Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Symptoms
Post Acute Withdrawal symptoms generally fall into 3 primary categories: Physical, Emotional and Mental. PAWS symptoms can be as minor as a headache or as debilitating as insomnia lasting for weeks. Some people will only experience one or two particular symptoms, while others might suffer from a multitude of symptoms. Overall the symptoms of post acute withdrawal can be broken down in the following way:
*Physical Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal
Physical symptoms of PAWS include insomnia, headaches (including migraines), nausea, restlessness, lack of coordination, decline in fine motor skills, sweating, aches and muscle pains, sexual dysfunction and severe cravings for drugs or alcohol.
Additionally, the physical symptoms of protracted withdrawal are believed to be responsible for the rise of the term “Dry Drunk.” This term describes an alcoholic who stumbles and sways and loses his or her balance as if they are drunk, despite the fact that they have been clean for some time. These symptoms are caused by PAWS and are generally more severe in long term alcoholics but can be experienced by anyone; especially during the first year of recovery.
*Emotional Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal
Emotional symptoms of PAWS can be dangerous and include depression, thoughts of suicide, anxiety, isolation, inability to “feel,” lack of interest in anything, irrational responses to benign stimuli, mania, “clinginess” or co-dependence, mood swings, and an inexplicable craving to use drugs or alcohol.
*Mental Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal
Mental symptoms of PAWS can make it difficult to follow a treatment plan, necessitating the help of a support system in order to
mitigate these effects. Symptoms include confusion about simple things, inability to feel organized or form complex thought processes, lack of short term memory, missing elements of long term memory, inability to concentrate, difficulty having sustained conversations, mental exhaustion, inability to perform once-easy tasks, and many more symptoms. The mental symptoms of PAWS are probably the most difficult to self-identify without a well-planned recovery program, although they may be the easiest for others to observe.
I’ve always found it surprising just how different post acute withdrawal symptoms can be from person to person, but sometimes they are identical. See for yourself in this collection of quotes from my wife Debbie’s Squidoo Lens about PAWS:
I can’t seem to control my thoughts which lead to stress and eventually anxiety. I’m developing all sorts of phobias and my energy levels fluctuate. Anyone know when this will last? -Jayson
I experience several of the PAWS symptoms after 3 1/2 yrs. Not 24/7 but enough to bother me. -Robert M.
I can’t handle this feeling anymore, the cravings are too much. -Travis
In the past month I started getting tingling sensations in my legs and hands when PAWS strikes. This is accompanied by some of the same withdrawal symptoms that I have always had. Has anybody else had these feelings? Does PAWS sometimes get worse before it gets better? -Garrett
I see myself in this article called “PAWS”. I wonder…do I need to go back to meetings? Do I get off all medication? I am so isolated now, it’s frightening. -Mona Koczko
I am actually just over 60 days clean and I have been very emotional and nit-picky with my boyfriend so bad where it’s causing problems in our relationship and arguing a lot. -Casey
2 weeks after quitting I was very clear headed and felt really great, actually; suddenly I woke up one day with maddening anxiety that quickly evolved into paranoia and full on depression over the next couple days. Over a period of a year and a half I experienced simultaneous waves of anxiety, paranoia, and depression that would last weeks at a time before subsiding temporarily. School, work, and a social life were nearly impossible to manage and just added more stress. Eventually the waves became less and less debilitating, and showed up less often. -Anonymous
It took a good year to get my head straight on all levels. -Marie
Extreme exhaustion within the first 3-4 weeks followed by depression and then emotional instability and terrible anxiety. -Diane
8 months since last drink. PAWS symptoms tend to come and go in severity but ability to concentrate and initiative stay severe and pretty constant. -Ralph
How am I expected to find contentment or a sense of self when I feel clinically insane most the time? -Pete
I have been having an incredible difficulty concentrating. My head almost feels like pins and needles at points, I zone out when people talk to me, and I am still suffering from the occasional anxiety attack. -Dan
I am still experiencing wicked stage 1 withdrawal symptoms combined with the onset of PAWS. It royally sucks and I just want a reprieve. I know I can’t though. -Jason S.
I am 20 months clean and sober from Crack Cocaine Addiction. Back in school to become a Substance Abuse Counselor. PAWS symptoms are still pronounced. Sleep Disorders. Fatigue, Anxiety. -David
I feel extremely frustrated with the PAWS symptoms that I am experiencing. Lately I have felt a lot less productive, and a significant decline in my intellectual capabilities. -Tara Lynn
Any attempt to share activities I enjoy with my friends or family is met with both physical cramping of the body, and mental side effects (inability to communicate, feel feelings, confusion anger). -Anonymous
The Main Symptom I suffer from is the memory troubles and depression they stay constant it’s driving me crazy. -Anonymous
As you can see, some of these people feel helpless about their symptoms; even though they understand that they are related to the condition known as post acute withdrawal syndrome. This is precisely why it’s so important to understand the symptoms and the treatment methods – a duality often missed by many treatment experts. To learn more about PAWS, please visit our Post Acute Withdrawal Forum, read our Articles, or consider my upcoming book titled Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome: This Too Shall Pass.