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September 26, 2014 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I am nervous and excited to be tapering off Prozac. What can I expect?

I started taking an SSRI for obsessive thoughts a long time ago, maybe 2010. Since 2012 I haven't had any obsessive thoughts and I was told I was in remission from OCD by my pdoc at the time! Yay! However I stayed on the SSRI until now, because I didn't want the obsessive thoughts to recur. I have been wondering when/if I can stop taking the SSRI, and my pdoc said I can try going from 80mg to 40mg.

What can I expect? Will it be easy to tell if my symptoms are occurring again (versus the effects of stopping)?

It's difficult to pinpoint what, if any, side effects I have been having with Prozac. Of the list of side effects, I experience quite a few of them. But I am also on a lot of different meds/remember having issues with those symptoms before Prozac. I am excited to see if any of this stuff goes away. My doctor also expressed concern I might have too much serotonin (and that might explain some other issues I am having), and that is his main reason for supporting me stopping.

I guess I am just looking for experiences when stopping an SSRI for a condition that is in remission. Did you regret stopping? Is life way harder now? Or did the effects stay with you?
posted by tweedle to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Will it be easy to tell if my symptoms are occurring again (versus the effects of stopping)?

Fellow obsessive here! *waves*

Yes, it will be very obvious if and when you start having the thoughts again. Have you had some coping strategy training with your therapist, or have you tackled the issue entirely with medication? If you haven't had some therapist sessions, I'd see if you could get that before you taper off, so that you don't allow the obsessions/compulsions to overtake you because you don't have a coping mechanism to handle them. It's kind of like getting "ahead of" pain...once you've satisfied that first compulsion, it's really difficult to stop, rather than heading it off at the pass.

Feel free to PM me if you want deeper info. I have had great success with talk therapy in curbing most and eliminating some of my compulsions.
posted by xingcat at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2014

xingcat has it.

Also, don't try tapering faster than recommended. Withdrawals can be bad. On the bright side, Prozac is known to cause fewer withdrawal symptoms than some other SSRIs. Still. Please take it slow, and take xingcat's advice.

Good luck!
posted by whoiam at 10:44 AM on September 26, 2014

Tried stopping twice (with tapering the dose as recommended by doctor); depression/anxiety returned within a couple months both times (first month off meds was ok as I recall; it takes several weeks for the effects to start reversing). Went back on meds both times after trying to tough it out for a few months.

One withdrawal effect I wasn't expecting was dizzy spells, which lasted a few weeks after stopping the meds. They were brief (a few seconds) and would occur a few times per day. YMMV of course.
posted by phoenix_rising at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2014

Toxicologist weighing in: I can't speak to the personal experience side of this, but do heed the precautionary advice to proceed with care and patience when changing dose. Go as slowly as your physician will permit, and temper your own enthusiasm to try the reduction with patience. Stick with the regimen you both agree to, and possibly keep a diary of your sensations and experiences in the process so you'll recognize the day to day changes that may otherwise be too small for you to keep in mind over time. Congrats on your progress (and I applaud you, from my tox side of things, for reducing your pharma intake; "I'm going to lower/reduce my dose" is music to my ears).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:08 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

From a commenter that would prefer to remain anonymous:
I am a mid-forties male who was on SSRIs for 9+ years. I discontinued over this past summer. I feel great and think it was the right time.

My experience - which my NP-therapist advised might occur included:

- brain zaps and very brief dizzy spells (like 2 seconds max)

- the occasional well-known 'suicidal thoughts'. this was really not a big deal since knowing about it a priori pretty much fully disarmed it...these faded very quickly ( ~ two weeks )

What I wasn't told about and wish I was: my sex drive returned full-on like I was 19 again. Funny and awesome as it seems, it was very disconcerting to have this absolute flood of sexual preoccupation every waking moment. It took a while to recognize, accept, and deal with well.

My partner has been very helpful and understanding (and psyched).
posted by mathowie at 12:12 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've gone off Prozac twice, around age 20 and again around age 30 - both without doctor's supervision, which I don't actually recommend. But having said that, I will say that both times were super easy. I had no noticeable side effects or difficulties in stepping down doses. In both cases I was then more or less symptom-free for years after. I still had some low-level depression because that's just who I am, but the major depressive episode was clearly gone and stayed gone for many, many years. When it did eventually come back, both times, it was really clear and easy for me to tell. One thing Prozac did for me was show me what it's like to be NOT entirely at the mercy of the monsters in my brain, and having had that experience, it was infinitely easier to recognize it and take steps to handle it when the monster tried to pop up again years later.

I don't regret taking the meds at all, either time. I don't regret stopping them. I don't personally regret tapering off on my own, but don't recommend it to others because I know I got very lucky. My brain chemistry seems to play beautifully with SSRIs and also to let them go gracefully; I know not everyone else's does.
posted by Stacey at 1:05 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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