Background: Antidepressant withdrawal symptoms are well-recognised, but their potential duration remains uncertain.
Objective: We aimed to describe the characteristics of withdrawal associated with two popular classes of antidepressants, including duration.
Methods: We analysed the content of a sample of posts on an antidepressant withdrawal website. We compared the characteristics of withdrawal associated with SSRIs and SNRIs, including time of onset, duration and nature of symptoms.
Results: 110 posts about SSRI withdrawal, and 63 concerning SNRI withdrawal, were analysed. The mean duration of withdrawal symptoms was significantly longer with SSRIs than SNRIs: 90.5 weeks (standard deviation, SD, 150.0) and 50.8 weeks (SD 76.0) respectively; p = 0.043). Neurological symptoms, such as 'brain zaps,' were more common among SNRI users (p = 0.023). Psychosexual/genitourinary symptoms may be more common among SSRI users (p = 0.054).
Limitations: The website aims to help people with antidepressant withdrawal, and is therefore likely to attract people who have difficulties. Length of prior use of antidepressants was long, with a mean of 252.2 weeks (SD 250.8).
Conclusions: People accessing antidepressant withdrawal websites report experiencing protracted withdrawal symptoms. There are some differences in the characteristics of withdrawal associated with different classes of antidepressants.
Keywords: Antidepressant; SNRI; SSRI; antidepressant withdrawal; online report.