Brain zaps written by: padhia
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I had experienced “brain zaps” many times throughout the years of being on meds if I didn’t take a dose first thing in the morning or if I accidentally missed one completely. By early afternoon, the day was over. The intense zapping would start and there was nothing I could do except take my missed medication and go to bed until the next day. During my detox, several days after tapering down (admittedly too quickly) to 0 MG of antidepressants, was when I began to experience the most gripping debilitating brain zaps I had ever experienced. They happened literally every two seconds the entire time I was awake. It was horrifying and I became really afraid of what was happening to my brain and what the meds had done to me.

You can’t really describe it to someone who has never experienced brain zaps, because there really are no words. It sort of feels like all of a sudden you are falling, your eyes go blank, and you have a giant knitting needle with an electric current running through it suddenly jammed all the way through your brain. There is accompanying disorientation and tinnitus or the sensation that thousands of particles of sand are rushing through your ear drums.

In combination with the nausea, anxiety, and all of the other withdrawal symptoms, I was living in hell. I found a very slight relief in keeping a large bag of ice on my head and numbing my skull, or in taking Ativan until I fell asleep to escape it. I ate a lot of ice pops too, for the brain freeze. One in this situation might have thought they needed to go back on the meds, however the sicker I became the more determined I became to get this horrible poison out of my system. These debilitating symptoms only made it clearer to me that this stuff was toxic.

At some point, I remember wondering if anyone else had experienced this, and I did a Google search using the only term I could think of to describe what I was feeling, “brain zaps”. My to my horror there were pages and pages of info using the very phrase that I thought I had made up. It turns out that “they” don’t really know what is happening to your brain while you are experiencing a brain zap. I find that to be totally unacceptable. If a medication or withdrawal from a medication causes a physical disruption in regular brain function shouldn’t there be thorough research? With regards to mental health, brain function, and antidepressants it seems we are still living in the dark ages.

To paraphrase from Wikipedia’s page on SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome: The exact mechanism of brain zaps is unknown, and may be due to a variety of factors. Continuing research on discontinuation/withdrawal syndrome has attributed SSRI discontinuation syndrome to electrophysiological changes in the brain, and electrophysiological changes in the body (nerve growth factor) in the absence of the SSRI, as well as dopamine dependency, and an over-excited immune system. The central nervous system (CNS) adapts to the presence of psychoactive drugs. Such adaptation commonly involves the readjustment of neuroreceptors to compensate for the acute pharmacological action of the medication.

In my case, the brain zaps took well over 6 months to ease up at all. Between 6 and 8 months I saw a marked improvement in daily frequency however I noticed there were many triggers that brought them right back with the same intensity. The factors seemed to be: stress, alcohol, eating foods with certain preservatives, insomnia, night mares, working on the computer for more than an hour or two. Almost 3 years later I still experienced very mild ones if I don’t get enough sleep. After about 3 years, they went away entirely.

The Balto Bunny Community is a place to Process. Check out this discussion going on right now in the Triumph forum: 100% love (1 posts - last post 2 years, 10 months ago)

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  1. Constance
    12/15/2012

    Finding this post has sloevd my problem

  2. Julissa
    12/15/2012

    That’s the best asnwer of all time! JMHO

  3. Dweezil
    12/15/2012

    Awesome you sohlud think of something like that

  4. Bobbo
    12/15/2012

    For the love of God, keep wirtnig these articles.