Healing is a Shocking Process: Protracted Psych Drug Withdrawal Syndrome (Iatrogenic Brain Injury)


Healing from this particular form of iatrogenic injury is a shocking process. It is shocking by nature of the fact that one of the hallmarks of this brain injury is a deep and profound neurological terror. This terror, held in the autonomic nervous system, manifests in a myriad number of forms from individual to individual. Even within the individual it most often shows up in numerous ways — possibly and often impacting every system of the body. (see: Protracted psych drug withdrawal syndrome, chronic illness, CFS, Fibromyalgia: it’s autonomic nervous system dysfunction)

And so this fear creates defenses in all of the systems of the body too. On a psychological level we are defended in ways typical of complex post traumatic stress, for example. For many the drugs simply further ingrain the neuropathways that were created from previous traumas in our lives. The drugs, indeed, make our initial issues worse in this way. (See: Psychiatric Drugs as Agents of Trauma and more posts on trauma here.)

We are also impacted by hypersensitivities to foods, drugs and chemicals. Our bodies are “defending” us from foods that should in fact be good for us. This results in our not being able to take in the very nutrients we need for good health. These end up acting like true allergies in many people, manifesting hives and even anaphylactic shock sometimes. They are not imaginary. They are real biological realities.  (More on food and sensitivities here.)

The immune system is impacted and so auto-immunity appears in many of us. This is the immune system attacking our own body. Again, the defenses out of control. We are in a constant state of DEFENSE.

This is only a small partial list. The list could go on and on as many of us know.

So, when we actually start to heal from this nightmare we have found ourselves in it is shocking.Our system screams NO to that which can heal us because that is the very nature of the injury. We must slowly allow our defenses to come down. We must watch this process and as we see what is happening a slow process of  thawing out and then relaxation starts to occur. As we pay attention and allow what is happening to us to happen to us (because it is happening, so we might as well learn from it) we start to develop insights that help us take actions that do indeed help us heal. The healing process is truly a mystery and looks different for every one. No healing journey is repeated twice. Some will see themselves in this description and others will not because this description cannot embrace the perceptions of every healing journey. (See: What does it mean to heal?)

To be clear, all of this is deep within our bodies. We are deeply impacted biologically and physiologically and yet it is our capacity to observe that, in the end, helps us to heal most profoundly and so, this is truly an opportunity to learn about the intimate co-involvement of the body/mind/spirit.

For me healing involves all aspects of holistic wellbeing. Everything matters and so I live as though it does.  My life has transformed and continues to transform in beautiful ways as a result.

More info:

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*it is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume they know how to do it well even if they claim to have experience. They are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. A lot of withdrawal issues are misdiagnosed to be psychiatric problems. This is why it’s good to educate oneself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. This is a good article and since most of the medical community refuse to see our uniqueness and differences; how do you expect them to see differences and uniqueness in our response to the poisoning from these toxic, addictive drugs during the withdrawal process. For now, those of us who choose to withdraw from these toxic, addictive drugs for our total health and “sanity.” are basically on our own. To truly be healed and healthy again; we must trust God and our intuition. That’s all we have. Most doctors have totally forgotten that it is God who does the healing not their expertise or drugs or whatever therapies they have come up with mostly for some kind of income or greed or authoritative control. It is the twenty-first century and now we must return to the ancient basics of all healing; God and the intuition He gave us to anticipate the snake in the grass before it bites us. It’s those “funny feelings” we get from God and our intuition that save us and save us during this withdrawal from the toxic, addictive drugs.

  2. If you mean drug induced iatrogenic damage, AKA mental health treatment, is not the solution to people’s problems in living, I agree. So many people in the mental health system have issues with the drugs they’ve been prescribed, and yet there is a numb resistance to registering the fact from the profession itself, as a rule. I worry about all the people terrorized into a drug taking regimen by worried associates and family members. There is a bigger worry, and that worry is that they should never get off the drug taking regimen they’ve been put on. Another worry is that any harm that comes of this drug regimen should be ignored and swept under the rug. Psychiatric drugs are not sugared aspirin, and taking them everyday of the week is certainly not the way to health. What do the statistics tell us? The drugs maim and destroy. Anybody who is looking for another answer–food, vitamins, exercise, conversation, sunshine, etc.–is moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate the perils of dysfunction, but what I would want to do is put the fun back in function. Psychiatric drugs themselves contribute to the dysfunction, and they don’t help put the fun back into function so much the way they should. Thank you for sharing your withdrawal story, and for having other and more effective, non-damaging, coping mechanisms to suggest.

    • About psychiatric drugs, I remember the times I would pick up my prescription from the pharmacy; the pharmacist would usually comment on how “strong” theses drugs were. Yet, I blindly and I thought obediently would take them each morning and night like candy until they caught up with me and I almost died or wish I would die. There is absolutely no reason to “drug” any one and I know some disagree even some psychiatrists, I do have a modicum of trust in, I do not think it is necessary or good to drug people for psychotic stress or thoughts or suicidal thoughts. How many times have we heard of someone being drugged to prevent suicide and then the tragic person actually and sadly takes his own life? I read of a story of an elderly lady who was drugged for depression; then attempted suicide, then the unethical psychiatrist put on another drug. I was very saddened and upset by this story; but, it was several months old; so I felt my comments would be useless. It was in a Christian-oriented magazine. I will not mention the magazine. But, it saddened me more when I realize that many of the main-line demonitations have been brainwashed too by psychiatry and bigpharma and have yet to see the real truth. But, I pray; just as many things have been brought to light in the last twenty years; this will also. Since, I do believe it is extremely relavent to our national security as much so as ISIS and Iran, etc. I pray; it comes very soon! Thank you.

      • We are a prescription drug culture. Look at the entertainers who have died because of prescription drug habits. That’s not natural. Drugs aren’t nature. As R. Whitaker has explained regarding neuroleptic (“anti-psychotic”) drugs. You get the best results, in terms of recovery, from people who have never been introduced to the drugs. So what is the problem? Consciousness has not yet caught up with doctors. Iatrogenic means physician caused. If doctors are not held accountable for their crimes, they are going to commit more crimes with impunity. “Mental health” has very little to do with medicine. The accepted cure for “mental illness” right now is the physical injury and death that comes of using pharmaceutical products without let up, and to excess. In order for this to change, physicians are going to have to take responsibility for it. As there is no real oversight, to put a leash on the doctors who are over zealous in their use of pharmaceuticals, the push is going to have to come from us critics of conventional practice. We need to let them know in no uncertain terms that harming patients can no longer be excused as acceptable medical practice. Society’s interests matter, sure, but so do the patient’s interests. At least, they should.

        • Society’s “interests” at the moment are based on groundless media hysteria that erroneously suggests mad is bad. Its hardly in anyone’s interests to make a situation worse than if you did nothing. 15 years ago, just when I thought the message had got through to the community my local media started publishing again the highly offensive lie that the mentally ill were more violent that the general population. This kind of disability discrimination needs to be “violently “rejected, particularly when the drug companies have most them chemically restrained. “What? Are you saying the drugs don’t work then?” would be my first response. But I decided to rethink my tactics over this, and it seems to me that such ignorance will never go away unless we go out and educate as part of our lifelong campaign for our own individual human rights. Forget about fighting for principles, fight for your dignity and right to a life worth living. Never surrender in that battle, and you will do more for “the mentally ill” in the process of standing up for yourself than you could ever do fighting on behalf of us collectively, even though the latter is also our ultimate goal.

      • Yet doctors still talk about these drugs as “benign”. This is exactly what a neurologist of all people told my friend prescribing her benzos. There’s nothing benign about them – they’re extremely dangerous, especially for someone with heart issues like she has.

  3. Monica, what a beautiful and insightful editorial on the individual nature of the healing process, albeit supported by an ever-present collective, one way or another. The education of your direct experience is obvious from how you synthesize and streamline the multi-dimensional aspects of healing and transformation to such clarity and accessibility. Your various rebirths are inspiring to witness.

    When I ditched the drugs, I had no idea what I was getting into, nor did anyone around me. Although my partner was really glad I was withdrawing, because we both had become so painfully aware of the harms and dangers here, by how I was going downhill fast with each added drug and psychiatric visit.

    I managed to get through what I later found out was called “iotragenic” without ever having heard of this or even considering it. All I knew was that if felt incredibly terrible and scary, all a big unknown in the face of bizarre and extreme pain for which no one had a very satisfactory explanation.

    Like you, I discovered the magic and mysticism of healing, and learned to allow things to unfold, while transmuting fear into wonderment. That was a healing exercise, in and of itself.

    Theater and performing is what finally did that for me, personally, that was my individual path to healing, as it brought me into present time and taught me to absolutely trust the process, no matter how messy it gets–it’s all moving forward, unfolding into new and ever-creative realities. Life can change on a dime, at any given moment. I’d never, ever expected the opportunities that came to me to do so, but they did, simply because I kept showing up. Hope is every present.

      • Nah, you had it right the first time….
        Hope is EVERY PRESENT.
        EVERY PRESENT we give or receive contains HOPE.

        Here’s a unique present:
        “Iatrogenic neurolepsis”.
        I used to call it:
        “Iatrogenic Neuroleptic Psychotropic Pharmaceutical Cerebral Cognitive Impairment Malfunction”.
        But “IATROGENIC NEUROLEPSIS” is easier.
        I’ve even gotten a couple of Docs. and Nurses to put it into my medical chart. But I’m not sure at the time they really UNDERSTOOD.

        If I’d known the ***HELL*** the psych drugs were gonna put me through,
        then I NEVER would have taken any of that garbage…..
        Real people have real problems.
        But bogus “diagnoses” and TOXIC DRUGS are NOT part of the solution….
        *HOPE* *IS* *EVERY* *PRESENT*
        (….& thnx 4 yur sense of humor!….)….

  4. Great insights, Monica. One should’t underestimate the severity of what so many suffer after taking medications as prescribed.

    As I read this I am struck by how desperately treatment protocols for these conditions are needed within medical and mental healthcare systems. (The very systems that currently deliver the harms). This is a whole area of study that is completely avoided and therefore neglected by the corporate-infected medical establishment.

    I say this because even though there are awesome people on the internet with great information to help people through the shock of withdrawal, it’s a kind of do-it-yourself endeavor. Many of us truly need/ed assistance with it. When it’s your brain that’s compromised, it’s a daunting task to attempt healing, all on your own, using only that compromised brain. (I’m speaking mainly for myself, out of my own experience).

    Over ten years off, I haven’t regained nearly the level of health necessary to live in a reasonable state. Ongoing symptoms (not original condition) and medical denial of my condition affect me physically, mentally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. How differently might it have turned out if I had been safely guided through withdrawal? If I’d had someone in my own community to turn to for knowledgeable and compassionate support? I’m so tired. I’ve tried so many things and yet I still suffer with intolerable symptoms. It would be a godsend to be able to find (and/or afford) a doctor who might recognize what I’ve been through, understand what I’m left dealing with, and who might offer a compassionate response instead of “Guess you’re SOL.”

    Turning to doctors leads to just that: denial, victim blaming and more abuse instead of care. Turning to family and community often leads to misunderstanding and that same denial as they rely upon the opinion of doctors who are esteemed experts in society. It is an indignity to be forced to live with ongoing iatrogenic illness, required to work and function and get on in life as if none of it happened or is happening. All because doctors, the revered authorities, deny that it’s happening.

    That healthcare systems are so resistant to this reality is intolerable. The public deserves just medical and mental health care responses in the same way all citizens deserve just treatment by the police. This abuse must be acknowledged and addressed.

    • Laurie,

      It was confessed to me by an ethical pastor that the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions” (the religions and medical communities) is that one of the primary functions of the psychiatric industry, historically, was covering up easily recognized iatrogenesis for the mainstream doctors (and child abuse for the religions). I had the symptoms of “bipolar” / “scizophrenia” created via anticholinergic toxidrome to cover up a “bad fix” on a broken bone.

      And since psychiatric discrediting and harm has historically been intentionally done, to cover up malpractice, I’m certain this is why the mainstream medical community is so cold hearted about it. But I wholeheartedly agree, “This abuse must be acknowledged and addressed” … and ended. “Dirty little secrets” are called such specifically because they are shameful and unacceptable human behavior.

      • ….and it wasn’t just to cover up “clergy abuse”….
        I know several – yes, SEVERAL women, even in this small town, who were sexually abused by their fathers. When the girl got old enough to tell what happened, Dad took her to a shrink, had her “diagnosed”, and DRUGGED….
        All so nobody would believe her when she told the truth….
        (….I hate to pick on just one “religion”, but, yes, the ones I know were ALL
        Roman Catholic…..their doctrine & dogma is a set-up for this type of institutional abuse…. Sad.

  5. Healing from poly drugging is non linear, no two are exactly the same. The healing periods vary with intensities. I knew no matter what I was going to be drug free and my entire system had to readjust to this. What a ride it was. I have most of my psychiatrist’s office notes and as I was on less and less drugs he remarked I was barely depressed, he couldn’t understand why I was doing immensely better. This guy is considered my city’s premier shrink (he’s a “good ole boy”) but he had no idea what the hell he was doing.

    I am so glad they are forums now to help people who want to learn about tapering off psychiatric drugs and offer support. It’s such an eye opener to find out what these drugs were doing to us and during w/d they still knocked us for a loop. For months all I could tolerate was plain yogurt and the 100 pounds of drug weight fell off. For many more months I could not talk on the phone or handle guests coming by (except people bringing me yogurt). Yes, healing takes its own time.

  6. Your answer convinces me that you’ve objectively identified the real cause of my panic attacks for me. It’s the drugs. No question. Even after 30+ years I’m still recovering. Just read the first paragraph of my first post. The sense of complete terror is the compelling parallel. Your entire article describes exactly my experience but from a much more informed understanding. Immensely grateful. Immensely.

    • It could be. I never had panic attacks before I was started on an “anti-depressant” Mirtazapine. Then I had other drugs on and off including ones which would make Lucifer go “hey, that’s too cruel” – Zyprexa and Seroquel and that made them even worse. Took me almost 2yrs off them to recover.

  7. I developed two serious syndromes after withdrawing from an unbelievable battery of psychotropics foisted on me by a psycho aka psychiatrist – one who was president of our state’s psychiatric organization which should say something.

    One was an auditory processing disorder and the other, Raynaud’s syndrome. The first is severely disabling in certain situations. My audiologist told me she’s seeing them develop in kids taking these drugs especially.

    I was not just robbed of five years of my life, but also suffer life long brain damage from it.

    Does anyone know how I might go about finding out what might be done for an auditory processing disorder? All the neurologists in my state are way up there with the psychiatrists and Big Pharma people, so I highly doubt they’d have anything intelligent to say and might even try to do something worse to me.

  8. Autonomic nervous system dysfunction as it manifests itself in protracted psychotropic/antidepressant drug withdrawal, is not something that’s recognized by doctors or even neurologists. I developed severe functional spinal myoclonus from the trauma of withdrawal, and a neurologist told me that he doesn’t see anything wrong with my nervous system. If you google autonomic system dysfunction, there’s no mention of the symptoms of protracted withdrawal. I know you have a neuropsychiatrist doctor that you correspond with, what is his name, and has HE written anything about this topic? If he knows what’s happening to so many of us, why isn’t there any literature about it to show doctors who are clueless?

    • Lilu, your question is a common response to many issues surfaced on the Internet regarding medical issues that are not well understood by the medical profession.

      The answer is that we are the experts in our own health.

      While professionals can provide assistance, you ultimately must decide whether that assistance is an improvement or not, based on all the relevant known facts. This is nothing more than assessing costs against the benefits. For people who make it to MIA like me, that decision was made easy by doctors who made us suffer unlawfully by failing to respect our international human right to refuse their “medical” treatment.

      The importance of MIA as a means by which interested professionals can inform themselves at any time of the actual current state of the psychiatric profession cannot be overstated. This web site is the best resource that exists anywhere on earth for professionals who wish to know.

      All you, I, or anyone else needs to do is refer those professionals to this site, and to condemn as medical charlatans, hypocrites, and sadists, those who prefer to remain ignorant of MIA because they benefit from perpetuating the suffering of others.

      I wish to add that just as Australia now requires professionals to vetted by police before they can be licensed to work with children, so too must psychiatric professionals be vetted for criminality, drug abuse, or psychopathy, that puts the people entrusted into their care in danger of their lives