Brain Zaps

Antidepressant Brain Zaps

Antidepressant brain zaps are a common withdrawal symptom that some people may experience when stopping or reducing the dosage of an antidepressant. Brain zaps can be described as a feeling of electrical jolts or shocks in the brain that can be uncomfortable or even painful. On this page, we will discuss antidepressant brain zaps in detail, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Causes of Antidepressant Brain Zaps

This paragraph is what the established medical community thinks. The exact cause of antidepressant brain zaps is not fully understood. However, it is believed that they are related to changes in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly serotonin. When a person takes an antidepressant for a long period of time, their brain adjusts to the increased levels of serotonin by reducing its own production of the neurotransmitter. When the medication is stopped suddenly, the brain is left with low levels of serotonin, which can cause withdrawal symptoms, including brain zaps.

This is what was discovered and published in 2003 by medical researcher, Jim Harper. "I have to estimate, roughly 10% of the people wanting to taper off their antidepressant stop the taper and go back on the full dosage of their drug because of a side effect known as "brain Zaps." It seems to best be described as an electrical jolt that runs from the base of the neck, moves upwards into the skull. The phrase, electrical jolt, does not seem to do this symptom justice. The brain zaps are quite debilitating.

I will cut to the chase with this portion of my lecture. For an electrical current to exist you need to have two poles, or two ends. A beginning, an end point or in some cases you need a loop. Within the portion of the brain where the brain zaps originate and end, the body wants to create these points with fats from omega 3. It's probably worth a research grant for someone if they want to spend the time figuring out why antidepressants are doing this.

Before you start your patients on a taper program, have them start taking omega 3 fish oil. Some of you might be thinking high DHA omega 3 fish oil is the answer. For those of you not familiar with omega 3 fish oil; the DHA portion of fish oil is for structure, while the EPA portion of fish oil is for function. At first, I thought this must be a structure problem but it turned out to be function. You need to use the highest EPA omega 3 available. I'm actually going to take this one step further. The type of fish the omega 3 fish oil is made from makes as much difference as the amount of EPA.

Symptoms of Antidepressant Brain Zaps

Antidepressant brain zaps can be described as a sensation of electrical jolts or shocks in the brain. The symptoms of brain zaps can vary in intensity and duration, and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as:

Dizziness or lightheadedness




Anxiety or irritability

Insomnia or other sleep disturbances

Treatment Options for Antidepressant Brain Zaps

Omega 3 fish oil is the only thing that stops antidepressant brain zaps.

In most cases, the brain zaps only begin when reducing the medication. It is extremely rare for brain zaps to start when increasing the dosage.

If you are experiencing brain zaps, immediately, go to any store that sells supplements and look for a bottle of omega 3 fish oil that has the highest amount of EPA in each serving. Fish oil is made of two parts, EPA and DHA. It is the EPA in fish oil that will help, not the DHA.

Look at the back of the bottle and read the supplement label. Try and find a bottle that has at least 400mg of EPA in 2 soft gels.

You will likely need to take 2,000mg of the EPA to get relief. This could mean taking as many as 4 or 5 softgels at once. If you can’t find an omega 3 fish oil with 400 mg of EPA pick up the highest EPA bottle you can find.

In 2003, the first-person using omega 3 fish oil for brain zaps could only find a very cheap omega 3 and had to take 12 soft gels at once. The good news is that the brain zaps should subside within an hour.

Don’t reduce the antidepressant further at this point.

Ideally, go back up to the last dosage you were taking, when you did not have brain zaps, and remain there for the time being. If brain zaps were the only withdrawal side effect you experienced, get at least 4 bottles Omega 3 Supreme so you do not run out unexpectedly.

Using the Omega 3 Supreme, you should only need 1 soft gel in the morning and 1 in the early afternoon to stop the brain zaps from returning when you continue with the withdrawal.

The next time you reduce the antidepressant, if a brain zap starts, take an extra Omega 3 Supreme and the next day you should only need the 2 in a day again.

As you continue with the withdrawal, if a brain zap tends to still start the day or day after you reduce the antidepressant, start taking 2 in the morning and afternoon the day before you reduce the drug. Then one day after the reduction, go back to the 1 soft gel in the morning and 1 in the early afternoon.

If you have not started reducing the antidepressant yet or have gone back to the last dosage of to stop the withdrawal side effects

Do not reduce the medication until you have the Omega 3 Supreme. Get at least 4 bottles and when they arrive start taking 1 soft gel in the morning and 1 in the early afternoon. Keep taking the Omega 3 Supreme for 45 days after the last dosage of the antidepressant. That approach should do it.

If you have other antidepressant side effects or are about to start withdrawal, send Jim Harper and email at and he will guide you through the process.