Prozac, also sold under the name Fluoxetine (generic), is an SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) prescribed for the treatment of medical conditions such as: major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia nervosa, panic disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It is known that many people derive substantial therapeutic benefit from daily Prozac administration, however, not everyone tolerates or responds to the medication. Individuals who find Prozac to be intolerable or ineffective may discontinue treatment and experience Prozac withdrawal symptoms.
What causes Prozac withdrawal symptoms?
Prozac withdrawal symptoms are understood to occur from neurotransmitter fluctuations throughout the brain after the medication is cleared from the former user’s system. When someone initially starts Prozac treatment, it takes some time (e.g. a few weeks) for the brain to adjust to the neurochemical presence of Prozac. Once the brain adapts to Prozac, it starts to rely upon Prozac to keep neurotransmitter activity stabilized.
How Prozac affects brain activity
- Serotonin reuptake inhibition
- 5-HT2C receptors
- 5-HT2A receptors
Note: Prozac functions predominantly as a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor. To a lesser extent, it interacts with 5-HT2C and 5-HT2A serotonin receptors.
If an individual decides to discontinue Prozac after daily long-term use, the brain will need some time to readjust itself to functioning without the neurochemical influence of Prozac. Specifically, the brain will attempt to adjust its neurotransmitters, receptor densities, and neural connections back to homeostasis (or its pre-Prozac state). In the process of transitioning back to its pre-Prozac homeostasis, neurochemical fluctuations may occur that cause Prozac withdrawal symptoms.
Prozac Withdrawal Symptoms (Extensive List)
When someone stops using Prozac, he/she is at risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. That said, the specific withdrawal symptoms that emerge, as well as the severities of those symptoms will be subject to individual variation. Knowing this, you shouldn’t expect that your Prozac withdrawal experience will be identical to that of another person’s.
Included below are some of the most common Prozac withdrawal symptoms that are thought to occur. Understand that not all of these symptoms are well-documented in medical literature. Additionally, you should know that most people will not experience every single symptom documented below during withdrawal, however, some people may experience a majority of them.
- Bouts of anger & irritability: There may be moments during Prozac withdrawal that you feel angry at the world or irritable in every situation. The anger and irritability can arise due to imbalanced serotonin throughout the brain and high stress levels. If you feel ready to snap or think you’re going to have an anger outburst – try to channel the anger in a healthy way. Take some deep breaths, exercise, or consider anger management.
- Brain zaps: It may feel like your head is getting zapped with electricity while discontinuing Prozac. The electrical-like zaps are sometimes referred to as “brain zaps.” These zaps can be highly disturbing, and in some cases, painful. Tapering off of Prozac too quickly or quitting cold turkey may increase odds of experiencing this withdrawal symptom. High stress during withdrawal and various eye movements may trigger brain zaps.
- Cognitive deficits: Some individuals may notice that they experience brain fog, confusion, and cognitive deficits throughout Prozac withdrawal. In other words, you may not be able to think clearly and might have difficulty concentrating/focusing, memorizing (or retrieving memories), problem solving, and planning ahead. Deficits in cognitive function may be due to neurotransmitter irregularities and stress in withdrawal.
- Dizziness: A fairly common Prozac withdrawal symptom is dizziness. You may feel extremely dizzy in the first couple weeks after stopping treatment such that you find it difficult to keep balance while walking or standing upright. If you become dizzy, it may be a good idea to relax and give your body some extra rest. Making an effort to reduce stress might also help – as high stress can cause some people to feel dizzy or exacerbate preexisting dizziness.
- Headaches: Another Prozac withdrawal symptom that many individuals report is headaches. In some cases, high stress during withdrawal may trigger tension-type headaches. That said, changes in cerebral blood flow as a result of neurotransmitter fluctuations might also induce headaches or migraines. If you’re experiencing constant headaches after quitting Prozac, you may want to ensure that you’re adequately hydrated and might want to consider trying headache relief medications.
- Heart rhythm changes: Throughout Prozac withdrawal, there may be times when you notice your heartbeat seems irregular. If you have a history of heart problems or are at risk of cardiovascular conditions, get your heart checked out by a doctor. Nonetheless, many people report increased heart rate and heart palpitations after stopping Prozac. Because anxiety and stress can worsen heart rhythm changes, do your best to reduce stress as much as possible – stress reduction might help your heart.
- High anxiety & panic attacks: As a result of abnormal neurotransmission of serotonin and heightened stress, some individuals will experience high anxiety after discontinuing Prozac. That said, the high anxiety could simply be a return of an anxiety disorder (if Prozac was being used to treat anxiety). Unmanaged anxiety could result in panic attacks or moments of crippling fear such that individuals may freeze up or have an emotional breakdown. If your anxiety is unmanageable during Prozac withdrawal, inform your doctor as soon as possible.
- Insomnia & poor sleep: You might find it difficult to fall asleep at night due to severe insomnia that emerges after Prozac cessation. Even if you somehow manage to fall asleep, it may seem as though your sleep quality is compromised or your total sleep duration is insufficient. Getting your sleep back on track after quitting Prozac may require lifestyle changes (e.g. stress reduction, caffeine avoidance, etc.) and/or administration of sleep aids that are recommended by your doctor.
- Irritability & anger: It can be difficult for many people to cope with the irritability and anger that they experience during withdrawal. The irritability and anger may be partly due to the fact that withdrawal symptoms from Prozac can be unexpected, stressful, and difficult to cope with. If you’re feeling exceptionally irritable throughout Prozac withdrawal, try to think of healthy ways in which you may be able to reduce the irritability such as: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exercise, and/or deep rhythmic breathing.
- Joint & muscle aches: A less common reaction that occurs after quitting Prozac is joint and muscle aches. Joint and muscle aches may be caused by increased systemic inflammation, electrolyte imbalances, or high stress during withdrawal. Some individuals may find that regular self-massage or professional massage can help decrease the aches and pains of withdrawal.
- Lethargy & fatigue: A Prozac withdrawal symptom that many people experience is fatigue. The fatigue is likely related to abnormal serotonin signaling within the brain, high stress, and possibly suboptimal sleep. Lethargy and fatigue could also be related to rebound depression, or a resurgence of depressive symptoms after Prozac cessation.
- Lightheadedness: Lightheadedness is a symptom of Prozac withdrawal that is usually accompanied by dizziness. If you feel lightheaded, you should always check your blood pressure – as low blood pressure can sometimes cause lightheadedness. Assuming your blood pressure is normal, the lightheadedness could be caused by high stress, inadequate food or water intake, or electrolyte imbalances.
- Loss of appetite: Some individuals will notice that their appetite is lost or much lower than usual after discontinuing Prozac. Appetite loss may be related to a return of major depressive disorder, but might also be caused by high stress during withdrawal. Various withdrawal symptoms such as dizziness and nausea might also interfere with one’s appetite.
- Nausea: A fairly rare Prozac withdrawal symptom is nausea. Nausea might occur in the first couple weeks after Prozac discontinuation due to gastrointestinal distress, high mental stress, and/or electrolyte imbalances. If you feel nauseous, you may also experience appetite loss or find it difficult to eat a sufficient amount of food. Though the nausea should subside within a week or two, you may want to ask your doctor about using antiemetic medications to manage it.
- Night sweats & chills: You might notice that you’re sweating while sleeping after discontinuing Prozac. These nighttime sweats may be accompanied by chills, or in some cases, hot flashes. It is believed that internal body temperature can fluctuate during Prozac withdrawal due to changes in hormones and neurotransmitters. These body temperature fluctuations may cause the night sweats.
- Rebound depression: If you were taking Prozac to treat major depressive disorder, you may be at risk of experiencing rebound depression during your withdrawal. Rebound depression (or a return of your depression) can occur after you quit Prozac because you’re no longer using medication to treat it. Moreover, rebound depression in Prozac withdrawal can be exacerbated by high stress, poor sleep, and withdrawal-related neurotransmitter imbalances.
- Restlessness & agitation: After stopping Prozac, you might find yourself feeling more restless than usual or agitated. The restlessness and agitation tend to be most extreme in the early days of withdrawal and are generally exacerbated by unmanaged stress. If you constantly feel restless, try getting some exercise throughout the day or improving your stress management.
- Sensory sensitivity: Some people may experience sensitive vision and hearing after discontinuing Prozac. It is thought that serotonin imbalances coupled with high stress cause some individuals to end up very sensitive to bright lights or moderately loud sounds. You may want to keep a pair of sunglasses around if you’re exposed to bright sunlight and/or earplugs if you’re going anywhere loud.
- Suicidal thoughts: A withdrawal symptom that could occur in a subset of former Prozac users is suicidal thinking. If you experience suicidal thoughts during your Prozac withdrawal, seek emergency psychiatric or medical attention. Suicidal thoughts can impair decision making and are considered dangerous if left untreated. A combination of medication, stress reduction, and cognitive behavioral therapy may help mitigate suicidal thoughts in Prozac withdrawal.
- Vivid or weird dreams: You might experience vivid or downright weird dreams for a while after quitting Prozac. Dreams may seem lifelike, more emotional than usual, or consist of visuals that you’ve never experienced before. Changes to your dreams may result from neurotransmitter fluctuations, high stress, sleep cycle alterations, and/or circadian rhythm abnormalities in withdrawal.
Note: The list of Prozac withdrawal symptoms documented above may be partial or incomplete. If you know of additional Prozac withdrawal symptoms that weren’t mentioned, share them in the comments.
What determines the severity of Prozac withdrawal symptoms?
The severities of Prozac withdrawal symptoms may be influenced by multiple variables. It is suspected that the most influential variables, in terms of determining withdrawal symptom severity, include: total duration of Prozac usage; Prozac dosage; and rate of Prozac discontinuation. Other variables that might influence withdrawal symptom severity include: the former Prozac user’s lifestyle and genetics.
- Duration of Prozac treatment: How long you used Prozac before discontinuation might determine the severity of your withdrawal symptoms. It is thought that long-term users tend to experience more debilitating withdrawals than short-term Prozac users.
- Prozac dosage: The dosage of Prozac that you administered for most of your treatment (before stopping) might influence withdrawal symptom severity. In most cases, high-dose Prozac users tend to experience more severe withdrawals than low-dose users.
- Rate of Prozac discontinuation: The speed by which you discontinue Prozac could also impact withdrawal symptom severity. Someone who quits Prozac “cold turkey” might end up with tougher withdrawals than someone who slowly tapers. That said, because Prozac has a relatively long half-life, rate of Prozac discontinuation may not be quite as influential in determining withdrawal severity as it would with other antidepressants.
- Using other substances: If you’re administering other substances (medications or supplements) during Prozac withdrawal, there’s a good chance that your symptoms will be less severe than if you’re transitioning from using Prozac to using nothing (no other substances). Other substances may provide physiological support during withdrawal to reduce symptoms and expedite recovery.
- Lifestyle: Living a healthy lifestyle might make it easier for some people to cope with Prozac discontinuation symptoms, as well as recover from withdrawal at a faster pace – than living an unhealthy lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle habits (e.g. poor diet) might actually exacerbate certain withdrawal symptoms.
- Genetics: It is hypothesized that a former Prozac user’s gene expression could determine how severe his/her withdrawal ends up, as well as how quickly he/she recovers from withdrawal symptoms. In other words, having certain genes might yield an easier withdrawal than having other genes.
Best supplements for Prozac withdrawal symptoms
Utilizing supplements may prove helpful in reducing the severities of Prozac withdrawal symptoms – or expediting the recovery from those symptoms. Listed below are various supplements that may prove therapeutically beneficial among individuals who’ve recently discontinued Prozac. Understand that not all individuals will benefit from the supplements listed below after discontinuing Prozac.
Disclaimer: Never administer any supplement(s) without first consulting a medical doctor to ensure that the supplements are safe based on your medical status and/or existing medication regimen.
Affiliate disclosure: The supplements listed below contain affiliate links which help this site earn money. That said, the links are to products that we think are high quality, reasonably-priced, and potentially useful during Prozac withdrawal.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a supplement that may help decrease muscle tension, headaches, anxiety, depression, and insomnia after discontinuing Prozac.
- Electrolytes: During withdrawal from Prozac, there’s a chance that electrolyte levels will be disrupted as a result of high stress and/or neurochemical fluctuations. For this reason, you may want to supplement with an electrolyte formula.
- Vitamin B complex: Supplementing with B vitamins might reduce anxiety, insomnia, muscle tension, and headaches during Prozac withdrawal.
- Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a supplement that you may find helpful for reducing anxiety during withdrawal. Many consider lemon balm to be a useful anti-anxiety herb.
- L-Tryptophan: Because Prozac alters serotonin levels within the brain, the neurotransmission of serotonin may be imbalanced during withdrawal. To increase serotonin in the brain, you might want to try supplementing with L-tryptophan, a serotonin precursor.
- Krill oil: Krill oil is a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), each of which might improve cognitive function, decrease inflammation, and normalize brain activation throughout Prozac withdrawal.
- Melatonin: If you find yourself unable to get adequate sleep after discontinuing Prozac, a supplement that may be worth trying is melatonin.
- Multivitamin: Any deficiencies in vitamins as a result of a poor diet could exacerbate Prozac withdrawal symptoms. If you want to be on the safe side and avoid vitamin deficiencies, consider utilizing a high quality multivitamin during withdrawal.
- Probiotics: Poor gut health might exacerbate symptoms of Prozac withdrawal. To improve your gut health and increase concentrations of healthy gut bacteria – consider using a probiotic supplement.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is a very potent natural anti-inflammatory supplement that can decrease systemic inflammation. If you suspect that inflammation has increased during withdrawal – this is a supplement to consider.
- Rhodiola rosea: Rhodiola is classified as an “adaptogenic” herb such that it tends to increase energy when fatigued, yet decreases energy when excessively stressed or anxious. Many people find Rhodiola helpful after Prozac discontinuation.
- L-Tyrosine: Though Prozac doesn’t directly affect dopamine levels, it is thought that dopamine may become imbalanced during withdrawal. If you suspect that your dopamine is imbalanced, you could consider trying L-tyrosine, a dopamine precursor.
- NAC: High oxidative stress could worsen most withdrawal symptoms that emerge after Prozac is discontinued. Supplementation with NAC, a potent antioxidant could help reduce oxidative stress levels in withdrawal – possibly alleviating symptoms.
How to withdraw from Prozac safely (Recommendations)
Most people will realize that there’s never a perfect time or method of discontinuing Prozac. That said, there are some general recommendations that should be made to increase odds that withdrawal goes smoothly and is safe. If you’ve discontinued Prozac or are thinking about withdrawing, be sure to read through the recommendations listed below.
- Psychiatrist support: It is recommended that you only withdraw from Prozac with guidance and support from a psychiatrist and/or medical doctor. A psychiatrist will know how quickly you can taper off of Prozac and will be able to help treat withdrawal symptoms if they become severe. Moreover, a psychiatrist will know how to treat any relapse in your neuropsychiatric condition (e.g. depression) during withdrawal.
- Taper off of Prozac: Although some will argue that it’s okay to stop Prozac “cold turkey” due to its long half-life, most agree that rapid discontinuation tends to trigger more severe withdrawal symptoms than slowly tapering off of the medication. Some sources believe that it’s best to taper off of Prozac very slowly at a rate of 10% per month. That said, ask your doctor about how to taper off of Prozac in a way that will minimize the likelihood of a severe withdrawal.
- Healthy habits: During withdrawal from Prozac, it is recommended that you live as healthily as possible. Healthy lifestyle habits such as: eating a balanced diet, exercising, reducing stress, socializing with others, and getting adequate sleep – may help you recover quicker from withdrawal symptoms – compared to unhealthy lifestyle habits, which might worsen symptoms.
- Utilize other substances: It is recommended that you ask your doctor about substances (medications or supplements) that may help ease withdrawal symptoms – or speed up recovery from symptoms. Most psychiatrists and/or medical doctors will be able to prescribe medications or suggest supplements to help counteract your withdrawal symptoms.
How long does Prozac withdrawal last? (Duration)
The exact duration that it’ll take to recover from Prozac withdrawal symptoms is subject to substantial variation among former Prozac users. Some individuals might report that Prozac withdrawal symptoms only persist for a few weeks before diminishing, whereas others may claim that Prozac withdrawal symptoms seem to persist for many months before completely subsiding. For this reason, Prozac withdrawal experienced by one individual might be much shorter or longer-lasting compared to someone else.
Generally, it is believed that most individuals who discontinue Prozac will experience significant reductions in withdrawal symptoms between 2 weeks and 3 months of their final dose. Still, it should be emphasized that “significant reductions” in withdrawal symptoms do not indicate full recovery from symptoms. Knowing that withdrawal lengths will vary among former Prozac users, it’s usually recommended to avoid dwelling on how long withdrawal is taking – and instead concentrate on things you can do to enhance your own recovery.
Have you experienced Prozac withdrawal symptoms?
If you stopped using Prozac and have dealt with a set of withdrawal symptoms, feel free to mention them in the comments. By leaving a comment, you might help someone else who’s in the midst of Prozac withdrawal to feel less alone. In the event that you aren’t quite sure of what to mention in a comment, below are some questions that you could consider answering.
- How long did you use Prozac prior to withdrawal?
- How quickly did you taper off of Prozac?
- What dose of Prozac did you use for most of your treatment?
- Did you transition from Prozac to another medication?
- What was the reason that you ultimately opted to withdraw from Prozac?
- What were your most noticeable Prozac withdrawal symptoms?