cgrace

Brain zaps in the week before my period

25 posts in this topic

For the last few months I've been getting brain zaps the week before my period. They start off as just a little then gradually get worse as I get closer to the first day of my period then start to diminish around day two.

I first went through brain zaps when tapering off of Effexor about 6 years ago. They were really bad then. I started Cymbalta about a year and a half ago. For the first year on Cymbalta I didn't have any problems with brain zaps unless I forgot to take a dose. Then all the sudden last October I was getting brain zaps out of nowhere (still on Cymbalta with no change in dose or schedule of taking it) and they lasted for a few weeks then just stopped. Since then I've just been getting them in the 7 or 8 days before my period. And as I get closer to the the day that my period starts I function less and less because they get so bad. I also feel dizzy and kind of out of it and just crappy.

Has anyone gone through something like this? I guess it's related to my medicine but it also strongly correlates with my cycle so that's why I posted here. I also take Lamictal, Geodon and Adderal. I told my psychiatrist about all this and any small changes we've made recently (increasing or decreasing anything) has not helped. I've also tried Benedryl and somewhere I read that malic acid helps, but neither helped for me. Anyone know what's up or going through something similar? I have never read about anyone experiencing this but thought I'd try here.

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I don't know that sounds really strange. What does your regular doctor say about it?

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I don't know that sounds really strange. What does your regular doctor say about it?

My psychiatrist seems to be baffled. She suggested I see an obgyn about it. She thinks that if I get on some kind of birth control my hormones will be more stable. But my experiences with BC have been bad. I've taken the pill at two different periods in my life and both times I lost a lot of sex drive, gained weight and, the reason for stopping both times, became depressed. Also, after discontinuing BC, it took months to recover from feeling "off" and depressed. I am usually not too picky about the sacrifices I have to take when dealing with side effects of a medication, but I just didn't think that the side effects from BC were acceptable. Thoughts?

Right now I am waiting for my period to start so brain zaps will go away. Any hour or minute now I hope...

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I don't know that sounds really strange. What does your regular doctor say about it?

Oh you asked about my regular doctor, I missed that. He doesn't know what's going on either. ;)

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Has your pdoc ruled out the Cymbalta? Brain zaps are so unique (to me, anyway) I never had them until Effexor. Maybe you want to ask about switching ADs? Maybe there is something hormonal mixing with the cymbalta during that time of your menstrual cycle? Wow. That's a stumper. If your GYN visits are covered, it wouldn't hurt.

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yeah I guess I could see what my psychiatrist says about switching something for Cymbalta. She originally thought it was from too much activating meds - Cymbalta, Geodon, and Adderall. I went from 240 mg of Geodon (Way over the suggested maximum dose... was prescribed this by my former psychiatrist) down to 100 mg which I though was a bit of a help. I'm just not looking forward to more (and probably worse) brain zaps from withdrawal of Cymbalta. I guess I have to deal with it eventually though. I just remember withdrawal from Effexor was so bad. I was miserable for weeks (and I can usually tolerate a lot of discomfort). I swore I would never go back there. If I had known that Cymbalta would cause zaps (and when I went on it I looked at what people from some boards had to say about it and I don't remember seeing anyone dealing with them from Cymbalta) I would have never ever started taking this crap. Ugg...

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you do not have to be miserable. Ask pdoc about titrating something (I went to Prozac after Effexor and Lexapro after Cymbalta.) Because I was titrating the new med and tapering the old at the same time, the side effects were minimal both times.

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Cool thanks, Celestia. Actually I asked my psychiatrist what we might try next if I get to the max dose of Cymbalta and it doesn't seem to be helping (for depression) and she said Wellbutrin. I've heard about Prozac helping with easing withdrawal but do you think Wellbutrin would work too? I was on Lexapro for 3 years before Cymbalta but it unfortunately stopped working. It was a good medication though so too bad it quit.

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Your history sounds so similar to mine. When I started Lexapro it worked better than anything I had ever been on, except maybe Effexor. Anyway, after a few years Lexapro lost its effectiveness and so rather than go off it, my pdoc suggested adding Wellbutrin to it. And together, they are great. I still get bad days, but I haven't had a major episode since I've been on the two together.

I have no idea how Cymbalta and Wellbutrin would work together. My intuition says not very, only because Wellbutrin was pretty uncomfortable (high anxiety) for the first couple of weeks. But it was worth sweating those couple of weeks.

Good luck!

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Serotonin tends to naturally decline as menstruation approaches, because estrogen makes serotonin increase. Estrogen drops at menstruation so lower serotonin is due to the hormone withdrawal associated. If you take a medication that is a SSRI, it's possible that the interaction between the SSRI and being extremely sensitive to medication/hormone/neurotransmitter changes is resulting in a serotonin-withdrawal type effect of brain zaps.

Speaking personally, I'm quite lucky I don't really get normal PMS. My mood is worst at the progesterone peak (e.g. 7-10 days after ovulation), the progesterone tends to make me very sleepy and unmotivated and generally flat/crappy and ravenously hungry too.

As menstruation approaches, I am apt to get hypomanic temporarily. One of the ways I know I'm going to menstruate soon (e.g. within 48 hrs or less) is suddenly having a HUGE burst of hyper energy and a deep, profound feeling of "oneness" with everything and these grand expansive thoughts. For me personally it seems as if the effects of progesterone withdrawal (which disinhibits the brain) are more powerful to kick up my mood, than the effects of estrogen withdrawal to dial down my mood into depression. Progesterone is a downer, estrogen is an upper, women who get depressed as menstruation approaches are reacting to estrogen withdrawal which results in that serotonin tanking and depression.

Or, another way of putting this: I am more sensitive to progesterone withdrawal (to cause a manic-like reaction) than I am to estrogen withdrawal (to cause a depressive-like reaction).

Although I notice I am prone to get depressed after ovulation (estrogen withdrawal , abrupt and marked) and also several days AFTER menstruation.

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It might help if you take 5-htp in small doses at the time of your cycle when you normally experience brain zaps. 5-htp helps increase brain availability of serotonin which would counteract the probable withdrawal you experience due to dropping estrogen.

OF course, only do this with your psychiatrist's blessing. Take it at night and start with a tiny dose, a little goes a long way.

Edited by OscillateWildly

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Serotonin tends to naturally decline as menstruation approaches, because estrogen makes serotonin increase. Estrogen drops at menstruation so lower serotonin is due to the hormone withdrawal associated. If you take a medication that is a SSRI, it's possible that the interaction between the SSRI and being extremely sensitive to medication/hormone/neurotransmitter changes is resulting in a serotonin-withdrawal type effect of brain zaps.

Well that makes a lot of sense. My psychiatrist recently increased my dose of Cymbalta from 60 mg to 90 mg. This was about 3 weeks before my last menstruation. I had way more brain zaps though. I also am way more irritable and my moods are up and down like crazy. I think this has to do with Cymbalta? If lower serotonin as menstruation approaches, shouldn't more Cymbalta have taken care of that?

I think it's time I try another AD. I've given Cymbalta a year and a half and I'm not happy with it. Looking at the last year, I think my overall depression has been helped but I get more highs and lows. And they are bad highs (very productive but so irritable I want to yell at people) and lows (I feel like worthless scum and want to SI so bad). I try hard to control my actions at these times. I guess the good thing is the highs and lows last only a few hours at a time and then I'm back at baseline. Hmm. I wish Lexapro hadn't stopped working. It was the best.

Edited by cgrace

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It might help if you take 5-htp in small doses at the time of your cycle when you normally experience brain zaps. 5-htp helps increase brain availability of serotonin which would counteract the probable withdrawal you experience due to dropping estrogen.

OF course, only do this with your psychiatrist's blessing. Take it at night and start with a tiny dose, a little goes a long way.

Ah ok I just saw your second post. I will ask my psychiatrist about this. I don't see her until after my next menstruation so I'll call her. It'll be worth trying it if it helps the brain zaps even a little bit.

Aren't there dangers with taking 5-htp with a AD?

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There def are, which is why you should only attempt it if your psychiatrist says it is okay.

Assuming you have a genuine serotonin deficiency due to estrogen withdrawal (symptoms being brain zaps), then technically it wouldn't be dangerous to take 5-htp at that time. But, like I said, make sure you tell your psychiatrist you want to try this ONLY during the time of the month where you experience the declining estrogen + brain zaps.

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ok I think brain zaps def have to do with Cymbalta. They've increased since my dose went up from 60 mg to 90 mg. Instead of happening in only the two weeks before menstruation, they've been happening a little every day. Still the worst when I'm premenstrual though. I've also been way more irritable and my moods are up and down a lot in general. It has to be Cymbalta... it's the only med that's changed recently. I'm gonna talk to my psychiatrist really soon about it.

Is there such a thing as too much Cymbalta? I know that ADs can be bad for people who have bipolar... sending them manic or hypomanic. Maybe something like that is happening to me on a smaller scale. Mostly I've been so irritable I want to scream. I'm usually pretty calm on the outside. And I've had about 5 or 6 sleepless, crazy nights with super productive days (well I think I'm being productive but really get nothing done. frustrating.) and mini crashes soon after. I've had way more thoughts about "duckman" since the increase too. That just occurred to me right now. I wonder if Cymbalta has anything to do with these thoughts?

Going to print this out and take it to my psychiatrist.

Guh. If I'm having more zaps everyday and they're the worst when I'm premenstrual, I wonder what zaps are going to be like when I'm premenstrual this month. Should be coming up in the next week and a half or so. ;)

Def not going to touch 5-htp without talking to my psychiatrist. I've read mad warnings about how dangerous and fatal it can be if it results in serotonin syndrome. I'll see what the doc says.

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Is there such a thing as too much Cymbalta? I know that ADs can be bad for people who have bipolar... sending them manic or hypomanic. Maybe something like that is happening to me on a smaller scale. Mostly I've been so irritable I want to scream. I'm usually pretty calm on the outside. And I've had about 5 or 6 sleepless, crazy nights with super productive days (well I think I'm being productive but really get nothing done. frustrating.) and mini crashes soon after. I've had way more thoughts about "duckman" since the increase too. That just occurred to me right now. I wonder if Cymbalta has anything to do with these thoughts?

I went up to 160 with Cymbalta, so it has a high ceiling with dosing. I also took it just find with Wellbutrin.

To answer your question, there can be too much Cymbalta when it comes to BP due to just what you're describing - which definitely sounds like hypomania.

The brain zaps usually come with a decrease in a med, not an increase.. so that's strange. However, it sounds to me that you could be dealing with the opposite since an increase in Cymbalta has produced more zaps than before. My theory would be to lower the Cymbalta back down and actually decrease it around your period and see what happens.

Of course if you're not seeing a benefit with Cymbalta and want to change meds this becomes a mute point.

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Is there such a thing as too much Cymbalta? I know that ADs can be bad for people who have bipolar... sending them manic or hypomanic. Maybe something like that is happening to me on a smaller scale. Mostly I've been so irritable I want to scream. I'm usually pretty calm on the outside. And I've had about 5 or 6 sleepless, crazy nights with super productive days (well I think I'm being productive but really get nothing done. frustrating.) and mini crashes soon after. I've had way more thoughts about "duckman" since the increase too. That just occurred to me right now. I wonder if Cymbalta has anything to do with these thoughts?

I went up to 160 with Cymbalta, so it has a high ceiling with dosing. I also took it just find with Wellbutrin.

To answer your question, there can be too much Cymbalta when it comes to BP due to just what you're describing - which definitely sounds like hypomania.

The brain zaps usually come with a decrease in a med, not an increase.. so that's strange. However, it sounds to me that you could be dealing with the opposite since an increase in Cymbalta has produced more zaps than before. My theory would be to lower the Cymbalta back down and actually decrease it around your period and see what happens.

Of course if you're not seeing a benefit with Cymbalta and want to change meds this becomes a mute point.

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Thank God! I'm not the only one. I've been on Paxil for 2 years now & 3 days ago I started getting brain zaps. I started my period today but didn't associate the two. I haven't changed my prescription at all & thought I was going crazy. I went off Paxil 10 yrs ago & experienced brain zaps then so I know what they are. I'm going to call my PCP today & schedule an appointment.

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I had a similar problem this morning, I went to bed earlier last night since I've been going to bed around 2am or so, even though that's not the point, I felt similar last year in the winter, and it's winter again! I took my pill this morning and I didn't feel like myself, my period is due sometime soon, and I think that's part of it, also I had a couple of beers, which I don't think helped, and This morning after I took my pill, I felt like I didn't take my pill.

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If anyone is still reading this, thank you all! I've been searching online and this thread is about all I come up with. I've been on generic effexor XR 75mg for about two years after going off it during pregnancy. I've been noticing brain zaps for months and have finally linked it to my cycle. Unlike most of you, I'm on birth control. I take generic ortho tri-cyclen and get fed up with the zaps and dizzy/foggiest during the last hormone week and the placebo week. I've now had two days of full estrogen pills and have been feeling so much better. So I think I'm going to switch back to a Monophasic pill for a steady estrogen dose. Of course the placebo week will suck, but its better than this.

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I have brain zaps during pms too! And dizziness, feeling crappy, and a bit depressed. I am taking lamictal, lexapro and welbutrin. I am going to try 5-htp and see if that helps.

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1 minute ago, Turtlelove said:

I have brain zaps during pms too! And dizziness, feeling crappy, and a bit depressed. I am taking lamictal, lexapro and welbutrin. I am going to try 5-htp and see if that helps.

I would not advise mixing 5-htp with an SSRI without running it by your doctor first.

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6 minutes ago, Turtlelove said:

I used to take it every night before bed and it was fine.

Maybe mixing it with an SSRI is not a problem for you, but I think you should run it by your doctor first just to be safe.

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I have had the EXACT same situation. I'm also on cymbalta, have been for years with no changes. But now before my cycle I get insane brain zaps. Both primary and psych have no clue. I'm not surprised. If anyone has any specific insight, especially how to end them, because you feel totally disassociated, please let me know. 

I would love any significant insight updates to the original post (only) not opinions or judgments. Thanks!!!

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