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Spenitate: paroxetine withdrawal followed by sertraline


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Hi all this is my first post. I’ve put all my medical info in my signature as requested but if I’ve missed anything please let me know. 

Full case history:

n.b. I don’t expect anyone to feel they have to read all this, I just want to get it off my chest!


I’ve had issues with depression and anxiety since childhood (no particular trauma: suspect a strong genetic component as evident in other family members too). Severe depression around 19/20 due to college stress led to me going to the doctor. Was put on 30mg citalopram which made me suicidal and gave me auditory hallucinations among other symptoms almost immediately. Doctor told me to ‘keep going’ but decided to stop - a million percent the right decision and one I wish I had made later.


Was put on a low dose of paroxetine either once or twice (not sure) for short periods in my twenties after going to the doctor with anxiety/depression. No severe side effects I can remember, seemed to see a noticeable improvement, and came off drugs without issue.


In my late twenties I went to the doctor again with depression and was prescribed 7.5mg paroxetine. Again no side effects and a noticeable improvement. After a few months I went back to the doctor and told her I was feeling much better and would like to come off the paroxetine. She told me this would be a mistake - that people often thought they should come off and actually got much worse when they did, so I should stay on the drugs. I accepted this, assumed that I was just one of those people who needed this medication to be ‘normal’ (I believed completely in the chemical Imbalance idea) and continued taking the medication. On a personal note this is the part of my medical history that makes me the angriest. There was a window at that time in which I was trying to do what was best for my mental health, and trusted my doctor against my own instincts. I may well have suffered adverse reactions if I had stopped taking paroxetine then, but I personally suspect strongly it would have been less severe due to the low dose, shortness of duration, and the fact I was younger. I may be wrong but I’ll never know.


I stayed on paroxetine for the next ten years. Over time I felt the medication was getting less effective, and every time I went back to the doctor I was prescribed an increased dose (to be fair I’m sure at least once I requested an increased dose as I thought it was what I needed). I don’t remember the exact details but I ended up on 40mg.

In the last couple of years I’ve had a very difficult time personally and it became clear the medication wasn’t helping me. I talked to the doctor In early 2020 about coming off paroxetine and trying a new medication - they advised me I would need a couple of ‘quiet’ weeks in a secure environment to do so to manage the change. When the pandemic happened and I was able to work from home full time, I felt I had the space to make the change. The doctor gave me a tapering schedule that was approximately as follows: 3 days on 30-40mg, 3 on 30, 3 on 20-30, 3 on 20, 3 on 10-20, 3 on 10 and then nothing.


i had no symptoms during the tapering window and naively thought I had been lucky. I decided to hold off on taking the sertraline because I wanted to see how I managed with no drugs in my system, again I was very naive. Three days after my last pill I became profoundly unwell - suicidal, brain fog, brain zaps, diarrhoea, hypothermic temperature, severe weight loss (21 pounds total in a few weeks) I can’t even recall all the symptoms. I tried to ‘stick it out’ for a couple of weeks until a very sensible friend whose mother is a pharmacist told me I couldn’t keep going like this and my taper schedule had been much too quick, I needed to go back on a low dose.


I spoke to a different doctor and agreed to go back on 10mg for a month, then 5 mg for a month then nothing. This still felt too steep so I actually added in three weeks of 5 and 0 alternating (I now realise alternating was a mistake too). My symptoms improved slowly but never disappeared and when I tried to stop completely, again severe symptoms reoccured. Went back to a 5/0 alternating dosage but remained quite ill. Spoke to yet another doctor after a couple of weeks who advised as I was now at such a low dose of paroxetine I should stop taking it completely and start taking 50mg of sertraline immediately. I was so desperate at this point that I felt if the sertraline would set me free from paroxetine I was willing to do this.


The next four weeks were pure hell. I suspect because my body was dealing with withdrawal from one drug and reacting badly to another all at once (plus my contraceptive pill was changed due to stock shortages but that’s another story). My physical symptoms were bad but not as bad as before, but I was persistently suicidal. I have an amazing family who took care of me during this period. Even with their help I came close to the brink several times. I was referred to the mental health crisis team who said they would get my doctor to prescribe me mirtazapan to help manage the symptoms. They never processed this and I never followed up as I was determined not to add any more drugs to my regimen. I stayed on the sertraline because I felt I had no choice - all I could do was keep going and hope to make it to the other side.

The last six weeks have been bad but I’ve seen an improvement.  I have suicidal days but also good days and I am more able to

manage my own healing. I am back at work after a month of leave. My physical symptoms have lessened but do re-emerge periodically. I am eating all the right foods, taking the proper supplements, exercising, meditating, journaling and doing breathing exercises. I desperately want to come off sertraline but I know I have to get myself in a stronger and more even position before I can do that. The thought that I am trapped on another drug, that coming off it will take literally years, and that I am still so unwell, is profoundly distressing. I feel this experience had almost destroyed me. Forums like this one have been my only comfort at times - seeing other people’s stories has made me feel less alone. so I’m sharing mine in case it chimes with anyone else.


I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for here. I cannot taper right now even though I want to so badly I want to throw all my drugs away (obviously I won’t!!). I feel this site has given Me the information I need to tackle it when the time is right, which I am grateful for. I guess it’s just been such a personally devastating experience I wanted to share it in a place it would be understood. Basically, I’m very frightened. 

2010-2020 40mg paroxetine.

Stopped in two weeks leading to severe withdrawal.
May 2020: Went back on 10mg - tapering to nothing over 2-3 months. Sever symptoms again after dropping from 5mg to nothing.
June 2020: Started on 50mg sertraline to manage paroxetine withdrawal. New severe symptoms, some gradual improvement since.
Desperate to taper off (properly) but need some recovery time.

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  • Moderator

Welcome to SA, Spenitate.  Please don't blame yourself.  We've all trusted our doctors, we've all suffered the consequence.  It's obvious from your post that you've learned a lot from your experiences, so count that as a plus. It's good that you're taking care of yourself and meditating.


When the time comes that you feel you're ready to taper, we recommend tapering by no more than 10% of your current dose every four weeks.  Some people can go a little faster, some have to go more slowly, but this is a good starting point.  Since you've been on and off different drugs, your system is sensitized, and I would recommend a conservative approach.


Why taper by 10% of my dosage?


The Brassmonkey Slide is a way of making micro-taper reductions weekly, as opposed to a larger reduction once a month. I used this method for my Lexapro taper.


The Brassmonkey Slide Method of Micro-tapering


This link is specifically about tapering Sertraline, including how to get the nonstandard doses you'll need for your 10% taper.


Tips for tapering off sertraline (Zoloft)


We recommend using non-drug coping skills to deal with withdrawal and with life.  Take a look at the links in the following link and see which techniques might be helpful for you.


Non-drug techniques to cope


We don't recommend a lot of supplements on SA, as many members report being sensitive to them due to our over-reactive nervous systems, but two supplements that we do recommend are magnesium and omega 3 (fish oil). Many people find these to be calming to the nervous system. 


Magnesium, nature's calcium channel blocker 


Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) 


Add in one at a time and at a low dose in case you do experience problems.


This is you Introductory topic, where you can ask questions and connect with other members.  We're glad you found your way here.






Gridley Introduction


Lexapro 20 mg since 2004.  Begin Brassmonkey Slide Taper Jan. 2017.   

End 2017 year 1 of taper at 9.25mg 

End 2018 year 2 of taper at 4.1mg

End 2019 year 3 of taper at 1.0mg  

Oct. 30, 2020  Jump to zero from 0.025mg.  Current dose: 0.000mg

3 year, 10 month taper is 100% complete.


Ativan 1 mg 1986-1991 CT, soon reinstated.  CT 2000. RI 1 mg 2011-2016.  Sept. 2016  0.625mg X 3

Nov.27, 2020, 7-week Ativan-Valium crossover + change to one 18.75mg dose, w/1 month hold.

Feb. 9, 2021, begin 10% every 4 weeks taper.  Current dose as of April 10: 13mgai.  Taper is 31% complete.


Imipramine 75 mg daily since 1986.  Jan. 2016 began every 3-weeks 10% taper, down to 16mgai (44mgpw).  Aug 2016, discovered SA, holding at 16mg.  Taper is 78% complete.  


Supplements: omega, vitamins C, E and D3, magnesium glycinate, probiotic, zinc, melatonin .3mg.

I am not a medical professional and this is not medical advice, but simply information based on my own experience, as well as other members who have survived these drugs.

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Hello Gridley, thank you so much for your kind words and the excellent advice in your post, which I will read carefully!


have a wonderful day.

2010-2020 40mg paroxetine.

Stopped in two weeks leading to severe withdrawal.
May 2020: Went back on 10mg - tapering to nothing over 2-3 months. Sever symptoms again after dropping from 5mg to nothing.
June 2020: Started on 50mg sertraline to manage paroxetine withdrawal. New severe symptoms, some gradual improvement since.
Desperate to taper off (properly) but need some recovery time.

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