Learn About the Phases of SSRI Withdrawal

Learn About the Phases of SSRI Withdrawal

SSRI withdrawal can happen after someone stops taking antidepressants. Read on to learn about the phases of SSRI withdrawal.

What Are SSRIs?

When people hear the word withdrawal, they often think of illegal drugs or alcohol. But withdrawal can also occur when someone stops taking certain prescription medications. One type of withdrawal that is becoming more common is SSRI withdrawal.


SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are antidepressant medications. They are often prescribed to treat conditions like anxiety and depression. While they can be effective, they also come with a risk of side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

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What do SSRIs Do?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in mood and anxiety. SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, which leads to an increase in serotonin levels.1

Examples of SSRIs

SSRIs are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Some examples include Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil. While they are generally considered safe, they can cause several side effects for certain individuals. These include nausea, headaches, and sexual difficulties.

How Do SSRIs Work?

As mentioned, SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin.2 This leads to an increase in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in mood and anxiety, and can impact overall mental health. By increasing serotonin levels, SSRIs can help to improve mood and reduce stress.3

SSRIs generally take a few weeks to start working, but some people may experience relief from their symptoms after only a few days.

Types of SSRIs

Several different SSRIs are available. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)

Possible Side Effects of SSRIs

As with any medication, there is a risk of side effects. Some of the possible side effects of SSRIs are listed below.

Sleep Disturbances

The most common side effects of SSRIs, and even SSRI withdrawal, are insomnia and sleep disturbances. While these side effects are generally mild and go away on their own, they can be frustrating for those trying to get a good night's sleep. In some cases, insomnia can signify that the body is not getting enough of the drug, or has suddenly stopped receiving it.

Weight Changes

Another common side effect of SSRIs is weight changes. Some people may lose weight while taking an SSRI, while others may gain weight. This side effect is usually not severe and disappears after a few weeks.

Anxiety

In some cases, anxiety may be caused by the medication. It can make you nervous or restless throughout the day.

Dizziness

This is one of the most commonly reported side effects of these medications. Dizziness can be caused by several factors, including how the drug affects brain chemistry, changes in blood pressure, and interactions with other medicines.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

This is a common side effect of SSRIs. Dry mouth can be caused by several factors, including the way the medication affects brain chemistry, changes in blood pressure, and interactions with other medicines.

Headache

People taking SSRIs may experience headaches as a side effect of the medication. Headaches can be caused by several factors, including how the medication affects brain chemistry.

Lowered Libido and Other Sexual Issues

Lowered libido is another side effect of SSRIs. In some cases, the lowered libido may be caused by the medication. In other cases, the decreased libido may be caused by the underlying condition that the drug is treating.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and diarrhea, are common side effects of SSRIs. These side effects are usually mild and go away on their own.4

Skin Rashes

Skin rashes are another possible side effect of SSRIs. In most cases, these rashes are not severe and go away independently.

SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome

SSRI discontinuation syndrome, also called SSRI withdrawal, is a condition that can occur when someone stops taking an SSRI. SSRI discontinuation syndrome can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Sensory symptoms
  • Disequilibrium
  • General somatic symptoms
  • Affective symptoms
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Sleep disturbances

Why SSRI Withdrawal Symptoms Occur

It is thought that SSRIs work by changing serotonin levels in the brain. When someone stops taking an SSRI, serotonin levels are no longer regulated and may become unbalanced. This can cause several different symptoms.

Changes in Brain Chemistry

Another theory is that SSRIs work by changing the levels of other chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. When someone stops taking an SSRI, the levels of these other chemicals may become unbalanced. This can also cause several different symptoms on top of those caused by SSRI withdrawal, and could even cause other conditions to occur entirely. These are called co-occurring conditions.

Prevention of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome

To prevent SSRI discontinuation syndrome, there are a few steps you can take. Some of them might be safer to do under the guidance of a medical professional.

Gradual Weaning

The most effective way to prevent SSRI discontinuation syndrome is to wean off the medication slowly. This can be done by taking lower and lower doses of the drug over time, instead of stopping your dosage all at once.5

Professional Guidelines

There are also a few professional guidelines that you can follow to prevent SSRI discontinuation syndrome. These guidelines include:

  • Taking a break from the medication every few months
  • Switching to a different SSRI if necessary
  • Discuss any concerns with a doctor or psychiatrist

While there are several possible side effects of SSRIs, the most common ones are listed above. If you are concerned about any of these side effects for either you or a loved one, discuss them with your doctor or psychiatrist.

Get Treatment for SSRI Withdrawal at Genesis Recovery

There are various treatment options available for those suffering from SSRI withdrawal. At Genesis Recovery, we offer a comprehensive approach that is tailored to each individual's needs.


Our experienced and compassionate staff will work with you to create a customized treatment plan that will help you detox safely and effectively. We offer various cognitive behavioral therapy, individual counseling, and group therapy.

Healing Opportunities

We also offer on-site medical care and 24/7 support so that you can always get the help you need. If you or someone you know is struggling with SSRI withdrawal, please call us today to learn more about our treatment options.

It is essential to be aware of the possible side effects of SSRIs. If you are concerned about any of these side effects, discuss them with your doctor or psychiatrist, or come into Genesis Recovery.


There are various treatment options available for those suffering from SSRI withdrawal. At Genesis Recovery, we offer a comprehensive approach that is tailored to each individual's needs.