Lean on Me: The Importance of Having a Support System During Psychiatric Medication Withdrawal

a carved wooden hand coming out of the ground is holding up the trunk of a tree

When it comes to navigating the difficulties that come with being human, people seek out support in many different ways. Some find themselves yearning for a friend’s open ear any time they feel a dip in the road. Others have a different impulse: to keep their pain to themselves, no matter how intense it may be. Indeed, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to get through difficult times. Really, it’s what works best for each of us, given who we are, what we value, what the circumstances of our lives are, et cetera.

But when it comes to withdrawing from an antidepressant, benzodiazepine, antipsychotic, mood stabilizer, stimulant, and/or Z-drug, many of us in the layperson withdrawal community have discovered that validation and support can be not just helpful to the process, but also integral to its success—even for those of us who otherwise consider ourselves to be especially stoic and independent.

Here’s the thing about psychiatric drug withdrawal: If you’ve never experienced or witnessed it firsthand, it’s nearly impossible to grasp just what it can look and feel like—especially for someone who already has a compromised central nervous system (to learn more about this topic, visit “The Risks of Central Nervous System Destabilization Before and During Withdrawal” in our Help Hub). Family members and friends often find themselves unprepared for the unexpected, strange, or even seemingly unbelievable withdrawal difficulties that can crop up along the way in the lives of those they love— or for how long these difficulties can sometimes last. Understandably, they eventually become so confused, frustrated, afraid, or overwhelmed that they reach the point at which they feel the need to back away, leaving the person desperately yearning for support with none at all.

Similarly, strongly independent people who started their withdrawal process convinced they wouldn’t need a shoulder to lean on often discover over time that, in fact, they can no longer sustainably manage withdrawal all alone. They realize that they’re in need of support—practical, emotional, or otherwise—only they have no idea of how or where to find it, thick in the throes of withdrawal as they now find themselves.

To minimize the chances of finding yourself without the support you might need during the psychiatric drug taper journey, it can be wise to build a solid, sustainable support system well in advance of setting out to make that first reduction in dose. To learn more about what this process can look like and to find helpful exercises, tips, and ideas for how to go about getting a network of support in place, read Step 5 in our "Companion Guide to Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal", "Building a Support System". You may want to also want to consider joining TWP Connect, which helps people at various stages of the psychiatric drug withdrawal journey find and connect with one another in person based on geographical location, personal experience with taking and coming off psychiatric medications, interests, and needs.