Antidepressant Withdrawal Syndrome

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What is antidepressant withdrawal syndrome?

Antidepressant withdrawal syndrome is a cluster of symptoms that can occur when you reduce the dose to quickly or discontinue an antidepressant medication. It can occur around 56% of the time, although it’s more common in people who have been on medication for a longer period. Symptoms may last for months, and may begin 2-4 days after discontinuation or reducing the dose. Symptoms can include:

  • Brain zaps or sensations of electrical shocks in the brain
  • Anxiety and disturbed or poor sleep
  • Flu symptoms
  • Digestive symptoms such as nausea and diarrhoea
  • Neurological symptoms such as headaches, confusion and agitation, and disturbed sensory effects
  • Muscle spasm and tremor
  • Hypo/Mania
  • Ongoing sexual dysfunction

What about antidepressants and alternative medicines?

Antidepressant withdrawal syndrome may be misinterpreted as rebound depression on discontinuation. Currently, we are unable to find any clinical trial data supporting the use of alternative medicine during antidepressant discontinuation. Clinical trials are needed to determine how complementary medicines can affect this process. There is a risk of drug-herb/nutrient interactions and we can’t emphasise enough the importance of seeking professional advice from a degree qualified and accredited Naturopath before mixing herbal or nutritional medicines with your medication.

While there is evidence for adjunct treatment between some therapeutics (natural and pharmaceutical combinations), and evidence for herbal medicines and nutrients for anxiety and depression, every case is unique and should be assessed individually as part of a holistic approach. The moral of the story, is don’t go cold turkey on your antidepressant medication! Set up a professional team of practitioners and design a plan that gives you the best of allopathic medicine and alternative medicine. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, why not benefit from an integrative approach.

The future is bright!

Antidepressants are one of the most prescribed medicines in Australia. Many people experience unwanted side effects, in particular weight gain and sexual dysfunction. Because the medications don’t work for everyone all of the time, and because almost half of the Australian population will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives, it’s paramount that we have the discussion about integrating Psychiatric care and Naturopathy. Evidence supports the use of several alternative medicines for anxiety and depression, touting less side effects and comparable effects when compared to pharmaceutical antidepressants. Gone are the days of the alternative medicine stigma, the future is an integrative model, and the future is bright. The evidence is emerging, and the chasm between tradition and science is closing.

Disclaimer: information found on this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individual health advice. Medications should not be discontinued abruptly and should be managed together with your prescribing practitioner. Moods for Wellness does not prescribe pharmaceutical medications or assist in managing withdrawal syndrome or discontinuation. Practitioners at Moods for Wellness may prescribe natural medicines according to their scope of practice and encourage all patients to establish an integrative care team that includes a Naturopath, a Psychologist and a GP.


Cipriani et al, 2018, Comparative efficacy and acceptability of 21 antidepressant drugs for the acute treatment of adults with major depressive disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis.

Davies J, Read J. A systematic review into the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects: Are guidelines evidence-based? Addict Behav. 2019 Oct;97:111-121. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.08.027. Epub 2018 Sep 4. PMID: 30292574.

New research examines antidepressant efficacy News GP 2019

Moods For Wellness would like to acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the Traditional Custodians of the land we work on, and show our respect to the Elders both past, present and future.