After 15 years of taking an SSRI daily, I woke up one November morning and decided I wanted to quit. I surprised myself because I always swore I was going to be on it forever. I never believed I would be able to live a calm, peaceful life without my 10 mg of Lexapro every morning. But one day the thought of “Do I really need this crutch anymore? What is my baseline?” popped into my head and I just couldn’t shake it without at least trying so I did. In order for me to properly write this post, let’s start from the beginning shall we?
I went on 10 mg of Prozac when I was 17 years old because I had severe panic attacks while driving. It started off when I would get stuck at a red light and felt “trapped” and then it evolved into a whole phobia. It got so bad to the point where I had to have my mom come pick me up where I pulled over 10 minutes away from home. I tried a short stint of therapy, acupuncture, the whole natural route before deciding I wanted to take an SSRI. A few weeks later, I had zero side effects and felt like a new person. No more panic attacks, yet I didn’t feel numb or emotionless. I truly feel like it turned my whole life around and I will always advocate for people to take medication if they feel like they need it.
About 10 years later in 2019 I experienced the prozac poop out where the medication kinda just stops working. I was terrified to be off of the medication because I was going through a major life change- this was the year of the major breakup. Cliff note version: I was in a 6 year relationship, engaged, deeply unhappy and decided that I actually needed to be single and move to LA and completely change my life. Definitely NOT the time to get off of my medication LOL. I switched to 10 mg of Lexapro and here’s where I started having some side effects. I became really sleepy, gained a bit of weight and just felt kind of sluggish. I can confidently say that at the peak of my anxiety and panic, I would take those side effects any day for the relief the Lexapro gave me.
All of that being said and flash forward to November 2023, I felt confident enough to try and wean off my Lexapro just to see how I felt. No expectations and I was fully ok with going back on if I needed. I just wanted to discover how I felt being off. Since I had been on an SSRI since I was 17, it was hard to tell if I even needed the medication anymore or what my baseline was. I slowly tapered off 10 mg over the course of about 6 weeks and it wasn’t the most fun experience, but I did it! I am choosing not to disclose my exact taper schedule, because that is something that needs to be discussed between you and your doctor. I will suggest taking it slow to avoid major side effects.
I think most of you are probably here to hear about the side effects of tapering off an SSRI, which I definitely scoured the web to read about as well. Google is quite daunting, so try to avoid that if you can (easier said than done especially for my anxiety girlies).
Here’s a breakdown of what I experienced after stopping Lexapro:
- Brain Zaps: These are by far the weirdest and most uncomfortable symptom I had. Although they are totally harmless, the 3 weeks I dealt with these were rough. Luckily, they go away within a month on most occasions.
- Nightmares/Vivid Dreams: I definitely had some freaky dreams throughout the process and vivid dreams that stuck with me long after I woke up.
- Night sweats: On a few occasions I woke up drenched in sweat and super anxious. Not fun, but it didn’t happen often.
- Dizziness: Random bouts of dizziness is not something I expected to experience, but it happened several times. It would come on quick then go right away.
- Headaches: Nothing a couple ibuprofen can’t fix, but I did get some gnarly headaches that I never usually get.
- Teary/Emotional: Not me crying because of literally everything!!! But actually, I cried twice in a day because I was sick and Corey was taking care of me and I was just so emo about how much I love him? I am actually still not fully over this symptom, although it has gotten a lot better. So if I randomly burst into tears, just ignore me.
- Anxiety: Although it definitely isn’t extreme, I have more anxiety than I did while on an SSRI (obviously). It is manageable and a lot less severe than I was expecting though!
I also didn’t really experience any side effects until I fully tapered off (so from 0.25 mg to 0 mg). These all lasted around 2 weeks to a month.
So now that I’ve been off for almost 6 weeks I can give you a glimpse into what my life looks like on the other side. What I thought would be living in a state of constant panic and worry, is actually a lot like the life I was living while on my SSRI. I am old enough now to know that a panic attack doesn’t mean that I am dying, or that a rise in anxiety is just a temporary inconvenience and the discomfort will always pass.
Here’s some of the positives I have experienced since coming off:
- More in tune with my emotions: I used to never cry even when I wanted to, and now I feel like I am more emotional and can express my emotions in a healthy way.
- Managing my anxiety: Now that I am in a more stable headspace, I feel like I can work on managing my anxiety in therapy instead of masking it with medication (I am not saying there is not a time and place for doing that! Or that you have to pick one or the other!).
- Decreased appetite/weight loss: Want to start off by saying my appetite is definitely still there and I eat a minimum of 3 meals a day, but I find that I feel full quicker and have definitely been eating less. I do feel like I have lost a few pounds despite maintaining the same routine and just feel overall less puffy. Since this has happened I have actually started tracking my food in MyFitnessPal to make sure I am still getting enough nutrients. My theory on this (that is based off absolutely zero facts or science) is that the Lexapro dulls your senses, which includes feeling full while eating. Just my personal thoughts based off my experience!
- More sensitive: Let’s just say things are different in the bedroom. SSRI’s can definitely make you feel “numb” and interfere with your sex drive.
- Better energy: I do feel overall more productive and like I have better energy overall.
- Less hair loss: A side effect I didn’t even realize I had was hair loss. I am taking Nutrafol which helps with hair loss, but I have noticed a difference in the shower since getting off Lexapro.
- Mental strength: This whole process has made me realize I am so much stronger than I ever thought. I am so proud of myself for making this hard choice and getting through it on my own. I feel like I have a newfound appreciation for my mental toughness and I feel really confident in myself.
Overall, I feel at peace and like I am in the right place. I don’t regret the years I spent on my SSRI’s and I think it was an absolutely necessary step to getting where I am today.
There are supplements you can take to help with the side effects and make the weaning smoother. These are what I took, and there is science to back up the positive effects, but please talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Here’s a list of the supplements that helped me with my withdrawal symptoms:
- Omega 3s: These fatty acids have been shown to help ease anxiety and have tons of other benefits for overall health. I take the Momentous brand Omega 3s and love them! Ritual also just launched a new Omega 3 that I want to try out given I am such a fan of the brand.
- L-Theanine: This amino acid has been proven to have a calming effect on the mind. I personally call this natural xanax because I can really feel the difference when I take it, which is before bed. I like Momentous L-Theanine.
- Ashwagandha: The research on this one isn’t strong I will be the first to admit, but I have noticed a positive difference when taking this powerful adaptogen. It has been used in India tracing back to 6000 BC for insomnia, stress and anxiety. I take Nutrafol for my hair which has it, and Further Food has a great one!
- Vitamin B6: In a recently study, people who took vitamin B6 saw a statistically significant reduction in anxiety symptoms. More information can be found here. I like Cymbiotika Lipsomal B12 + B6.
- Magnesium: Magnesium helps regulate serotonin and is just such a great supplement to take to support whole body health. I use Cymbiotika Magnesium L-Threonate.
- Tons of water: This just helps your body flush out and detox your system. I really upped my water intake during this process and I believe it helped me a lot!
None of these links are sponsored or commissionable. Just sharing what worked for me! Also, I am not recommending you take all of these supplements every single day. Talk to your doctor and figure out what will work best for you!
PLEASE know I am just sharing my personal experience and everyone is so different. Talk to your doctor before making any changes in medication and please know everybody will have different experiences with this. I would love to hear from you all in the comments if you feel comfortable sharing about your experience tapering off an SSRI, taking an SSRI or any suggestions on how to make it easier.
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