What Are Brain Zaps?

brain zapsBrain zap or brain shiver is a term used to describe the sensation of a sudden jolt or buzz in the brain. It is also compared to the electrical shock, has no apparent cause and is brief in duration. In most cases it’s relatively mild but people have reported the occurrences of very extreme and painful jolts. They are a temporary occurrence. Brain zaps can sometimes be accompanied by dizziness, tinnitus, mild pain and ache and a general sense of discomfort. They are sometimes categorized as paresthesia. Paresthesia is defined as burning or prickling sensation so it is not clear how it is connected with brain zaps. While they are disconcerting, brain zaps are not considered harmful in the long term. Not all patients will experience brain zaps and for those who do, the experience will not be the same.

Brain Zaps Are Reported As Symptoms In Cases Of:

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

Antidepressants help regulate the level of neurotransmitters, like serotonin and GABA in the human brain and they, in turn, impact brain function. Since antidepressants influence brain chemistry it is conceivable to conclude that after the treatment has run its course, the brain will need to adjust and relearn how to function without medication. As a result, some patients can experience antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. It is also called SRI discontinuation syndrome since culprits are usually antidepressants inhibiting serotonin. Brain zaps are one of the most obvious symptoms of this syndrome. Besides brain zaps, patients can experience flu-like symptoms, sleep problems and mood disturbances.

REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement)

 REM sleep (rapid eye movement) or eye movement, in general, is also suspect of causing brain zaps. While it can happen when quickly looking from one side to the other, people also complained of experiencing brain zaps while drifting off to sleep. This experience is linked to serotonin levels, which are also associated with antidepressants.

Side Effects Of Certain Medications

It is also possible for brain zaps to occur while taking medication, as opposed to when patients finish taking it. This is, however, a rare occurrence. Make sure to check if brain zaps are listed among the possible side-effects of your medication.


Brain zaps can also be one of the symptoms of menopause as a result of changes body undergoes at this time.

Missing A Dose Of Medication

Accidentally missing a dose or even a change in dose, besides competing for discontinuation of prescribed medication, can also cause brain zaps. In this case, brain zaps can be regarded as useful: you could consider it as a warning bell to check your medication schedule.

Appearance And Severity Of Brain Zaps

Not all people experience brain zaps, and reports about their intensity vary. They can be mild and disappear quickly. They can occur occasionally, without an apparent cause or they can be extremely uncomfortable and disrupt patient’s quality of life. They are influenced by numerous factors.

Patient’s Physiology

Despite being treated with the same drugs, patients won’t have identical reactions. People don’t tolerate drugs in the same way. While some drugs are notorious for causing brain zaps, it won’t happen with every patient. For most patients brain zaps are relatively benign. Only in rare cases they have proven problematic.

Specific Drugs

Antidepressants like serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine (SNRIs) are drugs most known for causing brain zaps. However, other types of drugs like benzodiazepines, which helps regulate GABA or some sleeping pills can also be the cause. The length of treatment or the dosage can also be a factor.

Stress And Anxiety can exacerbate symptoms. At the minimum, brain zaps can be described as unpleasant. Stressing about the occurrence will add to the level of discomfort.

Drug Interaction

Brain zaps are most likely the consequence of chemical imbalance in the brain. Because of that, patients should be careful when simultaneously taking multiple drugs. Their interaction can have different effects. If the patient has taken one or either of the drugs before and there has been no occurrence of brain zaps, taking them together can cause brain zaps. Or, a better option, even if one of the drugs has caused brain zaps, the second can neutralize this effect.

Duration Of Treatment

Duration of treatment should also be considered when talking about brain zaps. There is a higher possibility for long term patients to experience side effects like brain zaps than for patients who only took the drug for a short time because changes in neural chemistry are more noticeable over time.

Abrupt Discontinuation Of Antidepressants

The sudden stoppage is the most likely cause of brain zaps and it can increase their severity. It is recommended to avoid sudden discontinuation of antidepressant drugs. In fact, slowly tapering off is one of the suggested ways to avoid or stop brain zaps.

Ways To Avoid Or Stop Brain Zaps

Since there is no specific theory as to cause and effect of brain zaps, there is no clear resolution to the problem. However, there are several suggestions which should hopefully deal with them. Since a lot of people experience brain zaps, no matter their cause or intensity, they offered different options for reducing or stopping them altogether.

Wait It Out

The old adage that time heals is no less true in this case. Since brain zaps happen while the brain is trying to adjust to the change, in most cases no further action is necessary. They should eventually go away. While severity and duration of brain zaps depend on many factors, after some time they should subside and disappear.

Switch Medications

It could be that the patient is not reacting well to the medication and that another drug could be a way to resolve the problem. There are several factors which impact the choice of a drug. The drug’s half-life, the time needed for it to be metabolized and leave the body is one of them. For instance, drugs with the shorter half-life have a higher propensity to cause brain zaps. On the other side, drugs with relatively long half-life like Prozac can be easier to tolerate. The different dosage of the drug can also be the solution.

Restarting The Treatment

We already said that brain zaps are a most likely symptom of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. In that case, simply returning to the previous regime of medication (if warranted) should alleviate the problem. You should consult your doctor and ask for an advice.

Taking Supplements

An increasing number of people recommended taking supplements as a remedy for brain zaps. There is no scientific proof for this claim, but in general, most recommendations in this vein will include:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

They can be easily ingested via fish oil pills. Some people have suggested krill oil instead of fish oil. Krill oil contains omega-3 fatty acids similar to those of fish oil so presumably krill oil will be equally helpful.

B Vitamins are another option. There are testimonials on several Internet forums discussing brain zaps that B vitamins, in combination with fish oil, have noticeably reduced brain zaps.

Several other supplements have been mentioned as helpful in the case of brain zaps. It would appear that their effects, same as with brain zaps, will depend on the individual. L-tryptophan is in some instances recommended while some people suspected that it caused brain zaps.

Tapering Off

We have already noted that missing a dose is one of the causes for brain zaps. The abrupt stoppage is not recommended, as it will likely cause antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Instead, it is better to taper off of antidepressant at the end of treatment. Tapering means reducing the dose gradually over the set period of time. That way the brain will have time to adjust and compensate for the influence of the drug. There are no clear rules as to how long this process should last and recommendations vary. The fast taper can have an adverse effect and in general slower taper reduces the probability of brain zaps.

Schedules for tapering combined dose reduction and/or different interval between doses. Tapering should be done carefully and under the guidance of a professional.

With more people complaining of brain zaps as an unfortunate side-effect, it is expected that more research will soon follow on this subject. As of now, it is subjective experience without clear footing in science.

Besides brain zap, terms brain shiver, head zap or cranial shiver are also used, and users on forums mention that zaps can spread over the whole body. They describe it as a wave-like pulse or a low-level electrical shock. For some zaps are intensely painful, and for others, it is only unusual and short-lived sensation. They do agree that zaps are happening so  this is an issue which merits further attention. Doctors seem divided on the issue and expect further research to provide some answers.

Have you experienced brain zaps? On scale one to ten, how bad they were? Do you have any idea why you had them? Have they stopped? What did you do and what would you recommend to others?

Share your experience with others and leave a comment in the section bellow.


  1. I was on Effexor and Lyrica for many years. They had even messed up and put me on a dose that was way above the highest recommended dose of each. Being on doses so high caused brain zaps and seizures. I thought at the time that the brain zaps were warning signs for the seizures. The seizures stopped back in 2016 when I finally got the medication out of my system. Unfortunately the brain zaps started up again, without being on any new drugs, in the summer of 2018. I had been off of all ssri and benzo drugs for over 1.5 years by this point. I suspect they were triggered by stress, but do not understand why they returned. In the 8 months since they have returned they are becoming more frequent. I have at least 5 between waking up and lunch time. I have found that cbd can help to calm them so that they are not as frequent but it does not completely get rid of them. They are not only irritating but also frightening because I fear the full blown seizures will return as well. I was disabled for 4 years with the brain zaps and seizures and I do not want to go back to that, but I have no idea what is going on. I have mentioned theae brain zaps to many doctors and not a single one of them knew what I was talking about, not even neurologists. It wasn’t until this last week when I talked to my new psychiatrist about them that I learned they were an actual thing with a name. I use to call them zingers because it felt like electricity was zinging through my body like lightning. She has no idea why they started again either because I am not on any of the drugs that tend to cause them. I am hoping that they go away soon because they are making it difficult to do my job as a full time employee. I am having to cut back my hours at work down to part time now. Has anyone else had this type of experience? Where they have them for years, they go away and then come back for no apparent reason? It is frustrating that the medical community is not very educated on these brain zaps. I was made to feel like I was just making them up, and I am so relieved to know that even though it is all in my head, it is not just all in my head.

    • Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. It is certainly beneficial for members of our community to share their supportive comment. Please share more of your thoughts and feelings in the future. There are many people who struggle as you do, and hopefully other members of our community will share their thoughts and feelings as well. Have a great day, Bianca!

  2. I have experienced them on and off for years. They have been somewhat worse in the past month. I was having them while taking an antidepressant. I weaned off but they still are here. They are very uncomfortable. I used to be able to take an Antivert and they would go away. Not happening this time! A few weeks ago, I mentioned it to the PA and he looked at me like I was crazy. He didn’t know what I was talking about. SOOOO, back to square one.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. It seems as though the PA that you spoke with was unaware of this condition. Take this time to search for a medical professional that may be able to support you. Make an appointment at this time to address any concerns that you may have. Have a great day, Laura!

  3. Oh yes! I remember these when I stopped taking Paxil (cold-turkey) back in 1998. Every time I moved my eyes left or right it felt like I was on a rollercoaster, and it was always accompanied by a loud humming or buzzing sound that seemed to come from deep inside my head. Fun 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. It is certain that other members of our community will benefit from your supportive comments. Please share more of your thoughts and feelings in the future. Have a great day, Seth!

  4. My brain zaps began 2 days after sudden discontinuation of Zoloft. I went from 200 mg to 100 to 0 in 3 days. The intensity of the brain zaps increased during exercise. The lasted 1 second but were occurring every two minutes. And accompanying that was a sudden jerk that jolted all the way to my toes while running. Very alarming. It definitely felt like I could pass out. I was dizzy. I took my regular dosage and they went away immediately. I’ve never experienced a seizure, but the hypothesis in the article that they are likely localized seizures. Well, it sure fits.

    • You may want to speak with your medical professional about your symptoms. It is possible that these brain zaps are related to your sudden discontinuation. A doctor may be able to support you at this time. Perhaps speak with your medical professional about your desire to stop using your medication, but ensure that you share your experiences. Best of luck, Kelli!

  5. The days leading up to my very painful brain shock/jolt, my whole head felt very dehydrated and constantly needing water to be splashed on it to feel better. The brain shock only lasted for about a second and began behind my Left eye and traveled to the back of my head in a flash, like seeing a lightning flash in the sky. I was watching tv at the time and after that, tears began rushing to my eyes though I wasn’t crying.

    I think I may have gotten the brain shock from lack of normal hours of sleep and extra stress. My scalp is fairly constricted on the Left side of my head, so I try to rub it from time to time for relief, which does help. Also I am 30 years old.

    • There may be a variety of potential reasons for your symptoms. It is possible dehydration caused this. Something else may have influenced your experiences. You may want to make an appointment with a medical professional at this time. Continue to monitor your symptoms so you may better address any questions that your doctor may have for you. Best of luck, Ryan!

  6. I have brain zaps not related to medications (I don’t take any) this morning I let the brain zap do it thing and the brain vibrated for over a minute during this time I was trying to make it stop but realized that I was not able to speak or move any part of my body but I could hear my husband walking around and talking on the phone…kind of scary feeling as I wanted to call him and move me. My brain zaps only happen when I lay down on the right side upon falling asleep and/or waking up. I usually just change position to the left side and they stop.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. It is certain that your story will support other members of our community. Others may share their thoughts and feelings with you as well. Please share more of your positive comments in the future. Best of luck, Margarita!

  7. I have had brain zaps for years and I have never been on antidepressant drugs. My son also has brain zaps which I didn’t know for years. He has had a stroke and a heart attack. Now for the last two weeks I have music playing in my brain constantly. I have logged seventy songs that I know the words to. Some play over and over and is maddening. I have no control over this. All I can do is try to drown it out with T. v. or radio. I would like to know if anyone else has had this problem.

    • You may want to speak with a medical professional. It is possible that you would find benefit in having a scan or test completed. You will find benefit in reducing stress from your life at this time. Make an appointment with a medical professional at this time. Best of luck, Betty!

  8. I’m 58 and had late menopause. My doctor put me on Paroxetine 10mg about two years ago to help with hot flashes. I decided to stop taking it to see if a) hot flashes were better and b) if it would help reduce ear ringing and muscle cramps. I was also experiencing achy joints and some bone pain in my shins at night. The “brain zaps” started as soon as I began weaning off it, about 2 months ago. My doctor said I was not taking a high enough dose to worry about weaning off, so I can just stop taking it, but the brain zapping drives me nuts (as bad as having hot flashes!). So I slowly reduced from 10 mg to 7.5mg to .50 mg. Now I am at .25mg and the zaps are back. I still have ear ringing, but the muscle cramps and bone ache are better. I also take .50 mg levothyroxine, 5 mg melatonin, and a vitamin when I remember. I hope the zapping stops soon but reading this blog has reassured me that it is not unusual to experience this when stopping an SSRI medication.

    • Speak with your doctor about these symptoms. Thank you for sharing your positive responses regarding our article. It would be best for you to continue to monitor your symptoms. Keep a journal and write down when you experience the brain zaps. You may also want to keep a record of potential causes, such as diet, stress, or lifestyle influences. This will help you better address any questions that your doctor may ask. Best of luck, Frannie!

  9. I’ve been taking Effexor extended release for about a year-two times a day. Within the last week the brain zaps went from about 10 a day to every couple seconds. It’s extremely uncomfortable and creates a lot of anxiety for me especially when I’m trying to take care of my children at the same time. After meeting with my psychiatrist we suspect that I wasn’t fully absorbing the extended release medication (a side effect from gastric bypass surgery I had) and I should be put on the immediate release 3 times a day. I finally woke up this morning feeling great. By the afternoon, the brain zaps were back and only increased as the night went on. I’m just now learning that anxiety itself could be bringing the brain zaps on. I don’t know where to go from here now.

    • You should speak with a medical doctor. If you have already spoken with one, then you may be benefited by speaking with a naturopathic doctor. Some people have positive experiences with this medical field. Continue to monitor your experiences. You may want to visit an emergency room if it continues. If you are unable to drive, then call a friend or an ambulance. Best of luck, Desiree!

  10. I’ve had Brain Zaps coming off Lyrica, and even 60 days after stopping the same. They are not pleasant, but someone mentioned that they are a sign that the body is readjusting to being without the drug and of healing.

    • As your body gets used to life without the drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. While some of these go away in just a few weeks, other people experience withdrawal side effects for much longer. Your body will gradually get used to being without Lyrica, but you may still have this symptom until that happens. 🙁 Hopefully, they will go away sooner rather than later. Good luck, Chris Beckett!

  11. I went through bad withdrawals from Zoloft (Taken for 10 years) with the brain zaps. They lasted for about a week and were unsettling. But nothing to prevent my daily life from being interrupted. I currently am tapering off Klonopin (Benzo), and am experiencing the same sensation. I know the feeling, but am comforted in knowing they will go away. It’s amazing how the body can change and adapt.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. It is certain that you will help someone in the future. If you feel like sharing anything else about your experiences, please feel free to do so. Have a great day, Jonathan!

  12. I have recently experienced zaps when falling off to sleep which lasts for a split second. This I found rather worrying. However, after reading your article I am no longer concerned. I have been suffering elevated stress lately which could be the cause. Thank you.

    • If you properly used the condom, then she should not be pregnant. She should have no reason to use a Plan B pill if you properly used birth control. She may be experiencing symptoms due to the Plan B pill. She should also properly use birth control. It seems as though the two of you need to have a discussion about researching the proper application of birth control. Have a great day, John!


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