Q. I quit Zoloft after nine years and suffered horrendous withdrawal symptoms: nausea, brain zaps, vertigo, headaches, digestive problems and numbness and tingling in my hands, feet and face.

I’m writing to let others know that withdrawal does get better, even on days when you think you cannot possibly survive one more hour of feeling so sick. If I had known at the start what it would take to wean off this antidepressant, I would never have taken it.

The symptoms were horrible for a full two weeks. The third week, I felt a bit better each day, and after that I improved quickly. I still have an occasional brain zap or wave of vertigo, but for the most part I’m back to normal. My sex drive, energy levels and mood have all improved tremendously.

A. Many antidepressants such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor) can trigger unpleasant symptoms if discontinued abruptly. Patients should be warned about this complication. Neither the manufacturers nor the FDA offers doctors much guidance on how to help their patients phase off such drugs gradually.

We are sending you our Guide to Dealing with Depression for more information on the pros and cons of antidepressants, details on discontinuing and non-drug approaches to managing this disorder.

Thanks for sharing your experience. We hope others won’t have to suffer as much as you have. Those who prefer natural approaches to depression may wish to listen to our helpful interview on Mental Health Naturally with Dr. Tieraona Low Dog of the University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Center.

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  1. Trina
    United States

    I had been taking Zoloft 75mg for about 1 yr. I was prescribed it for my PTSD, anxiety and depression. It worked great. However, I gained almost 20lbs and decided enough was enough. I quit taking it cold turkey almost 2 weeks ago. ( i know that’s not smart). My worst withdrawl symptom is Vertigo and my head feels so heavy. I am pushing forward though. I wish I never would have gotten on this medication. Thankfully I have no problems sleeping through the night, but my dreams are strange and vivid. My aggression and mood swings are back but controllable. Please research this drug before taking it. (no, im not a doctor and this isnt medical advice)

  2. Wheels

    Coming from Sertraline: 200mg, for 30 days—>100mg, for 30 days—> and now zip, for 3days. No symptoms yet. (No offense— alot of people praying for me… Seems to be helping).

    • Wheels

      Forgot to add was on Sertraline for over 20 years. Wheels.

  3. Evelyn

    I’ve been taking Zoloft for 25 years. Yes, 25 years! As an RN I know about titrating meds, and I titrated down from 200mg to 12.5mg very slowly. I finally got through the physiological symptoms, but am now experiencing stress, anxiety, and rage that has me yelling at the automated lady on customer service recordings and crying in the bathroom at work.

    These symptoms are so uncharacteristic, but after 4 months of slowly titrating down, I don’t want to give up. I feel like I’ll never be myself again.

    The silver lining is that I no longer want to kill myself – I just want to kill everyone else.

    Has anyone else experienced uncharacteristic anger, impatience, and stress?

    • Sabrina

      Evelyn, you just made me laugh during this “cry, I cant live like this” moment. “The silver lining is that I no longer want to kill myself – I just want to kill everyone else.” hahaha

      I’m on week two going on week three since my last pill… and I didn’t even think it would be this bad. I’ve just let out a cry about this that I’ve been holding in and it felt good. I want to cry again because I hate this but I’m hopeful that this will all go away…fast. I’ve experienced: dizziness, headaches, nausea due to the whole vertigo thing, nap/night sweats, hopelessness, zaps, numbness throughout my who body–especially while standing and walking. I have also gone through mood swings… mainly sadness but the witch in me has appeared a few times. Especially when my thoughts start about certain things I start getting pissed off at the people in my life or whatever…

      Its been hard to talk about this to my close ones because I know I will cry like a little baby but I think I need to. I hope we can all survive this and become ourselves again.
      PS… I love the name Evelyn and have it on my future baby girl list. :o)

  4. Judi

    I weaned off of Zoloft over years went from 50 mg to 25 mg. Then for around 6 months 12.5 mg then after that weeks of 12.5 mg every other day to 12.5 every 3rd day to eventually off of it. Now 2 months off of it, I started getting brain Zaps and neck tremors making my head shake, high anxiety over tremors so decided to go back on. One 25 mg of Zoloft and I suffered a brain zap that night with tremendous amount of head shake tremors. ( I hadn’t had a brain zap for about 2 weeks) Now I don’t know what to do. I’ve read a lot of long term side effects. This is scary. Should I stay on it or not and if i stay off of it will these tremors stop. I also read where Zoloft can cause tremors. Any suggestions?

    • Jessica

      I’ve experienced the same anger, impatience and stress you’re referring too. It’s TERRIBLE. I work in banking where I need to be friendly and professional. There are days I’d like to tell my customers to go F themselves, for NO reason! It scares me knowing I’m so much worse without Zoloft. I’ve been on it for about 5 years. Started at 25mg and I’m now at 100mg. I’ve tried to ween myself off, but in the end, hate feeling so outa body. The dreams, the paranoia and the irritability are just too much to handle. So I’m back to taking the 100mg.

  5. Cindy
    Ruskin, FL

    I am on 75 mg. daily of sertraline (Zoloft). Gradually weaned off last May. Thought I was doing well until I “crashed” some weeks later. Went back on.

    Now, I wonder if I will EVER get to get off this.
    Do not take any other meds. But husb. is weaning off Escitalopram. He is very moody, so I will not even try to wean off mine at this point.

  6. jay

    cold turkey 2 months was on 100 mil 5 years feeling rough but least i can fill again

  7. Meghan

    I spent a year weaning and I am having pretty much every withdrawal symptom nearly two weeks later. I cannot function. I hate my doctor for doing this to me. I need relief from the headaches and I can’t find anything on these sites.

  8. David C.

    stopped taking sertraline myself. still in the phase of withdrawal side effects.
    these are as follows-
    • nausea • • liquid ass • • vomitting • • lightheaded spurs • • brain zaps • • trembling • • irregular sleep pattern • • hot sweats to cold chills • • increased appetite •
    currently at third week of fully annihilating sertraline 100mg from my daily intake without cutting down.
    my advise to those quitting.
    from dosage 200, drop to 150mg for 1 whole week.
    from dosage 150, drop to 100mg for 10 days.
    from dosage 100, drop to 50/75mg for 2 weeks.
    from dosage 50/75. drop to 25mg for 3 weeks.
    from dosage 25, completely stop medication.
    doing it this way if you have been on the medication for 1 year or more is advisable.
    some symptoms will occur. however there is a very strong possibility there wont be disturbances in sleeping pattern and no vomitting, with reduced chances of diahhrea.

  9. Solodolo

    I have been on Zoloft for about 2 years. I have tried several different types of SSRI medications since experiencing my first bout of anxiety at 14 years of age.
    I’m now 24 years (female) and with an ok from my Dr, I have decided to stop taking Zoloft now that I’m feeling more stable and now rely on Ativan when I experience an highly anxious moment.
    I was on 100mg for about 1 year, then 125mg for 4 months before my doctor decided to increase my dosage to 150mg when I was in a very high stress work environment, triggering frequent panic attacks and depression.
    It was about 2 months ago when I started to ween off my 150mg dose of Zoloft – I had actually run out of 50mg’s and just started taking 100mg – withdrawal symptoms weren’t all that bad an I thought that I would stick it out for a month to see how it went. Then after a month, I went down to 75mg – stayed there for a month – experiencing the worst nausea I have ever had. Worse than the flu. This lasted for about 1 week before headaches and moodiness kicked in for another two weeks – then I had one week of complete bliss without any symptoms at all.
    I had made it through what I thought was the worse withdrawal symptoms ever – I was NOT looking forward to going down another 25mg (to what is now my 50mg dosage) for the next month. I’m on day 3 of 50mg, experiencing intense dreams, brain zaps, head rushes, dizziness, intense/frequent headaches and drowsiness/laziness, But I’m ok! I try not to drive because with every shoulder check comes intense dizziness.
    With anyone with a super sensitive system like mine, I would definitely advise you consult your doctor before you decide to quit taking Zoloft. Have them work with you on decreasing from a high dose to a low-to-no dose very slowly. What’s the rush?

  10. amit

    I started the quitting process in December 2012 when I was on 100 mg zoloft. About 3 months later now I am on 12.5 mg and because I’m going very slowly I haven’t experienced any withdrawal symptoms like you explain. I still get very vivid dreams but that’s about it. I need 4 to 6 weeks more.

  11. spayneuteryourpets

    I take so many pills I don’t know who I am anymore so I want to cut down. I’ve been on Zoloft 200mg for many years. I’ve started taking 175mg for a week now and I don’t have any problems yet. When I first started taking Zoloft my doctor told me it would take time to build up to it’s full strength. Is the reverse true? How long will it take to decrease it’s strength?

  12. DAVE B

    Interesting article about zoloft, it is not a problem yet, but prednisone is, I tried to go off it a mg at time, it was hell, I gave up, d

  13. fbl

    The journey would have been less traumatic if doses of minerals and B vitamins had been taken during the withdrawal period. Wouldn’t have stopped it but eased it a bit.

  14. TC

    I also took Zoloft for about as many years. However, by weaning slowly, I was able to get off it with few if any of the expected symptoms. I started by taking one every other day for a couple of weeks, then one every third day, etc. In about six weeks, I was off.

    • Trina

      I take B-12 vitamin daily. Maybe that is why my symptoms are not as severe with the withdrawl. Thanks for the advice.

  15. JSS

    I had no problem stopping my Zoloft. But I did get a reduced dose from the
    Doc, then after several months cut that in half. After 2 weeks took one every other day for two more weeks then stopped altogether.
    Gradual, weaning off worked fine.

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