Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

The following is a list of possible symptoms; it is not a list of what you will suffer from during withdrawal. You are unlikely to experience more than a few of these symptoms during withdrawal, and may experience none at all. Some of these withdrawal effects are reported from anecdotal evidence and may be spurious. All of these symptoms can have causes other than withdrawal from benzodiazepines. It is important for you to discuss any new symptoms with your doctor.

  • Most Common
    • Physical:
      • Muscle pain
    • Psychological:
      • Anxiety
      • Depression
      • Insomnia
  • Less Common
    • Physical:
      • Gastrointestinal problems (may include abdominal pain or cramps, and distension)
      • Visual disturbances (blurred vision, hypersensitivity to light, seeing spots, sore eyes, dry eyes)
      • Headaches (may include feelings of tightness in head)
      • Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, lethargy, weakness)
      • Sweating
      • Pain in neck and shoulders, teeth and jaw
      • Limbs feel heavy
      • Balance problems, dizziness, unsteadiness, loss of coordination
      • Shaking
      • Feelings of tightness in chest, breathing difficulties, palpations, inner trembling
    • Psychological:
      • Phobias (most common are agoraphobia, social phobia, and the fear of going mad)
      • Panic attacks
      • Rapid mood swings
      • Restlessness, jumpiness
      • Loss of memory, trouble concentrating
      • Nightmares
      • Irritability
      • Derealisation (feelings of unreality, changes in perception)
  • Least common
    • Physical:
      • Changes in appetite, weight gain or loss
      • Constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting
      • Difficulty swallowing, increased saliva, loss of taste or metallic taste, sore mouth and tongue, dry mouth
      • Craving of sweet foods
      • Tinnitus (ringing in ears)
      • Menstrual changes
      • Changes in libido
      • Urinary problems (frequency, urgency)
      • Skin rashes, itchy skin, dry skin, slow healing of wounds
      • Painful scalp
      • Feelings of 'pins and needles' , tingling or numbness in arms, legs, face or trunk
      • Hypersensitivity to sounds
      • Hyperactivity
      • Speech difficulties
      • Rapid changes in body temperature
    • Psychological:
      • Depersonalisation (feeling like you don't know who you are)
      • Hallucinations
      • Feeling suddenly aggressive or full of rage
      • Paranoia
      • Intrusive thoughts or memories
      • Morbid thoughts, suicidal thoughts
      • Unusually sensitive (such as to reading or watching news stories)

Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome

It is first important to understand that, generally speaking, a syndrome is not a disease, per se. Rather, it is a collection of symptoms associated with a particular condition where the causal mechanism is unknown. If you have read the withdrawal symptoms list above, you will be familiar with the possible effects associated with benzodiazepine withdrawal. If these withdrawal symptoms continue for many months after you have finished your taper, then your symptoms can be said to be "protracted"; this does not mean permanent! Therefore, Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome (PWS) is just a label to indicate that you have not been lucky enough for your withdrawal symptoms to have cleared up (or largely cleared up) within some weeks or a few months of taking your last dose of a benzodiazepine.

PWS is characterised by a group of symptoms that are assessed clinically (not by blood tests etc.). Because the cause for these protracted symptoms is not understood and these symptoms go on for some time, then the term "PWS" is appropriate, but not very helpful. Some of us take longer to get better, that is all. It would be a mistake to think that you have another disease - PWS is not a disease! It is probably better to think of PWS as "protracted withdrawal symptoms", because this is exactly what they are.

Please regard these documents as informed opinion and not replacements for professional healthcare. We do not claim them to be complete, nor 100% correct for all people. It is important that you discuss any ideas from this website with your doctor or other appropriate healthcare practitioner.