Does Pristiq cause brain zaps? (+6 tips)

In this article, we will discuss how Pristiq causes brain zaps and explore the studies on this symptom. This article will also mention the withdrawal symptoms associated with the discontinuation of Pristiq and other antidepressants and provide tips to help minimize the risk of experiencing these symptoms. 

Does Pristiq cause brain zaps?

Yes, Pristiq may cause brain zaps when it’s discontinued. Some individuals report experiencing brain zaps as a withdrawal symptom when discontinuing Pristiq or other antidepressants.

Pristiq is an antidepressant that belongs to the class of drugs known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Pristiq works by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. It is commonly prescribed to treat major depressive disorder in adults.

Brain zaps are brief, shock-like sensations that individuals may experience after discontinuing certain medications, including antidepressants such as SNRIs, benzodiazepines, opioids, barbiturates and anticonvulsants. Brain zaps can be the most common symptom experienced when stopping or reducing the dosage of antidepressants. (1)

Brain zaps are typically harmless and go away on their own within a few weeks of stopping or reducing the medication dosage. However, in some cases, brain zaps may persist for several months. If you are experiencing brain zaps, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider immediately.

Abruptly stopping or changing the dosage of Pristiq can increase the risk and severity of withdrawal symptoms, including brain zaps. Healthcare providers often recommend a gradual tapering of the dosage to minimize these effects.

It’s important to note that not everyone experiences these sensations and the likelihood and severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person.

How does Pristiq cause brain zaps?

The exact mechanism behind brain zaps associated with Pristiq is not fully understood. It’s believed that brain zaps can be related to the sudden changes in serotonin levels when discontinuing or reducing the dose of antidepressants. 

Dysregulation of serotonin neurotransmission can cause changes in the brain’s electrical activity. This temporary imbalance in the brain can lead to the sensation of brain zaps. 

Moreover, Pristiq and other SNRI antidepressants can increase the levels of GABA neurotransmitters. After discontinuing Pristiq, GABA levels decrease, leading to brain zaps.  (1,2)

Abruptly stopping the medication appeared to be the primary factor behind the brain zaps. Although gradually tapering off the medication had some mitigating impact, it was only partial.

Moreover, a recent study has revealed that brain zaps are often triggered by lateral eye movements. This discovery could pave the way for further research into the causes of brain zaps. (1)

What does the research suggest?

Research suggests that one in five patients experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome after abruptly stopping or significantly reducing the dosage of an antidepressant medication taken consistently for one month.(3)

An analysis of 63 cases of SNRI withdrawal found that the mean duration of withdrawal symptoms was 50.8 weeks. The analysis results also show that the occurrence of neurological symptoms, mostly brain zaps, was significantly higher among individuals using SNRIs compared to those using other antidepressants. (4)

Over 30% of individuals experiencing brain zaps report these symptoms either during or after gradually reducing their antidepressant dosage. Additionally, some individuals may encounter these zaps even while maintaining a consistent antidepressant dosage.

There are no established treatments that specifically and effectively target brain zaps other than continuing the same medication at the previous dose. (1)


What are the other symptoms of withdrawal syndrome?

Withdrawal syndrome, also known as discontinuation syndrome, from antidepressant medications can vary among individuals. But common symptoms may include (3):

  • Flu-like symptoms (chills, achiness, sweating)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Insomnia 
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache
  • Sensory disturbances (tingling or sensations of electrical shocks)
  • Visual disturbances ( blurred vision)
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness



How to avoid the risk of developing brain zaps?

To potentially minimize the risk of developing brain zaps associated with Pristiq, consider the following:

Gradual tapering 

 Work with your healthcare provider to establish a slow and gradual tapering schedule when discontinuing the medication. The tapering process will vary based on the type of antidepressant you are taking, your current dosage and your individual needs and responses. Your healthcare provider will develop a personalized tapering schedule that takes these factors into account.

Avoid sudden changes to your medication dosage

You should be aware of skipping doses or taking extra doses. Make sure to take your medication as prescribed and adhere to the prescribed dosage, frequency and duration. You should avoid adjusting your medication dosage without consulting your doctor. 

Follow medical guidance

Adhere to your healthcare provider’s instructions and recommendations regarding medication changes. By following your healthcare provider’s guidance, you can minimize the risk of sudden and potentially harmful changes to your medication dosage.

lifestyle support

Healthy lifestyle habits, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, hydration and adequate sleep, can positively impact overall well-being during medication changes. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, as they can worsen withdrawal symptoms.

In addition, identify and avoid triggers that exacerbate brain zaps, such as certain foods or activities. Anxiety and stress can also potentially exacerbate the experience of brain zaps during medication. You can practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation or yoga to manage stress and promote overall mental health.

Consider using supplements

Some individuals report benefits from certain supplements such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, antioxidants, and L-theanine. Consult with your healthcare provider before adding any supplements to your regimen.



In summary, brain zaps can result from discontinuing or reducing the dosage of Pristiq and other SNRIs. Brain zaps are not dangerous, but they can be unpleasant and disruptive. For optimal treatment outcomes and minimization of potential complications, I strongly suggest you consult your healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your medication dosage. 



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Brain Zaps: An Underappreciated Symptom of Antidepressant Discontinuation
December 2018 The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders 20(6).


Sands SA, Reisman SA, Enna SJ. Effect of antidepressants on GABA(B) receptor function and subunit expression in rat hippocampus. Biochem Pharmacol. 2004 Oct 15;68(8):1489-95.


Gabriel M, Sharma V. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. CMAJ. 2017 May 29;189(21):E747.


Stockmann T, Odegbaro D, Timimi S, Moncrieff J. SSRI and SNRI withdrawal symptoms reported on an internet forum. Int J Risk Saf Med. 2018;29(3-4):175-180.


Wilson E, Lader M. A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2015 Dec;5(6):357-68.

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