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JustaGirl: Zoloft switched to Effexor - Please help me get off


JustaGirl

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Hi there, 

 

I'm looking for some advice and help please after having a terrible reaction to anti-depressants after being put on them earlier this year...

 

I'm 30 years old and was recently (June 2021) put on anti-depressants for the first time. 4 weeks after having my second baby, I was obsessing over my son's name (thinking I wasn't sure I really liked it) and my emotions were all over the place, generally happy but up and down and crying a lot - this was put down to postnatal OCD and I got put on Zoloft. I thought an antidepressant was strange to take if I wasn't depressed but the doctor said they were used for anxiety and OCD just as much. I've never really liked the idea of antidepressants but thought they were so widely prescribed they must be fine, I didn't even think for a second they wouldn't be safe. I have no history of any depression by the way, I've always been a very happy person. 

 

The first day I took a 50mg tablet of Zoloft it made me wide awake, I stayed up all the following night and day (over 36 hours), I had a headache and chest pain. I called my doctor and they told me they were common side effects, just keep taking it and my body will get used to it. On the third day I woke up and felt dead inside - my head was blank, I could barely think, I felt emotionally numbed and I was experiencing suicidal thoughts - I was terrified as I've never had anything like this before. I sought immediate professional help speaking to several doctors and got told to keep taking the tablets and I'll feel better. Not knowing how antidepressants are meant to feel at the start I just went along with what the 'experts' were telling me. Nothing got better, it just got worse and worse. After 6 weeks (July 2021) a psychiatrist switched it to Venlafaxine/Effexor ER 75mg which soon went up to 150mg (August 2021). Things turned around quite quickly and after a few weeks on that (September 2021) I felt like myself again, mood was back to normal/happy and I could think properly again. However I still feel emotionally very numb.

 

I'm obviously thankful that I'm for the most part back to feeling like me again and I'm functioning normally for my kids. However I've always been a really emotional person and feeling emotionally numb is horrible! I also have no libido whatsoever now. I would never have taken antidepressants if any of the potential side effects had been explained. 

 

I really want to just get off this Effexor ASAP and be back to how I was before I ever touched them. I'm worried about withdrawal and making the situation worse again but at the same time I don't want to stay on it any longer than I have to. I'm really scared I'll never get my feelings back. I've already tapered down to 112.5mg from the 150mg. I've read the Effexor taper page but any other advice re my situation would be great thank you :)

 

50mg Zoloft mid June 2021-mid July 2021 for postnatal anxiety

Immediate adverse reaction to 50mg Zoloft after a couple of days (but told to continue for 4 weeks)

Switched to Effexor ER (150mg) mid July 2021

Taper off began in Oct 2021:

-130mg Effexor (8th Oct 21)

-112.5mg Effexor (29th Oct 21)

-75mg Effexor (12th Nov 21)

-60mg Effexor (26th Nov 21)

-48mg Effexor (11th Dec 21)

-37.5mg Effexor (26th Dec 21)

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  • ChessieCat changed the title to JustaGirl: Zoloft switched to Effexor - Please help me get off
  • Moderator

Welcome @JustaGirl

I'm so sorry you were put on an antidepressant and experienced these horrible effects. The scary reaction you had to Zoloft is something many here on the forum can identify with, myself included. Switching from one drug to another is a risky thing to do, but it appears you have been lucky and did not suffer withdrawal from quitting Zoloft. You also seem to have been able to stabilize well on Effexor.

 

It is very understandable that you want to get off as soon as possible. You should never have been put on these drugs to begin with, and are dealing with disturbing (but common) side effects. However, now you need to make sure you get off Effexor safely, while keeping withdrawal in check. Withdrawal will by most doctors be interpreted as a relapse, or the emergence of another mental illness, which leads to another diagnoses and more drugs being added. So I recommend learning as much as possible about withdrawal so you avoid this.

Dr. Joseph Glenmullen's withdrawal symptom checklist

What is withdrawal syndrome?

 

Have you noticed any withdrawal from your reduction from 150mg to 112.5mg?

 

It is advised to hold for minimum 4 weeks before reducing further. If you had no trouble, it's possible to try a slightly larger reduction, but we still recommend playing it safe and following these guidelines:

Why taper by 10% of my dosage?

NEVER SKIP DOSES TO TAPER

 

Adding this link too so you can easily find it again:

Tips for tapering off venlafaxine (Effexor)

 

Thanks for your drug history signature. Can you add the date you quit Zoloft and the date you started Effexor? (or if you don't know exactly early/mid/late July) Also spell out months (8 Oct 2021) since 8/10 can be misread as 10th of August.

 

As there are common misconceptions about how these drugs work I found this post helpful:

How Psychiatric Drugs Remodel Your Brain

 

This is your Introductory topic, where you can ask questions and connect with other members.  Please stay in touch and let us know how you are doing.

We're glad you found your way here!

These are my opinions based on my own experience and what I have learned, not medical advice.

 

Drug history

2002-2019 Citalopram/Escitalopram, Lamictal
2019 April Escitalopram, quit at 10mg (withdrawal), Oct Escitalopram 10mg reinstated, quit after a few days (adverse reaction)

2019 Oct Lamictal cut from 200mg to 100mg
2019 Dec Lithium 83x2 mg

2020 Aug-Nov Lamictal tapered to 50 mg

2020 Nov 24 Lithium taper started, 30 Jan off Lithium

2021 15. March-31. May Lamictal tapered to 32.5 mg (holding)

2022 10. Jan started taking 25mg+5mg+2mg+0.5 liquid, 22. Jan went back to taking 25mg+5mg+half 5mg

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  • Moderator Emeritus
On 11/7/2021 at 11:12 PM, Kiasofia said:

Have you noticed any withdrawal from your reduction from 150mg to 112.5mg?

 

Please answer Kiasofia's question.  Thank you.

 VIDEO:   Antidepressant Withdrawal Syndrome and its Management

 

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED:    (6 year taper)      0mg Pristiq      on 13th November 2021

Woohoo!!!  Finally off Pristiq    Post 0 updates start here

ADs since ~1992:  25+ years - 1 unknown, Prozac (muscle weakness), Zoloft; citalopram (pooped out) CTed (very sick for 2.5 wks a few months after); Pristiq:  50mg 2012, 100mg beg 2013 (Serotonin Toxicity)  Tapering from Oct 2015 - 13 Nov 2021   LAST DOSE 0.0025mg

My full tapering program     My Intro (goes to my tapering graph)    My website

PLEASE NOTE:  I am not a medical professional.  I provide information and make suggestions.  Please DO NOT TAG me - thank you.

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Hey Kiasofia, thank you for responding to me, I've made those updates to my sig :) 

 

So I went down gradually by taking some beads out of the 150mg first to get it down to 130, then down to 112.5 by taking 1 x 75mg + 1 x 37.5mg tablet. I started doing the reductions when I found this site - my psychiatrist's advice was to stay on the full 150mg for at least a year! He said the emotional numbness would probably disappear in time whilst still on the tablets but I don't see how because this happened after taking only a few doses so obviously the SSRIs never agreed with me. 

 

So far my withdrawal symptoms have been okay and I feel pretty much the same now as I did on the 150mg. Just had a really bad headache for the first couple of days after reducing and felt a bit irritable plus some slight jaw clenching for the first week. Do you think that's it for this latest drop or might some emotional withdrawal symptoms creep up on me at a later date? I'm terrified of becoming depressed like what I experienced on that Sertraline!

50mg Zoloft mid June 2021-mid July 2021 for postnatal anxiety

Immediate adverse reaction to 50mg Zoloft after a couple of days (but told to continue for 4 weeks)

Switched to Effexor ER (150mg) mid July 2021

Taper off began in Oct 2021:

-130mg Effexor (8th Oct 21)

-112.5mg Effexor (29th Oct 21)

-75mg Effexor (12th Nov 21)

-60mg Effexor (26th Nov 21)

-48mg Effexor (11th Dec 21)

-37.5mg Effexor (26th Dec 21)

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  • Moderator

It is likely that the emotional numbness can disappear even if you continue taking it, but I don't see the purpose in you taking Effexor longer than what a safe taper allows for. Personally, I have experienced the emotional numbness wearing off regardless of staying on the SSRI or quitting it. I think it's an adverse reaction that the brain is able to heal from, regardless.

 

So I recommend spending some time finding the right tapering speed. It might be faster than 10% of current dose, but might be slower.  It's a good sign that lowering the dose so far hasn't been too bad. Be aware though that the lower doses are harder to taper than higher doses. This explains why:

 

Why taper? SERT transporter occupancy studies show importance of gradual change in plasma concentration

 

15 minutes ago, JustaGirl said:

Do you think that's it for this latest drop or might some emotional withdrawal symptoms creep up on me at a later date?

Hopefully, but it's hard to know for sure. We therefore advise to wait at least 4 weeks before another reduction.

 

If you do get depressed again, it will most likely be a withdrawal reaction and means you need to slow down tapering. Sometimes it helps to make a small increase in dosage if this happens. Please check into the forum and update while tapering and keep your signature up to date. To make sure I see your post write @ and then start typing my username so it becomes like this @Kiasofia.

 

These are my opinions based on my own experience and what I have learned, not medical advice.

 

Drug history

2002-2019 Citalopram/Escitalopram, Lamictal
2019 April Escitalopram, quit at 10mg (withdrawal), Oct Escitalopram 10mg reinstated, quit after a few days (adverse reaction)

2019 Oct Lamictal cut from 200mg to 100mg
2019 Dec Lithium 83x2 mg

2020 Aug-Nov Lamictal tapered to 50 mg

2020 Nov 24 Lithium taper started, 30 Jan off Lithium

2021 15. March-31. May Lamictal tapered to 32.5 mg (holding)

2022 10. Jan started taking 25mg+5mg+2mg+0.5 liquid, 22. Jan went back to taking 25mg+5mg+half 5mg

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That graph is really interesting @Kiasofia, thank you. I'll be sure to check back in soon and update on how things are going :)  

50mg Zoloft mid June 2021-mid July 2021 for postnatal anxiety

Immediate adverse reaction to 50mg Zoloft after a couple of days (but told to continue for 4 weeks)

Switched to Effexor ER (150mg) mid July 2021

Taper off began in Oct 2021:

-130mg Effexor (8th Oct 21)

-112.5mg Effexor (29th Oct 21)

-75mg Effexor (12th Nov 21)

-60mg Effexor (26th Nov 21)

-48mg Effexor (11th Dec 21)

-37.5mg Effexor (26th Dec 21)

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  • Moderator

Good 😊 Make sure the username turns blue to tag people @JustaGirl

These are my opinions based on my own experience and what I have learned, not medical advice.

 

Drug history

2002-2019 Citalopram/Escitalopram, Lamictal
2019 April Escitalopram, quit at 10mg (withdrawal), Oct Escitalopram 10mg reinstated, quit after a few days (adverse reaction)

2019 Oct Lamictal cut from 200mg to 100mg
2019 Dec Lithium 83x2 mg

2020 Aug-Nov Lamictal tapered to 50 mg

2020 Nov 24 Lithium taper started, 30 Jan off Lithium

2021 15. March-31. May Lamictal tapered to 32.5 mg (holding)

2022 10. Jan started taking 25mg+5mg+2mg+0.5 liquid, 22. Jan went back to taking 25mg+5mg+half 5mg

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Will do @Kiasofia - just a quick question about the emotional numbness/anesthesia... I'm wondering if I'm describing my symptom right - it's not just that I feel a bit blah/indifferent to things which would have affected me more previously, but it's actually that I can't physically feel the emotions in my heart the same anymore which is very strange. Like the physical sensations you normally feel when you get a strong emotion, e.g. heart swelling with love or butterflies in stomach for excitement or feeling of stab to the heart or heart drop /stomach knots when sad etc, that's gone and it went straight after I started the Zoloft and had the chest pressure reaction. Is that part of emotional numbing or some other problem?

50mg Zoloft mid June 2021-mid July 2021 for postnatal anxiety

Immediate adverse reaction to 50mg Zoloft after a couple of days (but told to continue for 4 weeks)

Switched to Effexor ER (150mg) mid July 2021

Taper off began in Oct 2021:

-130mg Effexor (8th Oct 21)

-112.5mg Effexor (29th Oct 21)

-75mg Effexor (12th Nov 21)

-60mg Effexor (26th Nov 21)

-48mg Effexor (11th Dec 21)

-37.5mg Effexor (26th Dec 21)

Link to comment
  • Moderator
21 minutes ago, JustaGirl said:

Is that part of emotional numbing or some other problem?

It's the emotional numbing and it's an adverse reaction to the drug. It feels very different than normal emotions of blah/indifference. But if you describe it to someone who hasn't experienced the drug reaction they will think you mean blah/indifference. I have experienced it though. It felt like a part of me was turned off and I wasn't able to cry. It will pass once your brain recovers from the drug shock.

 

Adverse reactions to an antidepressant within a few doses -- how long for recovery?

 

These are my opinions based on my own experience and what I have learned, not medical advice.

 

Drug history

2002-2019 Citalopram/Escitalopram, Lamictal
2019 April Escitalopram, quit at 10mg (withdrawal), Oct Escitalopram 10mg reinstated, quit after a few days (adverse reaction)

2019 Oct Lamictal cut from 200mg to 100mg
2019 Dec Lithium 83x2 mg

2020 Aug-Nov Lamictal tapered to 50 mg

2020 Nov 24 Lithium taper started, 30 Jan off Lithium

2021 15. March-31. May Lamictal tapered to 32.5 mg (holding)

2022 10. Jan started taking 25mg+5mg+2mg+0.5 liquid, 22. Jan went back to taking 25mg+5mg+half 5mg

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I also experience this and definitely understand what you are describing with regard to the emotional anesthesia.  For me it's not really being in a sad state or unmotivated, it's more that I cannot feel any emotions. The physical effects of excitement, anxiety, and happiness aren't there. It's like I am acting out my emotions. I've tried to force myself to watch sad videos and cry but it just doesn't happen.  All of this is accompanied by a strange feeling in my head like a pressure at my temples. When I try to force the emotions it makes the headache even worse and I just end up getting upset and frustrated. Luckily, I have had windows where I've felt a slight returns in anxiety but it doesn't last long. I wake up each morning not knowing how I'm going to be. Some days I'm like well if I never return to normal I can at least survive in this state but during the worst of it I'm like there is no way I can go on forever feeling this way. Luckily there are those slightly good days that help me believe that my brain is not damaged and I still do have the ability to feel somewhere in me.

Pristiq 25 mg - Oct 9 2021

Pristiq 25 mg - Oct 8 2021

Pristiq 25 mg - Oct 7 2021

Pristiq 25 mg - Oct 6 2021 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Just checking back in for an update and looking for some words of advice/encouragement...

 

I've been tapering off Effexor for 3 months now and I'd say I've experienced next to no withdrawal symptoms at each drop, other than a mild headache for a day or so. Because I have been tolerating the drops I've sped up the tapering because I just want to be off this poison as soon as possible. I'm down to 37.5mg now and still emotionally numb which worries me because I really hoped that when I was taking a low dose I might have started to regain my emotions again but that hasn't happened. I'm starting to worry I'll never feel again. My little boys used to bring me so much joy, I was happy and bursting with love and I can't stop thinking I'm missing the best years of their childhoods with the effects of these drugs. I just can't believe this has happened and desperately want to feel again. The doctors are saying I can just come off now as 37.5mg Venlafaxine is 'like taking smarties' and won't be having any effect but I know that's rubbish considering the terrible adverse reaction I had to just two 50mg doses of Zoloft. 

 

@Kiasofiaand mods, please can you let me know what's the next best steps? I think I am going to half my dose again to 18.75mg since nothing much has been changing when I do drop every couple of weeks. When I do make the full jump off, can I expect the emotional numbness to start lifting or will it get worse before getting better?

50mg Zoloft mid June 2021-mid July 2021 for postnatal anxiety

Immediate adverse reaction to 50mg Zoloft after a couple of days (but told to continue for 4 weeks)

Switched to Effexor ER (150mg) mid July 2021

Taper off began in Oct 2021:

-130mg Effexor (8th Oct 21)

-112.5mg Effexor (29th Oct 21)

-75mg Effexor (12th Nov 21)

-60mg Effexor (26th Nov 21)

-48mg Effexor (11th Dec 21)

-37.5mg Effexor (26th Dec 21)

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  • Moderator

Hi @JustaGirl

Thanks for the update, and also keeping your signature up to date.

2 hours ago, JustaGirl said:

37.5mg Venlafaxine is 'like taking smarties'

I'm glad you understand that this is nonsense. Here is a post that explains why tapering carefully the lower you get is important. You have been dropping every two weeks it seems. Withdrawal can catch up with you so pausing for a month is advised. Do not taper with larger decreases at lower amounts (the link explains it and more details in this one: Why taper? SERT transporter occupancy studies show importance of gradual change in plasma concentration).

 

2 hours ago, JustaGirl said:

I think I am going to half my dose again to 18.75mg since nothing much has been changing when I do drop every couple of weeks

The links I provided show why this is unwise. You can try slightly larger decreases, but not a substantially larger decrease. You want to avoid triggering withdrawal and having to increase the dose again. That will ultimately prolong how long it takes to get off the drug.

 

2 hours ago, JustaGirl said:

When I do make the full jump off, can I expect the emotional numbness to start lifting or will it get worse before getting better?

It may get better even before you jump off. 37.5mg is only a low dose according to doctors. Your brain disagrees.

 

It is great that you have made it this far❤️

These are my opinions based on my own experience and what I have learned, not medical advice.

 

Drug history

2002-2019 Citalopram/Escitalopram, Lamictal
2019 April Escitalopram, quit at 10mg (withdrawal), Oct Escitalopram 10mg reinstated, quit after a few days (adverse reaction)

2019 Oct Lamictal cut from 200mg to 100mg
2019 Dec Lithium 83x2 mg

2020 Aug-Nov Lamictal tapered to 50 mg

2020 Nov 24 Lithium taper started, 30 Jan off Lithium

2021 15. March-31. May Lamictal tapered to 32.5 mg (holding)

2022 10. Jan started taking 25mg+5mg+2mg+0.5 liquid, 22. Jan went back to taking 25mg+5mg+half 5mg

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