Brain zaps are also known as brain shocks, brain shivers, or head shocks.
They are often confused with wet brain syndrome or Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome .
Symptoms may also occur with antidepressant withdrawal symptoms, e.g. Zoloft withdrawal (Sertraline).
A 2017 survey of 250 people who used long-term psychiatric drugs, mostly antidepressants, found that nearly half of the users experienced severe withdrawal symptoms along with brain shock symptoms, when attempting to discontinue the drug .
What Are Brain Zaps From Alcohol?
Brain zaps are a sudden condition that occurs during withdrawal syndrome.
Brain zaps are not dangerous to the brain or central nervous system, but are disorienting, and disrupt daily life.
Research suggests that zaps happen when an individual moves their eyes from side to side during withdrawal .
The effects last for a few minutes before disappearing.
Brain zaps may occur over a few weeks, based on a systematic review .
Individuals with alcohol use disorder or who drink heavily, can experience brain zaps soon after their last drink, due to physical dependence issues.
Brain zaps are frequently accompanied by other symptoms :
What Do Brain Zaps Feel Like?
People who experience brain zaps describe them as a momentary sensation in the brain, similar to electrical shock .
Peer reviewed studies describe them as a short period of losing consciousness, hearing eyes move, a zap in the head along with a buzzing sound, a feeling of disorientation, and vertigo .
In less common experiences, participants reported headaches and a seizure-like feeling in the head.
Descriptions Of Alcohol-Related Brain Zaps Include :
Brain zap symptoms differ in every person undergoing alcohol or drug withdrawal since each body is chemically unique.
Frequency And Intensity Of Attacks
The attack may be isolated to the brain in one episode, while it occurs in the entire head in the next episode.
It may also precede, follow, or accompany, an escalation of anxiety sensations.
Brain zaps are slight, intense, or moderate, depending on the individual.
Brain Zaps Are Not
Although some believe brain shakes are very minor, localised seizures , in practice, brain zap episodes differ from full blown alcoholic seizures, in that they are shorter, momentary episodes; usually experienced internally only, and do not involve whole body tremor, protracted loss of consciousness, or continual involuntary movements.
Alcohol As A Cause Of Brain Zaps
Professionals are unsure how precisely how brain zap attacks are caused by withdrawal syndrome or antidepressant discontinuation.
However the common theme is discontinuation.
Discontinuation syndrome occurs when suddenly quitting drinking or certain medications rather than weaning off slowly .
Brain zaps also occur after reducing or interrupting alcohol consumption or sudden withdrawal from antidepressant medicines.
Thus, discontinuing SSRIs, including Paroxetine, Fluoxetine, Citalopram, Escitalopram, and Sertraline, or alcohol consumption after heavy use, cause brain shocks.
Brain zaps are not the only alcohol withdrawal symptom an individual experiences after quitting alcohol.
Withdrawal From Other Substances As A Cause of Brain Zaps :
There is a common theme of sudden withdrawal from medications, altering neurotransmitter levels in the brain, as a cause of onset for brain zaps.
Withdrawal from antidepressant medications (including serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), amphetamine salts, ADHD medications, Benzodiazepines, MDMA (Ecstasy), sleep medications, drug abuse, multi-substance abuse can all result in brain zap symptoms .
Who Is At Increased Risk Of Brain Zaps From Alcohol
Remedies For Brain Zaps
To prevent or avoid brain zap episodes, consider certain remedial actions.
Control Anxiety Levels
Studies have shown that anxiety causes brain zaps .
Anxiety is one of the common causes of brain zaps after alcohol and medication-induced brain zaps .
Alcohol withdrawal causes stress and anxiety, which may exacerbate brain zaps .
Individuals with brain shivers notice that the frequency of the condition increases during periods of high-stress .
Managing stress and staying away from activities causing anxiety are important to prevent or treat brain zaps.
Performing activities that relieve stress while undergoing alcohol withdrawal may reduce the frequency of brain zap episodes.
Taper Off Alcohol And Medications Slowly
The best way to prevent or reduce the effects of brain zaps is to gradually stop drinking alcohol or consuming medications, with professional help, instead of stopping abruptly.
However, evidence indicates that slowly quitting alcohol does not guarantee a person avoids experiencing brain zaps and other symptoms of withdrawal syndrome .
Quitting cold turkey may lead to delirium tremens, and other more severe symptoms.
This does not guarantee to avoid withdrawal symptoms in general.
Improve Health with Supplements
Supplements are not a treatment or solution to brain shivers.
Here are some supplements that are helpful in alleviating alcohol withdrawal and brain zaps :