Woman in distress

Q. I was told that Zoloft (sertraline) was not addicting but my experience suggests otherwise. I was on this antidepressant for nine years. I wanted to get off because it killed my sex drive.
One day after stopping this drug I experienced unbearable dizziness. I could not walk across a room without holding on to a piece of furniture for stability. I called my daughter but was incoherent.
She discovered that my blood pressure was 190/105 and my heart rate was 165. She rushed me to the ER where they thought I was having a heart attack. The tests came back negative.
I suffered headache, dizziness and nausea for days. My daughter suggested I go back on the Zoloft. Shortly after taking it my symptoms disappeared. I am angry that I was never told this drug is addictive. Getting off this drug can be a nightmare.

A. You are not the first person to report disastrous side effects when stopping drugs such as citalopram (Celexa), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor). Sudden discontinuation may trigger symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, headache, brain zaps, irritability, insomnia, sweating and pain, numbness or tingling in hands or feet.
To help you better understand withdrawal from antidepressants as well as non-drug approaches to managing mood, we are sending you our Guide to Dealing with Depression.

Join Over 90,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. alison

    I have been on 25mg of stertraline for 10 months….about 6 weeks ago I decided to go cold turkey and stop….first few weeks were ok ….then my blood pressure went sky high ended up in A&E ….we’re all test results came back fine…was sent home with high blood pressure…still having brain zaps….feeling numb and having fuzzy head still…however my pulse rate and heart rate back to normal…doctor said stertraline should not cause thee side affects well I disagree…started yoga which has help…the anxiety and panic attacks stopt….just hope the tingling in fingers,fuzzy heads…and dizzy spells stop soon…

  2. sara

    I have been off Zoloft for about 4 months now, and quitting that drug was a living hell. I had anxiety, headaches, spells of vertigo that sent me to the hospital for 3 day stay, irritibility, pain all over my body, higher blood pressure, I felt like I was spirling down a rabbit hole of hell. It is horribly addictive. The sad thing is that drs. Are telling people its not addictive and safe. If I went through that coming off the drug … What was the drug really doing to my brain ? I still suffer anxiety tingling in hands, a feeling of dullness and not completely able concentrate. I was being over medicated for years on that stuff. I can do more now, feel like I’m back to old me but still somethings little off. I honestly believe Zoloft caused brain damage to me on some level.

  3. jenny

    I am on zoloft for about 1 month and i decided to get it off as it make me more anxious.i started to feel that way after the death of my father and trying zoloft was the wrong thing i did.now i cut it off 12.5 mg but i am feeling tired,bad headache and heart palpitations like i am having a heart atack and this makes me more anxious.i try rivotril to sleep because am sleepless and thoughtful all the night.i dont know how to go thgrouh this.

  4. Tod
    Pioneer Ca

    I have been reducing my dose as directed by my doctor and experiencing extreme anxiety mostly located in my chest and experiencing mood swings. I am now feeling grouchy and irritable. Not a great feeling. Nothing seems to help. This is worse than getting off of nicotine. Man, I expected that it would be horrible but this is far worse. I visited my Cardiologist because I have been experiencing chest pain and left arm throbbing. He said it is Angina. Well I did not suffer as far as I know from Angina till I got on this medication. I was given the medication to help control my anxiety and picking disorder. Neither was getting better and it if anything made me unable to focus on anything. WOW this is a really bad trip for what? No more

  5. Molly

    I’m 78 and have been on Zoloft for 3 months. Started on 50gms and reduced to 25 after 3 weeks since reading the awful reports on here.

    My husband died in his sleep from a heart attack, tried to revive him but he was already dead. Trauma from this and the consequences of his death caused me to think I needed a pill, given readily by my doctor.

    I’m down to 12gms now and will do this for a month. Just tired and feeling weird but I’m lucky to be retired and also we have the National Health Service here which means I’ll be able to get tablets for as long as needed. Wish I’d never started but I feel this will end and hope all the people on this site will get through their pain.
    Best to all of you

    • chris
      orange county, ca.

      I have been taking Zoloft for 10 years or so at 50-100 mg depending on how i feel. I just stopped taking it about 2 weeks ago. I tapered off pretty well in my opinion, but I’m still getting brainzaps and dizzyness spells many times a day. I quit taking it because I don’t want to be dependent on any medication.

      I asked a Dr. about long term side effects and brain damage and she said absolutely not. (not sure I believe it) I’ve noticed some effects that used to happen before I started taking it, like frustration at small things, like change falling out of my pocket when I’m driving, backpack falling off one shoulder when trying to carry too many things, etc. I can live with these little annoyances as long as the dizzyness goes away. Hell, maybe if it keeps happening I can sue them for millions of dollars lol. Good luck and health to all. Peace.

  6. Lara

    I’d been on 50mg of sertraline for about 2 years. Tried to quit cold turkey during August 2014 vacation. The first two weeks I really felt like it was going to be easy, but then the side effects kicked in. Mild dizziness, those weird brain spark things, irritability, and losing my temper. I became kind of unbearable to be around, so I went back on, but I still wanted to quit. Tried again at the beginning of November 2014, and scaled back to 25mg, then 25mg every other day, then once a week. Some of the side effects came back and I started feeling like I could never get off the stuff, but I kept taking 25mg periodically to stave off side effects. I haven’t had any now since Jan. 5, 2015. However, I do now have high blood pressure, which I’ve never had in 45 years. I’m starting dietary changes to combat that. I am happy I went on this drug when I did because I think it helped me make many of my relationships better. After the August quitting failure I took counseling more seriously and tackled some family/parenting issues that were major contributors to my anxiety and depression. Being a stepparent sucks sometimes. I do not have a good temperament to be the primary disciplinarian so that situation had to change. As of now I’ve quit and maintained a good happiness level. It can be done.

  7. Ruth

    For about a week or so, I stopped taking zoloft. I went from taking 100mgs a day down to taking it every other day, every two days and so forth.
    It’s been recent in the last few days that I was feeling itchy all over, and had a hard time falling asleep. My scalp felt itchy and I thought it was just the dryness.
    This is the 3rd night and the symptoms are worse. My scalp is itchy, restless, night sweats, and I cannot fall asleep. It’s past midnight and I already had to change pjs because I woke up damp and cool. Now I’m getting irritated and I’m sure it’s due from lack of sleep. Decided to do a google search with those symptoms and omg, never thought it could have been related to weaning off of zoloft.
    I need to know if I should be contacting my doctor or if anyone knows how long these symptoms last?!? Is it going to get worse? I really don’t want to go back on it! Any helpful suggestions?

    • Lynn
      United States

      I have been taking 50 mg of Zoloft daily and cut my dosage in half 4 weeks ago. Since I had such bad side effects when I first started taking Zoloft, I assumed that I would have bad side effects coming off it. So far I’ve had headaches and swollen sinuses. Yesterday I woke up with itchy palms. As the day progressed the itching moved to other areas of my body. Luckily, the itching is contained to one area of my body at a time, but I guess that could change. I was going to do some research and see if an anti-histamine would reduce the itching. I’m just happy that I can finally get off of this drug. I’ve tried several times over the past 20 years but could never go more than two weeks without the depression coming back.

  8. Angela
    Kansas city

    I have been on Setraline and Xanes for over a year now but I decided to come off and just try to handle myself differently…mind over matter. So I was taking my meds every other day for about 2 weeks until my prescription ran out….did not renew it so have not been taking any at all. I have been sick for the last 2 days of naseau and bad headaches and dizziness and not feeling good.. I also came off my xanex which I was taking at night. So I am assuming I am feeling this way because of this and not dealing with a flu bug or anything. It’s kind of scary that you go through this because I didnt realize I was actually addicted to either one of these. Can anyone tell me how long this will last? I’ve had to leave work 2 days in a row because of it.

  9. JSC

    My husband started taking Zoloft about 1.5 weeks ago, 12mg, and he is having ALL of the side effects, nauseous, shortness of breath, dizziness, etc. He wants to go off of it. At such a low dose (he is taking 1/4 of what was original prescribed) what is the best way to wean off of it? Take one day, skip the next? Horrible timing as we are going on vacation tomorrow :(

    • Shapiro

      If you are weaning of f an SSRI and Xanax at the same time you are in for the worst. Benzo withdrawal is nearly impossible to maintain function then the SSRI withdrawal will put you into psychosis. You need to rethink your regimen before it’s too late.

  10. SC

    Thank you….this is all common sense to me, too. I’ve been on sertraline for 2 years and wanted to go off. I’ve had awful vertigo and of course that kicked my anxiety into high gear. So frustrating…but my body has relief on it!

  11. fredia

    Hi, I have been taking sertraline for about 7 months and am beginning the weaning off stage. I truly appreciate all the info here. I would like to suggest that people may find tremendous help in mindfulness meditation. Research has shown that as little as 10 minutes a day have positive impacts that can be seen in the MRIs of people after only 2 weeks. Check out info from the book “Full Catastrophe Living” or web resources like mindfulness.org. Jon Kabat-Zin is truly an expert and has been working with this at the University of Mass. Medical Center for decades. Also Dr. Richard Davidson has done exciting work in this area.
    I have also used self-hypnosis CDs by a psychiatrist to help with insomnia. I have found these techniques extremely helpful in my life. I would like to add that I am very sensitive to medications and often experience the worst of the side effects. My vision has been damaged from a previous drug and even more now from this one. I am currently considered glaucoma suspect and will have to have my eyes monitored every 3 months. The last time I had to do this was in 2011 after taking corticosterpids for asthma. Once I stopped them for a long period, my eye problems got better (not the vision, but the pressure and the cup damage) and I was able to start going in for check ups only once a year.
    Well now I just had my yearly exam after being on the Sertraline and my vision is much worse and the damage is back. Hopefully the physical, glaucoma-suspect damage will clear up again after stopping the drug, but I don’t think my vision will improve. I hope this helps someone with more alternatives besides drugs!!!

    • chris
      orange county, ca.

      I would recommend to anyone trying to get of these medications to eat lots of fruits and veggies (cliche I know). I ride bicycles alot and surf and those endorphins and adrenaline do more for me than Zoloft ever did in my opinion. If you’re older or not into sports, just walk a few times a week and you’ll feel it. Like you said, meditation and prayer helps too. I also listen to hypnosis recordings (apps) I get on my Iphone and the results are remarkable. I mostly listen to law of attraction stuff and everything I’ve focused on has come true (yes, weird I know)

  12. sittingbytheriver

    I have been taking 50mg of Sertraline daily, for 20 years. I forgot to take it with me for our 4th of July vacation, so i was off it for 3 days and decided maybe it was time to quit completely. It’s been 5 days so far, and I have to tell you I have NOT experienced any of the listed withdrawal symptoms. So Far so good !!! : ) no visions, no voices, no zaps, no dizziness, no nothing. not yet anyway : )

    • paula
      rochester, ny

      I am curious to see if you are still off the zoloft and how it has been for you.
      I would like to wean off also.
      Thank you

  13. Carly

    Hi Lisa,
    Yes my ears played up when I was coming off it. Just that horrible high pressure feeling, ringing in the ears sort of a thing. I don’t want to lead you down the garden path though, every one is different and what you’re experiencing may not be a side effect so I think it is still important to follow up with your doc.
    Let us know how you go!

  14. Lisa

    Can anyone tell me if this is a side effect of trying too come off Sertraline. …I have been on 100mg. I went to 50 for 2 weeks now I’m on 25 just started my first v of what I’m hoping well bee 2 weeks then going to cut that in half for 2 weeks. I know from reading the dizziness jolts and voices are all symptoms. … but I’m also having hearing problems. .. like someone holding their hands over my ears. .. like filled with water and pressure. My pcp said my ears are clear and had me on nasal spray. If this doesn’t work in a week I’m too see an ENT. Before spending money on an ENT I would like to know if this is a side effect of trying to come off this medicine? Could someone please let me know.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.