You might have felt extremely tired and blamed it on things like poor sleep or a busy day, saying your energy was “zapped.” But some people feel actual zap-like sensations in their brains, known as “brain zaps.”

While not a medical term, brain zaps are a real experience. Dr. Howard Pratt, a psychiatrist, describes them as feeling like a tiny electric charge in the brain.

Brain zaps often happen when people suddenly stop taking antidepressants. These medications, especially ones like Venlafaxine, can cause brain zaps if stopped abruptly. In fact, 42.5% of people who stopped antidepressants reported experiencing brain zaps.

Brain zaps can feel like mild shocks, dizziness, or brief moments of feeling spaced out. Sometimes they can even make you feel off-balance. Though they are mostly felt in the head, they can spread to other parts of the body.

The main cause of brain zaps is withdrawal from antidepressants. When you stop taking these medications suddenly, serotonin levels in the brain drop quickly, triggering brain zaps. Missing a dose can also cause them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct treatment for brain zaps, but they can be prevented. Gradually tapering off antidepressants under medical supervision can help. Using a “bridge medication” like fluoxetine can make the process smoother.

To avoid brain zaps, take your medication as prescribed and set reminders to help you remember. Though brain zaps are unpleasant, they typically go away on their own within a few days.

For more information on this topic, visit Parade’s website.

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