Long term citalopram user: 'brain zaps'

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Hi guys,

It's been a while since I've been on here, but I'm a long-term user of citalopram - the last few years I've been taking citalopram.

I'm currently on 40mg a day, and I've been on this dose for over a year now. I've had no problems, and I take my medication every day.

However, the last week or so I've been experiencing 'brain zaps' - many of you who have experienced withdrawal symptoms will know what I mean by this. I've previously experienced this before, when I've accidentally missed a pill, or when I've been coming off them and my body has been adjusting. When I say 'brain zaps', I mean... I get very lightheaded/dizzy, and it can feel like there are small electrical currents flowing through my brain occasionally. I sometimes worry I'm going to pass out during these experiences, although it's never happened.

So, as I've mentioned, I've experienced these before as withdrawal symptoms. However, I'm not going through withdrawal. I've been on the same dose for a long time now, and I haven't missed a pill in ages. I'm still taking them at the same time every day. I can't think of a single reason why I'd suddenly be experiencing this, so I just figured I'd ask in here to see if anyone else has experienced this after a long time of using the medication?

After all, this might not be related to citalopram at all, in which case I could rule it out for being the cause.

And yes, I'm going to see my doc soon.

Em x

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16 Replies

  • Posted

    Yes, but it was with Seroxat rather than Citalopram. It started to happen after about six months on the drug and it was one of the reasons I decided to get myself off it. Even during the withdrawal phase and for some time after I used to get the occasional \"lightning bolt\" which was the only way I could describe it at the time. The good news is that they got less frequent and disappeared altogether after three months or so away from Seroxat. I never experienced it with Citalopram though.
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  • Posted

    Thanks for your reply. They seem to have stopped now - I think it was something completely unrelated, because I got ill as well. Probably just something viral. Hurrah for no brain zaps!
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  • Posted

    could i just ask you...... can you remember how long it took for the citalopram to make any difference. I've been taking it for 13 days now and still feel depressed, infact i'm worse than ever.
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  • Posted

    Hi Beth,

    It does take a while. I can't remember how long it took for me, but it was certainly at least a few weeks.

    I know things can seem even worse before it gets better - just know that it DOES get better, and you've got that amazing feeling to look forward to.

    If you're worried or feeling really bad, please speak to your doctor.

    I hope you feel better soon x

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  • Posted

    Thank you for getting back to me. Its been so helpful reading about others experiences. I've just got to wait it out and hope for the best
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  • Posted

    Hmm I am going through the brain zap thing myself, in fact I feel dizzy all day long. I have been on Citalopram 20mg for about 4 years and just to let anyone know it took about 8 weeks to feel truly better and able to cope with life without anxiety heading in. My anxiety attacks came from a very bad divorce and I kept refusing any help from the Doctor for one year at least because my Mother had been on lithium for all her adult life and I thought this was the same thing but was assured by my Doctor that it most certainly wasnt.

    However I now want to say goodbye to the fatness caused definitely by Citalopram, it makes me eat like a dog I have no sense of when I have had enough, and I want to see how I cope without the drug. I am starting very very carefully by shaving off a little of each tablet so I will do that over about 8 weeks or that is what I have approximated.

    But getting back to the brain thing I feel like my head is two feet away from my body, I have strange sensations in my brain which is like a fizzy feeling for want of better words and when I bend down it feels like my head doesnt belong to me.

    Anyone else feel like this? Being a pretty intelligent person I know these things will go I just dont want the anxiety back!!!!

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    • Posted

      Like young have been on 20 mags for over three years and have just stopped.

      I tapered off slowly all the way to 2.5 NHS for a week or so at the end.

       The only issues I have had so far is that I have had an elevated heart rate for a while of 140. That seems to be ok now . But the Brain Zaps are driving me mad!! They are causing anxiety again which is defeatist as I'm ok if the mess apart from this.

       I have only been off for a week but the zaps along with the dizziness ( also oddly  car / motion sickness) are all linked.

       I have been given so pills for the dizziness. 

       Does anyone know if anything can be taken to ease the zaps?????????

      I don't want to go back on the pills just because of the zaps as that's not what they are therefore and I don't want to be intern for life. 

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  • Posted

    Hi frogerella, i am on citalopram since end of 1990s (20mg), but i read some research on line last year related to citalopram that concerned me.

    I remember it said that doctors/scientists in America have discovered that clients who took more than 20mg of citalopram where at risk of heart disease. Maybe you're suffering some symptoms. the dizziness????? I asked my psychiatrist about it, she told me not to take them if i am that concerned. I have now been discharged from secondary care Psych) back to primary (GP) care.

    Please see the doctor about it. He/she is bound to now about this research.

    PS I still take my 20mg as i do not want to end back at square one of my diagnosis/treatment.

    Take care.

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  • Posted

    @whattheheck123: If you added nausea to that second to last paragraph you could have been describing me!

    I've been on 20mg Citalopram for 3 months. It disrupted my sleep (early awakenings, no sleep after) so much that a two weeks ago I switched to Wellbutrin.

    I tapered to 10mg of Citalopram for 4 days, then 5mg for a week.

    I haven't had any for 3 days, and today has just been brain shock central. That disconnected feeling is strange and unpleasant, it feels like I'm lagging behind my head.

    I'm going to take some 5-HTP when I get home, hopefully that helps. There's a wikipedia page for this too, it even uses the term 'brain zap':

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSRI_discontinuation_syndrome#Prevention_and_treatment

    Man I can't wait till this stops!

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  • Posted

    Hi.

    As a long term citalopram user I found the drug very useful for controlling anxiety. I've been on 20mg per day for 7 years. I've tried coming off the stuff a few times over that time when all felt well again, but started taking it again when the anxiety kicked in again. 6 months ago I thought it might be clever to taper off the usage very slowly, and stepped down the use only 5mg at a time month by month. Everything was going to plan until I hit zero dosage for about 2 weeks.... Then the shxx hit the fan! My head went "empty" and felt like it was swelling and my anxiety levels went through the roof.

    I started taking 20mg a day again for a month to no avail. In fact all sorts of other side effects kicked in...profuse sweating, dizziness, lack of energy, confusion...none of which I'd experienced previously. When I went to my GP a month ago they just raised the dose to 30mg a day. In spite of being a fit and active person, now I can't even walk the dogs without feeling exhausted. It feels like I'm being poisoned and I'm stooping further use from today. I'd rather be hospitalised than feel like this. I'll let you know how it goes. Good luck everyone x

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  • Posted

    I'm 21, I've been taking 30 mg of citalopram for about two years now. I took a break sometime last year because I was going to be an aupair in Germany and thought that with a different life situation I wouldn't need my meds. Well, that turned out to be a bad idea. The anxiety and sadness came right back. Actually, the anxiety and sadness is always there, but with citalopram it is muffled.

    I've been reading what some people have written and one person said that citalopram has caused them fatigue and low energy. I have been experiencing fatigue and low energy as well. No amount of sleep or popping of iron capsules makes it go away. People are telling me it's because I don't eat enough fruits and greens and get enough exercise. What if a person has such low energy that they don't have the willpower to make a proper balanced meal? When I stand in the kitchen hungry, the only thing I can think about is making the lightheadedness go away, which means sitting down as soon as possible, which means prepare the quickest snack/meal possible. I'm sorry if that makes my meal "unbalanced"!

    I don't go to work because despite the citalopram that I take, work causes me anxiety and I can't/won't go. I've been on social benefits for quite some time now. I don't like it, I feel like a leech on the Finnish government and society, but what can I do?

    I can't wait to get my psych evaluation results. Then I finally get my life rolling again. Right?

    I also get those 'brain zaps' as the first withdrawal symptoms when I go without my meds for a day or two whatever reason. Strangest sensation ever...

    Funny story: In the early days of my citalopram use, I forgot to take my pills for day or two, but I didn't realize that I had forgotten to take it. I started feeling what I thought were side effects when really what I was experiencing was withdrawal. I suffered severely for 3 days before I could be convinced that it was withdrawal and not side effects! You see, because I thought I was getting side effects, I quit the citalopram cold turey, for 3 days! Man, it was bad. Freaky vivid nightmares from which I would awaken crying and sweating and shivering. My whole body just ached, my joints, my muscles, my stomach... I practically lived on the toilet.. I was all alone, renting a room in the upstairs of this one family's home. I cried and cried and just wished to die. It was all very dramatic... I believe I had that family quite worried about my well-being!

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  • Posted

    I have been on 40mg of citalipram for about 5 years now. I began weaning myself off a couple of months ago and completely stopped about 2 weeks ago. The 'brain shocks' are really bad...and quite frightening,  some days are worse than others but after reading replies I see that it may take a few months for the drug to completely leave my system....guess I'll just have to put up with it......can be very scary though.
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    • Posted

      I got the brain zaps. Like a fizz in my head. I wasn't withdrawing but on a steady dose of citralopam. The zaps happened when I was extremely happy or mega excited like my brain cells couldn't cope.
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  • Posted

    This is the first time ive ever been without my medicine ive been on 40mg for 16months now n my medicine has run out and i am experiencing the "brain zaps" and theyre very strong it almost feels like my brain is glitching. Thankyou for your post on this because i have been really scared . is there anything.you can do to make it through until i can get into my doctor?
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  • Posted

    Hi, Frog.

    I have these many times.

    Part of my invisible illness is that I do forget to take the biggest.

    Mind shocks are my first warning, normally followed by shoulder spasms.

    Do they make you jump?

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    • Posted

      I'm on 60mg. Have been for years.

      I don't worry about them; I'm lucky to have my Lady. She is a nurse; so have I been. Er knows when I've missed one, or more (Oops), and reminds me.

      Do you live on your own, Froggie?

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