Brain Zaps: Are They Serious and Why Do They Happen?

While scary, this issue – often caused by coming off medication – isn’t usually dangerous

If you’ve ever experienced a ‘brain zap’ – the term typically used to refer to the startling feeling that a shot of electrical current has run through your head – you’ll know that they can be disorientating and, frankly, terrifying.


The occurrence is commonly understood to be related to decreasing or stopping medications, especially some antidepressants. The neurological mechanism behind the phenomenon, however, remains a mystery. Here, writer Lauren Brown explores what we do know.

A couple of years ago, I was slowly walking with a too-full cup of tea back to my desk. So far, so Monday morning. Suddenly, though, what felt like an electrified jolt lit up my mind, startling me beyond belief and causing me to slop hot liquid onto the office carpet.

The sensation felt like old, rusty pennies smell, metallic and sharp. As rapidly as it seized my brain, it was gone. I blinked away the tiny white lights blooming in my vision, the moment reminiscent of the head-fizzing dizziness caused by standing up too fast, and went back to my desk dazed and scared.

What the hell had just happened?

Naturally, my thoughts flew fast to dark places, not aided by the results that came up after a quick search of Dr Google (brain seizure symptoms; early signs of brain tumour). But I kept digging and eventually came across the term ‘brain zaps’. Only then did I start to connect the dots.

Full Women’s Health online article