Here we have an A to Z of symptoms commonly experienced by those in benzodiazepine and antidepressant withdrawal. If you are checking on a symptom that has surfaced, please do not panic when you read this list. Also, it would be best to not visit this page often and to not go through the whole list.  Just go directly to the first letter of your symptom and check to see if yours is listed. Much time can be spent agonizing, analysing and sending oneself near insane, trying to make sense of your withdrawal reactions. This does not help with coping. It will only heighten anxiety and cause unnecessary worry.

This page will be useful for anyone discontinuing antidepressants and benzodiazepines since they can result in very similar symptoms.  So although it was initially compiled with benzodiazepine users in mind, it is applicable to both.

Be sure to check with your doctor regarding any symptoms that are causing, discomfort or any pain or any concern at all. Please get any bleeding, cysts, tumors, lumps, unusual skin marks, blood pressure issues, chest pain, breast pain and lumps, penile and vaginal discharges, other gynaecological issues, etc., checked. Diagnostic tests bring much relief and reassurance when in withdrawal.

Please do not take anything written here as medical advice or as a substitute for it. The source of this information is anecdotal only and it is intended to be regarded as informational only. It is not medical advice. You should consult your doctor for advice regarding any medical diagnosis or treatment.

Again, as you read, please remember that the recovery process is unique and you are not likely to have many of these symptoms. If you do, they may appear in ‘clusters’ and last for very short periods. This list (updated) is anecdotal and has been compiled from reports taken from 2006 to 2016. Thank you.

 


 A

Abdomen: cramping and pain in the abdomen, sometimes moving to different areas, distension, sensations of twisting and being prodded

Achiness: dull aches and pains all over the body

Agitation: restless, feeling a need to move around, ‘antsy’ feeling

Aggression: feeling confrontational and angry, even without provocation, spoiling for a fight, argumentative

Agoraphobia: fear of going out, fear of open spaces, fear of having panic attacks in unfamiliar places, often confined to home

Air hunger: feeling a sensation of not being able to breathe in sufficient air, feelings as if breathing will stop and needing to take sudden deep breaths

Akathisia: Extreme agitation, restlessness and despair, feeling of wanting to “burst” out of one’s skin, mental akathisia

Anger/Rage: often unexplained, tantrums, loss of temper with no apparent cause

Anhedonia: inability to feel pleasure, to feel any joy or happiness, to have any positive feelings, feeling flat and as if everything is doomed

Anxiety: adrenaline rushes, panic attacks, over-breathing, palpitations often including agoraphobia, in a constant state of anxiety and hyper-excitability

Anorgasmia: inability to have an orgasm, inability to feel sexual pleasure

Apathy: lack of motivation, lack of interest in self or others, emotionally flat, socially withdrawn, flatness

Appetite changes: loss, gain leading to increase or decrease in weight

Ataxia: problems with balance and controlling movement, feeling a lack of coordination, affects legs, arms, hands, fingers, entire body, speech

B

Back pain: lower, mid, upper, coccyx, all areas of back, travels to other parts of body

Balance problems/Dizziness: feeling unsteady on feet, room ‘spinning’ even when sitting or lying, feeling drunk

Benzo belly: distension, bloat, pot belly, abnormally large, looking ‘pregnant’

Bladder incontinence: Involuntary emptying of bladder, inability to control bladder

Blepharospasm: involuntary twitching of the eyelid and blinking of the eye

Bloating/Water retention: oedema, swollen feet, swollen, hands, eyelids, looking puffy

Blurred vision: everything appears blurred, problems reading and seeing generally, everything looks wrong and blurry but not in the normal ‘I need my eyes tested’ kind of way

Body temperature: fluctuations in body temperature, feeling hot, then cold or vice versa

Brain fog (Cognitive fog): feeling as if observing through a cloud, reduced mental clarity, causing confusion, forgetfulness, lack of focus, feeling spaced out

Brain moving: feeling of the brain moving inside head

Bruxism/Teeth grinding: occurs mostly during sleep (often associated with tolerance or as a side effect while still on drug) or clenching the teeth together while awake

Burning pain/Sensations: on any part of body, often the shoulders, scalp, back, hands and feet

C

Chemical sensitivities: mild to severe reactions to chemicals including cleaning products, scented products, etc.

Chills: feeling “beyond cold”, feeling chilly, feeling shivery, feeling chills but no fever,  sometimes in one area of the body or the whole body, usually nothing warming helps (e.g. heated blanket, hot water bottle, hot drinks)

Cognitive Fog/Brain fog: feeling as if observing through a cloud, reduced clarity, causing confusion, forgetfulness, lack of focus, lack of mental clarity, spaced out

Concentration loss: inability to focus attention and/or acquire new information

Confusion: simple tasks are difficult, unable to decipher directions or follow simple instructions

Constipation: difficulty having bowel movements, stool pellet-like, straining to defecate

Cravings:  sweet, sugary and high carbohydrate/high glycaemic foods

Crawling sensation on or under skin (Formication): Feeling as if ants or other insects are crawling all over (usually during acute withdrawal), sometimes feels as if under skin

Creaking joints: creaking with movement, ‘cracking’ sound in neck, arms, back, hips

Crying spells/Weepiness: feeling weepy at times without being able to identify a specific trigger, inability to stop crying

D

Delirium: feeling very confused, unable to think, not much awareness of what is going on around, reduced awareness of your environment.

Dental issues: pain in the tooth nerve, gums, sometimes radiating to entire face, feeling of a gum abscess but none evident

Depersonalisation: altered perception, dissociated feelings, detached from self, feeling like alien in own body, disconnected

Depressive mood: low, heavy mood, flat affect, unmotivated, feeling of hopelessness

Derealisation: altered perception, dissociated feelings, feeling of being distant, cut off, being in a dream-like state, surreal

Diarrhoea: frequent loose stools, watery stools, explosive evacuation

Dizziness/Balance problems: unsteady on feet, feeling as if drunk, room ‘spinning’ even when sitting or lying

Dreams: vivid, recurring, themed, nightmares with disturbing images

Dry cough: unproductive cough without phlegm

Dry mouth and or throat: mouth dry and feeling as if no saliva, throat very dry and feeling the need for water

Dry skin: skin very dry with itching and skin peeling off in some cases

Dry Retching: unproductive vomiting or the movement (peristalsis) of the stomach and oesophagus

Dyspepsia: gastric discomfort, bloating, heartburn, belching and acid reflux and feeling full after eating, even if very little

Dysphagia: having difficulty swallowing, pain or discomfort in swallowing

E

Ear: pain in the ear, feeling of ear being blocked, feeling as if partially deaf

Electric shock sensations/Zaps: feeling as if shocked, shocks running through body (any part including ears)

Emotional blunting or anaesthesia: inability to feel emotions whether positive or negative, not connected to authentic feelings

Exhaustion: extreme weakness, feeling totally without energy as if just completed a marathon, ‘bone tired’

Extreme thirst: insatiable urge to keep drinking

Eyes: sore, dry, red, tired, blurred vision, double vision, floaters, glazed, glassy appearance

F

Face pain: face hurts all the time

Facial numbness: face numb/tingling, forehead numb, no feeling in one side of face, no feeling in both sides of face

Fasciculations: muscles twitching or involuntary contractions that show under the skin

False sensations of moving (perception distortion): feel as if body is moving or chair or bed

Fatigue/Lethargy: extreme tiredness, listlessness, lacking in energy

Fear (organic)/Impending doom: fear surpassing natural anxiety/concerns re withdrawal, not identifiable with a thought or feeling, feels inauthentic but overwhelming, scared that something ‘terrible’ is about to happen, intense fear of dying

Fecal incontinence (encopresis): loss of ability to control bowels, involuntary defecation

Fits: epileptic like movements (rare, can be caused by cold turkeying)

Flu-like symptoms: feel as if getting flu with aches, joint/muscle pain, feverish, stuffy nose

Food intolerance: reacting to food previously tolerated

Formication: feeling of insects crawling all over skin

G

Gait abnormality – unsteady gait, feeling of the ground moving underneath feet,

Gastrointestinal disturbances/Stomach problems: Vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, reflux, oesophageal spasms, feeling of choking, distension, stomach cramps

Genital arousal: feeling on the verge of an orgasm without sexual thoughts or stimulation

Glassy eyes: eyes look glazed, shiny and out of focus

H

Hair: change in texture, hair loss, breakage

Hallucinations: seeing apparitions, hypnagogic hallucinations or brief events when falling asleep, usually visual, tactile, sensual or auditory

Headaches/Tight band around head: feeling as if an imaginary band around head is constantly being tightened, throbbing pain in head, migraine-like headaches, pain in temples

Hearing hypersensitivity/Hyperacusis: exaggerated sound, cutlery, crockery, environmental sounds ‘nerve-shatteringly loud’, people sound as if they are shouting

Heart: palpitations, irregular beats, thumping, beating loudly, feels as if jumping out of chest cavity

Heartburn: burning sensation in the chest, acidity

Heaviness: part of the body, especially limbs, feel extremely heavy, body feels like ‘lead’

Hormonal imbalances: including non-menopausal hot flashes, severe pre-menstrual tension

Hot flashes: sudden feeling of feverish heat, a warmth that spreads over the body, creeping heat that begins in the neck or head

Hyperactivity: feeling like the energizer bunny, unable to focus, pay attention, sit or calm down but different to akathisia

Hyper-reflexia: jumpiness, easily startled, feeling as if you want to jump out of one’s skin, involuntary overreaction to stimuli,

Hypersensitivity: to light, sound, smell, taste, touch

I

Impotence: inability to develop or maintain an erection

Incontinence: loss of bladder and bowel control, loss of bladder control during sexual activity

Indigestion: gastric discomfort, bloating, heartburn, belching and acid reflux and feeling full after eating, even if very little

Inner trembling/Shaking/Vibrating (perception distortion): feeling of body trembling or vibrating ‘on the inside’

Insomnia/Sleep disturbances: nights at a time without sleep, few hours sleep per night, waking up throughout the night, unable to go back to sleep

Intrusive memories: unwanted and persistent memory sometimes of traumatic events

Irritability: very low tolerance levels, easily irritated

J

Jelly legs: legs feel weak and rubbery as if about to give way, feeling of having no leg muscles

Jelly body: feeling that the entire body has no muscles, is made of “jelly” and is about to give way

Joint/Muscle pain: joints hurt, joints feel arthritic and muscles hurt, muscles feel as if performed rigorous exercise

Jumpiness (hyperreflexia): on edge, startled by sounds or people, extremely nervous

L

Lethargy/Fatigue: extreme tiredness, listlessness, lacking in energy, unable to even sit up

Libido loss: loss of interest in sexual intercourse, inability to become aroused

Light hypersensitivity: everything seems intensely and unbearably bright, feeling the need to wear sun glasses even inside, unable to look at computer screen

M

Memory impairment: short-term memory loss, ‘gaps in memory’ where unable to recall specific events, memory lapses (side effect of drug as well as symptom)

Menstrual problems: irregularities, PMT and dysmenorrhea: cycle changes and becomes irregular, painful periods, intense prementstrual tension

Metallic tastes: mouth has a metallic taste, gustatory distortion

Mood swings: extreme and rapid changes in moods, one minute feeling optimistic then very low, feeling ‘bipolar’, feeling manic then depressed

Moving sensations: false perceptions of body moving, sensation of brain moving in head, feeling last part of the body is moving away from the other

Muscle twitches/Jerks/Spasms: involuntary movements – myoclonic jerks, tics, twitches and spasms in different areas of body including extremities

Muscle/Joint pain: joints feel arthritic and muscles stiff and hurting, muscles feel as if performed rigorous exercise

Muscular rigidity: muscles all over feel extremely stiff, inability to move agilely

Muscular weakness: feeling as if there are no muscles in the body, excessive weakness

N

Nail problems: nails change colour, weak and splitting, nails yellow, nails white (leukonychea), look jaundiced, ridges, nails grey

Nausea: feeling of wanting to throw up all the time, feeling of being seasick

Nightmares: vivid, unpleasant sometimes terrifying dreams

Numbness/Tingling: like paraesthesia, fingers, hand, face, sometimes entire body

O

Obsessive thoughts: repetitive, unwanted thoughts

Oedema/Water retention: fluid in body tissues, swollen feet, puffiness

Oesophageal problems: oesophageal spasms, reflux

Overbreathing: breathing faster and deeper than necessary, hyperventilating

P

Pain: different parts or all of body stiff and hurting

Palpitations: heart races, beats wildly, thumps, feels like jumping out of chest

Panic attacks: adrenaline rushes, feel as if dying, feeling unable to breathe, feel as if choking

Paranoid thoughts: unfounded, suspicious thoughts, feel threatened, feel persecuted

Paraesthesia: tingling and pricking in any part of the body, pins and needles

Perception Distortion: See below

Speech of others is distorted, unable to follow a conversation, time delay or inability to reconcile words being uttered with movement of mouth

False sensations of moving e.g. feeling as though falling through bed, chair or as if part of body is moving away

Visual (seeing ‘things’) e.g. flashing lights, inanimate objects appear to be moving, people appear flat, one-dimensional and paper-like, buildings leaning, undulating floors (wavelike movement)

Gustatory distortion, metallic taste in mouth

Tactile distortion, feeling of insects crawling on skin

Perspiring: profuse sweating, night sweats, sweats

Phobias: agoraphobia – fear of crowded spaces and public places, monophobia – abnormal fear of being alone, anthrophobia – fear of people (in crowds or even individually)

Photosensitivity: sensitive to UV rays from the sun, to fluorescent and other types of light

Profuse sweating/Perspiring: rivulets of perspiration, bathed in perspiration but not feeling hot, sweating all the time even in air-conditioning, often during acute withdrawal

R

Rage/Anger: feeling violent, surge of anger, argumentative ‘out of the blue’, feeling urge to ‘lash out’

Reading/Comprehension problems: inability to read, focus or understand even simple instruction

Repetitive/Obsessive thoughts: thoughts persist and interrupt cognition, can’t stop unwanted thoughts going over and over in mind; thoughts can also be of an uncharacteristic nature

Restless legs: sensation in legs, overwhelming urge to move legs when lying down, leg jerks while sleeping

S

Scalp: pain in the scalp, burning

Sensitivity: can happen in any part of body including penis, vagina,

Sexual dysfunction: loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, loss of interest in sexual intercourse

Shaking/Tremors: uncontrollable shaking and tremors, hands shake, part of body or whole body trembles

Shivering: shaking and shivering all

Sinusitis: pain in the sinuses, exacerbation of sinus issues

Skin problems: rashes, acne, itching, burning, stripping and other problems on different areas of skin, wounds heal slowly

Sleep disturbance/Insomnia: nights at a time without sleep, few hours sleep per night, waking up throughout the night, unable to go back to sleep, falling asleep and waking up suddenly unsure if you were asleep or hallucinating, toxic naps

Soft tissue pain: thighs and other fleshy areas of body hurt

Speech difficulty: Stuttering, difficulty speaking, difficulty pronouncing words that were effortless prior to withdrawal, unable to speak fluently

Stomach problems/Gastrointestinal problems: vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, reflux, oesophageal spasms, feeling of choking, distension, stomach cramps

Sweats/Chills: one minute perspiring profusely then freezing/shaking, hot flashes as if menopausal then shaking, hot then chills as if one has ague

Sweating: profuse sweating regardless of temperature, body washed in perspiration, clothes wet

T

Temperature: fluctuations in body temperature

Terror: extreme fear that surpasses the organic fear, impending doom, high anxiety, etc., often comes with akathisia

Thirst: extreme thirst, excessive drinking of water due to unquenchable thirst

Throat: sore, tight, choking sensation, spasming

Thoughts: repetitive, unwanted, ruminating, intrusive, obsessive, morbid, suicidal

Tinnitus: constant or intermittent ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking in the ears, high-pitched noise in ears

Tiredness/Exhaustion: exhausted, void of energy

Tongue pain: throbbing pain in tongue, burning sensation

Tooth/Gum/Mouth pain: nerves in teeth hurt, gum hurts, all teeth in mouth hurt

Touch hypersensitivity: extreme sensitivity to touch

Tremors/Shaking: uncontrollable shaking and tremors, hands shake, part of body or whole body trembles

Twitching/Tics: muscles in different areas of body twitch, involuntary movements, vocal tics

U

Uncontrollable crying: unable to stop crying (for no apparent reason)

Urinary problems: frequency, urgency urinary tract infections, partial or complete incontinence, bladder hypersensitivity, dysuria

V

Vertigo: sensation of the environment and room spinning, losing one’s balance, feeling dizzy when looking down

Vision blurred or double: everything appears blurred, problems reading, seeing ‘double’

Visual perception distortion: seeing ‘things’, inanimate objects appear to be moving, people and objects appear flat, one-dimensional and paper-like

W

Water retention/Oedema: fluid in body tissues, swollen feet, puffiness

Weakness: feel drained of energy, almost unable to move or even sit up

Weepiness (Crying spells): spontaneous bouts of crying without being able to identify a specific trigger, uncontrollable crying

Weight issues: unexplained fluctuations in weight, inability to gain weight, inability to lose weight, benzo belly (weight gain and bloated ness of stomach)

Z

Zaps: electric shock sensations, feeling as if shocked, shocks running through body (any part including ears)

 

References:

Ashton, C. Heather, 2007. Benzodiazepines: How They Work and How to Withdraw SC: Busatti Corporation.

Frederick, B. (2014) Recovery & Renewal. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

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