anxiety, sleep problems, and depression for the next month. I plan to stay on 5mg for a couple of months, so that my brain will adjust and then get down to 0. The only thing I think that is going to get me through is my wonderful mood stabilizer.

  26. Vipasha

    i am withdrawaing from 18 years of anti depression & anti anxiety medicines.
    Did your psychiatrist ever use the technique which can be called “cheat the brain through creating situations similar to an emotion which you experience because of a withdrawal? My psychiatrist has been treating all my withdrawals using only this method
    It only works in the last phase of such long lasting withdrawals which very gradually become sever, say after 8 to 10 years of stopping the medicines.
    Hope you can exchange views on this.
    have a good day

  27. Rachel Hutchinson

    The author has not responded. I am disregarding this article.

  28. KKahn

    Just wanted to share my experience. I have had lifelong dysthymia, rooted in pretty severe childhood trauma. I never took conventional antidepressants, but 20 years ago, I discovered St Johns wort and was fortunate to have a very positive strong response to it. Over the years, I’ve tapered off, always to go back on in a few months’ time. I feel it has the same effects that people report with antidepressants–kind of a numb detached feeling. However, I need to remind myself–I felt depressed for over 20 years before then–really miserable, angry, weepy, terrible social anxiety–before I ever went on SJW. Pretty much every day. I still accomplished a great deal–advanced medical degree, started 2 successful businesses. However, in retrospect, I was able to accomplish far more on SJW and also getting sober. The point is, I think I would rather feel a little numb and detached, than having painful anger and sadness the majority of the time. I have had lots of therapy and I do have the skills to snap myself out of the worst of these feelings, but it is soooo exhausting. My depression has been lifelong and for me, it’s been better to accept it and work with it. However, I’ve always been afraid of antidepressants and never bought into the biologic explanation. As a practitioner I had seen many patients on polypharmacy–sometimes as many as 5 or 6 psychoactive drugs– with really bizarre outcomes. I didn’t want to become that. So for me, it’s been SJW, yoga, long walks, very vigorous exercise. Life isn’t perfect, but most of the time, it’s good, and manageable.

  29. Belinda Blunsden

    Thank you so very much for this wonderful article. I have been on lexapro for 12 years. This year I decided to take the plunge and try tapering. I had tried before but had been unsuccessful. I have been on 20mgs for a number of years. Funny enough I always referred to my lexapro as the instrument that finally allowed me to see my tried self. Finally allowed me to fly and do all the things that I have dreamed about. Living overseas… Doing volunteer work… travelling the world… I always views it as my partner in life and we got on just great.
    But this year… something happened..
    I suddenly saw the drug as something holding me back. And I am at a loss as to why. But, I tried tapering. And the withdrawals have been terrible. Just today I decided to go back to my original dose. Your article gave me the allowance to do that and be at peace with it. It reminded me again that I am whole when I function. And my lovely lexapro helps me do that. Thank you thank you thank you. I am so grateful to have another person out there who understands and was brave to write a out it. All the best to you.

  30. Mark Singleton

    I found this article to be so comforting. I too tried to wean off slowly but experienced the same “holed up in my room, terrified I’d never get better. After two months of debilitating anxiety….”. I resumed my medication and feel better now. Sure, I wish I was medication free, but the lows I feel unmedicated are scary and unbearable. Let me capitalize UNBEARABLE.

  31. Dante Velasquez

    You are very courageous. Don’t forget that. As you said the most important thing is taking care of yourself, and if a lower dose is the sweet spot you have to remember that you are actually ahead of most people. so many are completely unaware of their mental health needs, unfortunately. I have also been taking Lexapro for 20 years, and two years ago I believed I was ready to taper off, but my doctor had concerns with timing. During this pandemic, I decided it was the best time because I didn’t have to leave the house for the duration of the taper and could avoid potential stressors. I went from 20 mg for a week, to 10 mg for a week and then 5 for a week. I have experienced the withdrawal symptoms – dizziness, dehydration, achiness, CRAZY VIVID DREAMS (NUTS! lol), but it was not as bad as I thought. I am fully aware that now that I have stopped it entirely that in a few weeks I might need it again. I’m feeling good now, but I only just took my 5 mg pill last night. So all of this to say, you staying on the lower dose is the way to go for you. It will be different for all of us and whatever the result it does not mean we are not capable or there is something wrong. If this is where you need to stay you have gained something valuable. We shall see where I end up 🙂

  32. Kim

    Has anyone used Sam-e while tapering off…I am in 20 mg of Paxil. I decided I wanted to taper off because it did not seem to be helping anymore after 10 plus years. Not sure if I want to try a different antidepressant or just do without. I just know I could not find any not or happiness in the last year taking Paxil, my liver values are high, and my weight cintinually creeps up…with help from menopause. I lost my son to suicide 10 years ago and have depended on Paxil to help. I am no longer seeing the benefit though.

  33. Janene

    Hi.. that is such an interesting read . I have been on antidepressants for 26 years and over 3 months am off them and trying Psilocybin and Lion Mane . Wow .. I am still very much in withdrawal phase and trying to get the correct dose of the above . I have had irritability very badly . That would be my main side effect . I am progressing and each day is new . I also wanted to see who lay beneath the SSRI ‘s if there was a whole new me .. but it’s the same me . Like you . Interesting realization. If I need to go back on them at a lower dose I will . I’m discovering this other option right now .. but Im not going to be a “hero “ for anyone . Medication has its place . Thank you for the read . 🙏From Cape Town , SA.

  34. venkat

    been through the same path.
    feel what you are upto
    i too want the feeling of real me to prove im strong enough off med.
    but its tough.
    couldnt find a way yet

  35. KT

    Thank you for sharing your story! I have been in the process of tapering off Zoloft for over a year now, and it has been a long, hard journey. There’s not enough literature about the tapering process; I love that you are speaking about your own difficult process. I was feeling like I was alone in feeling this way or that I was making the tapering process more of a big deal than it really is. Thank you!

  36. Joanne

    Good Day
    I am decreasing My anti depressants and struggling. I have tried before and filed each time.
    I have been on anti depressants for 14 years.
    Currently I am on Zoloft (setraline). I was on 200 mg. I am on my second decrease so that is now 150mg. I am 4 days away from it being three weeks on this dose and I am struggling. I need support stories and encouragement, hope.
    Can someone please share so of their own experiences so I can find something to help me hang on?

    1. Ruth

      Hang in there You need to realize you won’t feel good but you can do it slowly ! I’m going off citalpram it’s not fun but I’m getting better so will you !

    2. caroline Falcone

      Hi I’m weaning from celexa after 20 years. I decrease 2.5 every 3 months and withdrawal is torture Don’t give up. We can do it. I’m trying so hard to stay strong.

  37. Michelle Rudolph

    I was on Lexapro 10-20mg for 6 years. I switched to liquid and have been going down .5mg every 4-6 weeks. I’m now on 5mg.

    I feel better being on a lower dose. I feel calmer. I also quit drinking coffee. I’m going to continue very slowly quit with .5mg at a time:)

  38. Sarah

    I’ve been keeping a journal for myself of what it’s like to ween off Effexor XR (venlafaxine) after 12 years. It is TOUGH. I weened off over 4 months, and about 5 days after my final micro-dose, my brain said “WTF??!!??” and now I’m in discontinuation, full force. My doc prescribed me a 10 day dose of Prozac (40mg) to help aid with the symptoms, but I am having a BAD TIME. It’s now been 12 days since my last dose, and am hoping it starts getting better soon. I’ve heard Effexor is a really hard one to get off of since it’s an SNRI (effects both serotonin and norepinephrine)… we shall see.

  39. Angie Lee

    Thank you for this article! I have been trying to come off of Paxil for years. (currently in week 3 of trying again!) I have tried slowly, with the Prozac bridge, or short tapered. Each time my anxiety, my eyesight, the breathlessness scares me to death. Your article spoke to me. I only wanted to come off of the medicine to prove I am stronger than the medicine. My life is different than it was 20 years ago. I can do it! but ya know what?? If I am doing well on the medication. Loving and Living life to the fullest! Not snapping my husband and childs head off, then I am FINE taking the medicine. So what Ive put on a few pounds! I am overall healthy even if I am overweight. My husband loves ME. My children love ME. I love ME! I will be back on my regular dose tomorrow. Not a second thought that taking this medicine makes me weaker! Hogwash!

    1. Tony P

      The article gives a side I had not heard much about in tapering off very slowly. It sounds like it could be a smart way to go. I told my Doctor I was thinking I needed 2-3 months to wean off Effexor XR as I had been on before and it was rough getting off of. He has me doing it in about 3 weeks. Some Doctors are just plain tone deaf. I’m thinking could be the difference between being a MD and not a DO. That said, this drug is definitely not working well.

      Yes, I’ve been on just about everything in my 20 years of anti-depressants. I’m thinking my problem for many of those years is they don’t work well when your’re on high doses of morphine for Pain Management program. I could write a book on the misery of opioids alone. No matter how bad you think you need them for your pain, you must know there’s no going back on some side-effects. I’m glad Doctors are getting smarter. They wouldn’t even let a person be on the dosage I was on anymore. I think as a society we put to much hope in drugs. Ok if you’re willing to accept the consequences. 🙂

      For most of those 20 years I was on Lexapro until recently. IMO it’s by far has the fewest side effects. It’s a good anti- depression and anxiety medication. But as my pain and functioning improved I needed more motivation. Also I was having some really deep breakthrough depression and anxiety. It works pretty good if things in your life don’t get bumpy and you can stay at peace.

      I switched to Effexor XR remembering it had done some good things for me and was what I was on the last time I was working.

      Four months of Effexor XR has been a disaster!! On edge from the beginning and all down hill since. They say it’s for anxiety too but that’s the side effect too. Severe Depression, high anxiety and anger is a really bad combo. 🙁 I would not take this drug if you already have current conflict situation in your life. And than Covid 19 happened.

      Moral of the story, never assume because it was at one- time in your life, it will be again. I’d like to think the opposite can be true also but I’m not going to find out. My experimentation is finished! 🙂
      I’m almost weaned off Effexor XR and am making my mission to stay off medication. Don’t get me wrong, Lexapro had benefit for a long time until it didn’t. That’s the one I’d recommend. It was good to feel pleasant without side effects.

      I’ll be looking for alternatives to medication now. First stop is I found a really good licensed therapist. I think the older you get, I’m 57, the more important they are. 🙂

  40. Martin Banning

    Thank you for this!

  41. Pixie

    Did you take Lexapro during pregnancy ? As I have been taking 10mg for 5 months and now I am up for IVF and do not know if it safe to take during pregnancy.

  42. El

    I got off antidepressants after 5-6 years being on them. It’s been a hellish slog to normalcy even after four years. When you’re on drugs like that for so long your whole system changes. When you get off them your brain and body get confused and imbalanced. It’s by no means been easy but it’s been worth it. The most terrifying part has been resensitizing my brain to feeling certain sensations and emotions, ones that have become so unfamiliar that I react to them with anxiety on a gut level. CBD has been extremely helpful with this, and it’s all been worth it in my opinion. But, I also don’t have children to take care of, and have been on them for less time so I don’t mean to cast judgement on those of us who’ve chosen to remain on medication.

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