Why is it Valuable to Closely Track Withdrawal Symptoms?


1. Your body is the most accurate gauge you have for determining your taper timeline. 

In the layperson withdrawal community, it’s believed that a taper timeline is best driven by the body’s signals rather than by a fixed calendar schedule. Tracking symptoms in writing is a key way to help attune your awareness to what’s happening in your body, and provides a means of looking back in time reasonably objectively to spot important events and trends.

2. Withdrawal symptoms are messages of disruption and important cautionary signs.

The physical, mental, cognitive, emotional, or sleep-related problems that can emerge during the course of a psychiatric drug taper are understood by the lay withdrawal community as signs from the body that it has become disrupted in some way. In other words, withdrawal symptoms are seen as the body’s way of communicating that it needs a break—and laypeople believe that these messages are the only reliable way someone has of knowing when a psychiatric drug is being removed at a rate too fast for the body to properly adapt to and recover from. Nothing else can provide that information—not a textbook, not a prescribed schedule, not a drug label, not another person’s experience of tapering off the same drug, and not the opinion of anyone else, professional or otherwise.

3. It’s often difficult to listen to the messages of your body – but ignoring them is likely to lead to progressively worsening disruption.

A growing amount of anecdotal layperson reports suggest that ignoring the body’s cautionary symptom-signals and continuing to ‘push through’ with further reductions can further disrupt and destabilize the central nervous system, escalate withdrawal symptoms, make it increasingly harder to restabilize, and prolong the overall healing timeline. Many people find that once they resolve to let their bodies call the shots and tweak their tapers accordingly, their withdrawal journeys feel far more manageable. If your goal is to maintain a good quality of life during withdrawal, anecdotal reports indicate that ‘letting your body be the guide’ is the way to go to create greater odds of success.  

But many people—ourselves included!—have found that while the concept of listening to one’s body in withdrawal may sound easy, it can be far more difficult in practice for a variety of reasons. For one thing, as current and former psychiatric patients, many of us have lived within a prescriptive framework that teaches us to expect that we’ll be given a regimented schedule for our psychiatric drugs that we can unquestioningly follow. In addition, modern Western culture is one with a strong affinity for nailing down personal schedules and setting target dates by which we’ll achieve our goals, and when it comes to coming off psychiatric drugs, this tendency is no different: many have described how strong the desire is to know exactly when the day will come that they’ll take their last dose. We’ve been there, too! It’s a perfectly understandable feeling. But the disconnect to one’s body that typically follows can end up seriously backfiring. Just as ignoring a sharp pain in one’s back for months on end might lead to a slipped disk and possibly serious and prolonged health ramifications, the layperson withdrawal community frequently reports that ignoring and trying to ‘push through’ the messages of the body during a psychiatric drug taper can often lead to much worse problems.

4. Throwing out a predetermined calendar and letting the body call the shots is a practice that can help cultivate a sense of peace, power and freedom.

When they are responsibly listening to withdrawal symptoms and taking any necessary actions to alleviate them, many people describe how this works almost like a meditation – the practice of accepting and allowing the taper timeline to be whatever it needs to be ends up deepening their connection to their bodies and ultimately to themselves. They begin to feel more in touch and in harmony with their own physical needs on a daily basis, and this brings with it a newfound sense of empowerment throughout their lives. Some even describe it as a sense of “freedom from the pharmaceutical prison” that begins to set in long, long before they take their final doses. Their taper feels “manageable” and “under control” and they are able to continue to participate meaningfully in their lives – all because they are listening closely and responding attentively to the messages coming from their own bodies each day, and letting their bodies guide them.