Cymbalta was originally approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of major depression. It is officially an SNRI-type antidepressant. In doctorspeak that means it is a serotonin-norepinehprine reuptake inhibitor and is somewhat similar to other antidepressants such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).

The FDA also approved Cymbalta to treat nerve pain associated with diabetes in 2004. In 2007 the drug got a green light for anxiety and in 2008 the FDA agreed that it could ease the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia. It was also approved to treat musculoskeletal pain associated with arthritis and lower back pain in 2010. In other words, here was a drug that could relieve your blues and your aches and pains. And the drug company that makes Cymbalta (Lilly) has been aggressively marketing it as a good way to deal with chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis. Perhaps you have seen the commercials on TV promoting the pain relieving power of the drug with the slogan “Cymbalta can help.” It sounds almost too good to be true.

Ah…and there is the rub. Although there is a long list of serious side effects mentioned during the commercial, the video images seem quite reassuring and trump the scary message the FDA requires for this medication. So, let’s set the record straight. Here, without visual interference, are a list of potential complications associated with this medication.

Cymbalta (Duloxetine) Side Effects

  • Nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia, anxiety, tremor
  • Dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness
  • Sweating, hot flashes
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Sexual dysfunction, lowered libido, erection difficulties, lack of orgasm
  • Liver damage
  • Serious skin reactions, rash, hives (requires immediate MD assistance!)
  • Glaucoma
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Bleeding problems
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Interaction with other drugs (leading to serotonin syndrome among other reactions)
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Depressed mood, suicidal thoughts and behavior, suicide

Such a long list of side effects makes your eyes glaze over after the top 3 or 4. That is why we have included stories from real people so you can better understand what these complications feel like.

Even though such side effects are scary, there is another problem with Cymbalta. When people try to stop taking this drug they frequently report unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. An organization (QuarterWatch) that monitors the FDA’s database of serious adverse drug events has noted that:

“We observed a signal for serious drug withdrawal symptoms associated with duloxetine (CYMBALTA), a widely used antidepressant that is also approved to treat arthritis and back pain, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. In the first quarter of 2012 the FDA received 48 case reports of drug withdrawal identifying duloxetine as the suspect drug. They described a wide spectrum of withdrawal effects that began when the patients stopped the drug, including blackouts, suicidal thoughts, tremor, and nausea. Several cases involved hospitalization.

Probing deeper into the scientific record for duloxetine we found that withdrawal symptoms were reported in 44-50% of patients abruptly discontinuing duloxetine at the end of clinical studies for depression, and more than half of this total did not resolve within a week or two. In addition, we identified a serious breakdown at both the FDA and the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company, in providing adequate warnings and instructions about how to manage this common adverse effect.”

Doctors have taken to calling this “discontinuation syndrome.” These clinical words do not do justice to what it is like to stop antidepressants like Cymbalta, Effexor (venlafaxine), Paxil (paroxetine), Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) or Zoloft (sertraline) suddenly.

Sudden Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Brain “Zaps” (electric shock-like senstations in the brain)
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, vertigo, feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety, irritability, hostility
  • Nausea, diarrhea, digestive upset
  • Tremor, hands shaking, nerve tingles, strange sensations
  • Fatigue, tiredness, lack of energy
  • Visual disturbances

Again, a list of symptoms does not do this problem justice. Below you will read some stories from people who have posted their comments to this website. We would love to hear your story, positive or negative. Share your experience with Cymbalta or any other antidepressant below.

Should you wish to learn more about dealing with depression through some other strategies, we offer our Guide to Dealing with Depression. You will also find a whole chapter on prescribing mistakes doctors make when treating depression and fibromyalgia in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Stories from Readers

“My lovely, young daughter-in law, who was about to celebrate her 29th birthday, was prescribed Cymbalta, Klonopin, and Ambien and has committed suicide.

“She told her physician and her therapist that she’d had thoughts of suicide but no one took her seriously. She suffered from depression, as well as an eating disorder, and had very low body weight. She also used alcohol.

“Please remind your readers of the potentially disastrous effects these chemicals can cause when taken carelessly or in combination with alcohol.”
– D.G.

“I have been on Prozac over the last 20 years off and on and it finally stopped working. The last time I took it about 2 years ago I was taking the generic from Barr – the blue and white capsule. I was feeling as if I were in the deepest dark hole there ever was.

“My doctor put me on Cymbalta from which I had a lot of side effects such as palpitations, feeling constant dread, panic attacks, sweats, lightheadedness and general feeling of not being well.

“She added Abilify which put me over the edge. I was in the worst depression I have ever been in. Finally after living like this for several months, I asked to be put back on Prozac. I was taking the generic from Sandoz. When the prescription ran out I ended up on the big blue and white capsules from Barr.

“Over the last couple of weeks it has been constant crying spells, arguing with everyone and feeling pretty low. I talked to my doctor and she wrote the prescription for Sandoz only generic. The blue and white capsules are like taking a placebo. My doctor said she had had other patients who complained of the same thing and she had to write prescriptions for a certain generic or name brand.”

– P.J.

“I took Cymbalta for 3 days and thought I’d go nuts. I’m off it now and refuse to try any other drug like this. My main complaint was extreme hot flashes that estrogen wouldn’t help. I thought I’d be given Prozac, but was given Cymbalta instead. It was a rough 3 days and I stopped it last night. I am extremely tired yet cannot sleep at night. I think I was sweating even worse and my legs started feeling like I had Lyme disease again. And to be honest, within those 3 days of taking it, I didn’t contemplate suicide, but I had this crappy attitude of “who would care?”

– R.P.

“It took me 18 months to get off Cymbalta, with no doctor’s help. I can hardly believe that doctors have no exit strategy for this dangerous drug. I had to find this out on my own from reading and as soon as I weaned off that – about a month, the tinnitus that had occurred decreased almost completely. No doctor told me this.”
– Nancy

“My daughter experienced severe side effects when trying to come off Cymbalta – she had nausea, vomiting, lost peripheral vision for 24-48 hours, had shaking, etc. This was while she was doing a clinical in a hospital for college. Had she known she would have stayed on it until after clinical. I called the manufacturer and they acted like there were no such side effects from withdrawal.

“She too took apart the capsules and it took awhile, but finally she is free from that drug. I think it is a crime that the manufacturers don’t publish more detailed information concerning withdrawal. They could even make money selling a one month or two month step down prescription so individuals aren’t taking the capsules apart themselves.”
– J.K.

“I just turned 52 today. I went on a very low dose of Zoloft about 8 years ago to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It really did help for a long time. I recently have been pretty depressed (however I can cover it up really well) and my psychiatrist switched me to Effexor which was terrible for me. Now I’m trying Cymbalta which has not done anything either except make me feel more anxious and headachy and weird.”

“I am a registered nurse and I do not understand what the long term effects of these meds are and I am concerned. I really want to get off and see what I can do naturally for myself.”
– P.C.

“Getting off Cymbalta is challenging but not impossible. I, too, experienced the light-headedness, dizziness, and “brain zaps.” I described it as being able to “hear my eyes move.” It sounded like the light sabers on Star Wars. Very strange and disconcerting.

“The key is to do it very very slowly. Take the capsules apart and begin by removing 5 or 10 of the tiny balls inside. Do this for a week or so, then slowly increase the amount you remove each week or two as you can tolerate it.

“Your doctor will probably be no help at all. Mine wasn’t. He instructed me to wean off over a two to three week period and I almost lost my mind. I did it myself over about a YEAR or more. Be patient. I am completely off now and feeling GOOD.”
– K.T.

“I took Cymbalta for fibromyalgia and have just stopped taking it because of acute liver and GI pain- yes, pain! My liver poured bile into my gut and protested loudly! Cymbalta worked great on the fibromyalgia, but I had to stop.

“I agree that doctors don’t always realize how prescription drugs can alter your life so we must continue to advocate for ourselves.”
– V.C.

“I was prescribed Cymbalta ‘off-label’ to manage fibromyalgia pain When I stopped taking it because it wasn’t delivering on the promised effect of reducing my pain, I became so horribly depressed that I required hospitalization as I had become SUICIDAL!

“I will NEVER take another anti-depressant for an off-label purpose….such as Elavil/amitriptyline as a “sleep aid” which is very commonly prescribed.

“I believe it should be criminal to prescribe ANY drug for a purpose other than the one it was approved to treat.”
– Karen

“I’m a 76 year old man, my libido was very low. Taking Cymbalta for peripheral neuropathy added ED as a side affect of the drug. I had a testosterone blood test; it was 1/3 what the minimum should be. So I’m taking Androgel to raise testosterone levels and it is magic. I have great libido now and am working on minimizing the Cymbalta pills. In the meantime I have been prescribed Cialis for the ED. Each pill solves the sex problem for a couple of days.”
– R.H.

“I have the exact symptoms as everyone else and it’s been a week. I only took Cymbalta for 2 months, but the side effects from stopping it are horrible. My doctor didn’t, nor did anyone else tell me, about any side effects and I did read the insert. Most of the time the listed side effects of meds don’t bother me, so I figured no problem.

“From reading other posts on this website and on other sites, the drug seems to affect every person the same way. I would never have taken it for my neck pain if I had known about the likelihood of side effects. The worst part for me is the dizziness, the brain zings and the sudden burst of tears for no reason. I would never take this drug again. I think the FDA needs to do longer studies on all drugs and be honest with their findings and that doctors should be honest and tell their patients what really happens when you take Cymbalta.”
– M.O.

Please add your own experience below in the comment section.

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  1. Kate
    NC
    Reply

    I suffer from chemical imbalance depression and have been treated for it with medication since the 90’s. I resisted drugs for years despite several bouts with severe depression, but when the best psychiatrist I have ever had convinced me to give Prozac a try, it was if a miracle occurred. I even told my doctor, “I can’t believe this is how normal people feel.” The depression and anxiety that had surrounded me for years just disappeared. I felt incredible.

    My first mistake was deciding to go off it after several years of feeling great. When the depression returned, Prozac no longer worked. I have been on and off many drugs since then. I have had very few side effects, and I have stopped taking many with no problems. Cymbalta is totally different. The first time I experienced the withdrawal side effects was when I forgot to take it on vacation. The headaches, severe nausea, diarrhea, and total fatigue were so bad after 48 hours that I got in touch with my doctor and had a prescription filled at a local pharmacy. The same withdrawal side effects have occurred within 1 or 2 days after not taking Cymbalta. I would love to get off this drug, but I cannot imagine tolerating the withdrawal. I see why folks have to be hospitalized. Just two days ago, I realized I didn’t have a refill left when I thought I did. The drug store promised to contact my doctor and have it ready late yesterday. When I arrived to pick it up, it was clear they had lost the paperwork, and they wouldn’t give me three tablets to help me get through the weekend. By dinner time yesterday, I had a headache that was more severe than a migraine with sensitivity to light, sounds and smells. The nausea I had was worse than any I experienced after strong chemotherapy. I felt sever exhaustion and muscle aches worse than the flu. Fortunately, I called Target pharmacy where I had the drug filled for several years, and they gave me 3 tablets because I am having my doctor call in a new prescription to them Monday. It took almost 12 hours after taking the Cymbalta for the symptoms to ease off.

    I want to quit taking this drug, but I am truly terrified of withdrawal from it. I am normally strong and drugs don’t bother me at all. If I had known the withdrawal side effects, I would never have taken Cymbalta. I would not advise anyone to take this drug. I am going to follow the very slow withdrawal process I have read about online including breaking the capsules apart and taking lower doses. The scary thing is that the withdrawal symptoms have become more severe in less time with continued use. After my experience over the past two days, I am going to find a way to get off this horrible drug.

  2. Becca S.
    Kentucky
    Reply

    After seeing a commercial concerning the side effects of Cymbalta withdrawal 3 weeks ago, I decided not to renew my prescription. I would have to go to my doctor to get another 3 months’ worth of the drug. I had been on it since 2002 from a previous doctor for fibromyalgia, depression and lower back pain due to a bad car accident that really messed me up in 1986. I could no longer work due to back pains and depression, so I tried to get my S.S. disability of which I was denied after 6 years of trying with 3 different lawyers. Due to mobility issues, I became obese after quitting my job. So it did help with all the pain. After going to several more doctors, it was prescribed for my diabetes as well because Lyrica caused unwanted side effects.

    The side effects of Cymbalta were bad, but not as bad as the pain and depression were, so I took it up until seeing the commercial/infomercial. OMG! I have had a constant headache, severe diarrhea, nausea, some vomiting, dizziness. I have Menneire’s disease in the left ear, so was not sure if withdrawal was causing that. So as of today, I decided to look up all the side effects of withdrawal. I have them all, sweating, tremors, everything that has been mentioned by others online here! I am so surprised, but I will never go back on it. My back problems are severe, but not as bad as the insomnia and other things! I cannot believe these warnings were not on the Cymbalta lists from the pharmacy (Express Scripts)! I figure I can deal with pain and depression on my own once I get over eating Tylenol and sinus tablets for the headaches. It is 5 days before Christmas Eve, and I have been such out of sorts and hateful. I had no clue!! I am supposed to cook on Christmas Eve for my large family and was wondering how I was going to do it! For the first time, I have done nothing but “go off my rocker” and HATE the thought of Christmas! I bet I have said 20 times how I hope how fast Christmas is over! That is soooo not me!! Let’s all pray for each other, Becca

  3. Debra
    North Carolina
    Reply

    I was on 120 mg per day of cymbalta and it worked well with Abilify and Welbutrin and Adderall to keep me awake. I tried going off of Cymbalta before without much luck. Recently my newest psychiatrist decided the cymbalta wasn’t working and wanted me to wean off from it. I didn’t have a problem until I stopped taking the last 30mg pill each day. Brain zaps, difficulty swallowing at night, vertigo, sore throat, nausea, severe headaches, all over malaise and achy like the flu. No tolerance for heat- severe sweating and severely itchy skin. My doctor gave me Brintellix samples to start on but I think it is so new that withdrawal of getting off is not well known. Good

  4. Lynn
    Wisconsin
    Reply

    Anybody who decides to take Cymbalta needs to make sure he/she is under the care of a trusted and very informed doctor. I took Cymbalta to treat fibromyalgia. While I did receive some respite from the constant pain and flu-like symptoms, the positive effects of the drug wore off in less than a year. Discontinuing Cymbalta was nothing less than horrific. The physical withdrawal I experienced was violent (extreme nausea, constant brain-zaps, body shakes, fevers, and feeling like my skin was crawling). That doesn’t even begin to touch upon the emotional trauma I endured. Every moment of every day was a mental battle to just survive. My physical withdrawal lasted 2 months and I’m still recovering from the deep emotional wounds of that experience. People need to be made much more aware how dangerous this medication can be.

  5. victor
    Phoenix,az
    Reply

    ugh I feel you all been on cymbalta for seven years do to chemical imbalance but just recently I started feeling all symptoms this past year idk why….kinda scary ..what did ppl do before this drug..god help us all….

  6. Deb
    co
    Reply

    I had 2 back surgeries in 2010. I was first on Lyrica, & Gapapentin. went off LYRICA expensive and had gained 45 lbs. Along w several muscle relaxors. Lyrica I slept to much. So I finally went to Gabapentin. Well I have been on a gaba for 2 yrs. It has been good for me. As of 5/2013 I was diagnosed w RSD/CRPS. Due to Surgeon hitting my S1 nerve. No cure!!!
    So I went cold turkey off Cymbalta last tue, not by chance. I no longer had ins. I am on Disability. Paying 285 wasn’t and option. All meds have side effects, regardless how big or small.
    So I never knew how much it did help. I am not suicidal all. Not even going off of it cold turkey. But, Im am at dr trying to get more. The pain is a lot more that I can bare.

  7. jules
    United Kingdom
    Reply

    I began taking 40mg of Duloxetine at night in Spring 2005. It was due to acute work related stress and associated anxiety. I continued taking this medication until September 2014. To be honest over the years I took it, I didn’t need to, but had tried to stop and couldn’t bear the withdrawal effects. I finally had to stop it when it stopped being effective. At that time I was experiencing low mood. A higher dose caused worse side effects. I had increased my dose to 60mg by then. Under GP supervision I reduced to 30mg daily~ I felt fine. Then after a week I took 30mg alternate nights for a week. Then I had 3 days without any meds and started taking Mitazipine. I then experienced what I can only describe as one of the worse times in my life. I had to stop the Mitazapine due to what we thought were side effects~ flu like symptoms and acute joint pain.
    I then spent the next 2 month’s suffering with acute anxiety and basically being in a mind fog. I eventually had to start a medication to stop the anxiety~ sertraline. My husband and family have been deeply affected by this. I had to have time off work. I am now taking a medication to stop the withdrawal effects of Duloxetine. Shocking. My advice is come off this medication very slowly under medical supervision and be prepared for the withdrawal effects.

  8. beth
    Brunswick
    Reply

    I can not believe what I have read from everyone. I thought I was going crazy reading this. Thank all of you for writing in. I am trying to stop taking cymbalta. I thought I was having a stroke the way my brain was feeling. Zaps and zigs, dizziness, nausea not being able to function. Im calling my doctor Monday morning for a appt. Boy am I going to go off on him. He wanted me to take two 60mg a day. Am and pm. Thank you Jesus for working your ways, because I never did that. I would rather suffer in pain from herniated disc and spinal stenosis then what I’ve been going through coming off this junk. Thank you everyone for having the courage to tell your stories. It has saved me. I will pray for each of you that you will be free of pain and symptoms from withdrawals. God Bless.

  9. AK
    NJ
    Reply

    Coming off Cymbalta after taking it for a short time. Brain zings are awful. And the crying. And the dizziness. Listlessness. What a terrible drug.

  10. Kristin
    Florida
    Reply

    I have been on Cymbalta 60 mg for the past 4 years. I have been too afraid of the suicidal thoughts returning to try and go off of this drug. I lost my job and insurance and it costs $ 250.00 to get 30 capsules of the generic Duloxetine!!!

    I can’t afford it and have not had it for 4 days and I am barely able to function let alone work. It started after 24 hours off the drug and has progressively gotten worse. I have severe dizziness, headache, brain zaps that feel like lightning bolts going down through my arms and out of my hands. My hands are tingling and hypersensitive. My GI trac is in hyper drive and my appetite is way down. I am also moody and very sensitive. What the H#**!!! I am a RN and how can I take care of my patients like this. I have weaned off of Benzos (Ativan converted to Valium taper) which took 1.5 yrs. BUT due to the cost of this drug I don’t even have any to wean myself off of. HELP!

  11. Joey R
    Orange County California
    Reply

    I have been on the generic cymbalta for around 8 months now. Last Monday I ran out and it was supposed to be on automatic refill status. In the week that I have been off of it due to being unable to contact my Dr. I have had major mood sings and the Brain spasms. Crying uncontrollably. And have had some thought of hurting myself.

    I just hope I can get the prescription again tomorrow. And then start weening myself off like I have read in a lot of these blogs. I tried to explain these symptoms to my wife and she didn’t believe me at first. After her reading the withdrawal symptoms herself she now understands what I am going through. I thank each and every one of you for this blog. I now know that I am not a freak and not alone.

  12. CJ
    Ohio
    Reply

    Wow, if only I had known. I suffered an emotionally traumatic event, and naturally, felt very depressed, but the ER doc felt that I needed to be hospitalized for awhile. I was prescribed Cymbalta for depression and remeron for sleep. I never did like to take pills, but I felt OK, so I continued on the medication for about three months until I developed a vaginal bleed. Being 65 yrs old, I was very concerned about the unnatural bleeding, so I checked the side effects of Cymbalta, and there it was…vaginal bleeding. I immediately discontinued the drug cold turkey about a week ago, and since that day I have had extreme tinnitus, zapping and zipping in my head, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, agitation, and staggering. I am far more miserable than I would have been had I grieved naturally without Cymbalta. I ordered some Formula 2 from Dr. Schulze, a natural product which removes bad things from the body, and pray I will achieve relief soon. DO NOT EVER TAKE CYMBALTA. IT’S NOT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION!!! Oh yes, the night sweats on Cymbalta are unreal, totally saturating the sheets.

  13. Anne F
    rockhampton qld.
    Reply

    I left my cymbalta behind when I went on holidays. After 7 days. Complete mess. I never cry ever. Now I was tearful, my anxiety was overflowing, and mood was very dark. Woke up at night and was totally dysfunstual for 1 hour. I read somewhere of a person being suicidal, and thinking no one would care anyway. That is an apt description. To top that off, I am also on seroquel, and valpro 600mg. What else can these medical people do to me. As soon as I mentioned I needed to go off cymbalta, I was presented with sample 30mg. To help and a mention of adding effelexor instead. I am not bi-polar or manic depressive. I have huge anxiety depression and OCD. Also PTSD. All childhood related. Good luck to every patient out there. My in box at home is totally full at present. Will not be home for another 2 weeks. Do not know password on this one.(computer.)

  14. Susie
    New York
    Reply

    I would like to thank everyone who posted here. I was prescribed Cymbalta today…in fact, he insisted I take it. I was uncomfortable about it to begin with and after reading all of this, I won’t touch anything…every. Tomorrow I will call a holistic doctor and work on my issues naturally. I hate that doctors do nothing but push drugs…they don’t even care how we are feeling. They just scribble a script and send us on our way. No one eve suggests any nutritional changes, exercise, rest, nothing. Just drugs. Hmmmm, think they’re getting kick-backs? Duh! Thanks again.

  15. Bierche Kaniapis
    Athens
    Reply

    I stopped taking Cymbalta through no fault of my own. Apparently my psychiatrist’s colleague, who must have been covering for her, felt it necessary to deny my refill when contacted by my pharmacy. I inquired as to whether the pharmacy could provide me with a limited emergency supply until my doctor could call in the refill. By virtue of the fact that the colleague denied the refill, the pharmacy could not by law dispense 2-60mgs. I have been clean and sober for nearly 23 years. Now I am on day 7 without Cymbalta and the withdrawal has brought back all the pain I thought I left behind. The withdrawal from Cymbalta seems almost worse than the “H” cold turkey “cure.”

  16. anonYmouse
    texas
    Reply

    I was actually doing well on Cymbalta and had my 60mg. dose increased by 20mg. more, to great effect. Then of course, reality happened and I lost my job and insurance. The first thing I did was try the generic, Duloxitene. After the months rx. was finished, the cost was still too high.

    So I was resigned to going onto Venlafaxine (Effexor). Misery from that point on. Withdrawal from Cymbalta is truly maddening; I’ve developed severe tinnitus. I’m reducing the dosage gradually (still adding in the 20mg. Duloxitene, but now the high-pitched “screeching” has an extra bonus: it gets intensely louder, then blasts into the classic brain ¡>zap<!, followed by dizziness and disorientation.

    How are people supposed to work, function, much less DRIVE like this?! Yes, it can work, but don't even start, because I guarantee the day will come when your inevitable body changes will force you off it. I can empathize with those who can't take the suffering any more.

  17. AW
    California
    Reply

    I went from 6o milligrams down to thirty after being on this stuff for two years. After taking 30 mg for six months I stopped cold turkey for two weeks. Horrible! Same thing like everyone else, vertigo, overly crying when in conversation, that twang feeling, stomach issues meaning irregular bowl movements, feeling kinda numb at times and the night sweats, I mean DANG!!! I read about taking some of the littles balls out of the capsule so I’m back on it and I’m gonna ween myself off of this that way. Less and less little balls in the capsule. Let’s see how I do.

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