I have for a long time realized that protracted withdrawal issues are pretty much always a result of autonomic nervous system dysfunction. As I became seriously ill, I discovered that other chronic illnesses (in particular CFS, fibromyalgia and various autoimmune issues) have a lot of the same things going on. I came to think that withdrawal IS THE TRAUMATIC and LONG TERM TRIGGER that ends up bringing on a serious long-term disability that has many common issues with these other chronic syndromes. Dan Neuffer, in the videos below, in my opinion, correctly points to the autonomic nervous system as being underlying ongoing cause of these issues. Triggers and initial etiologies may vary, but eventually all these syndromes have a whole lot in common.
He also points out that most folks with chronic fatigue have trauma histories. Withdrawal is inherently quite often gravely traumatic. At it’s worst it’s an extreme trauma that goes on many months. Recovering from such a serious insult to the autonomic nervous system is no small thing for those of us who have such withdrawal experiences. In addition, of course, most people who end up on psych meds are on them, at least in part, in response to trauma in their lives. That which gets labeled mentally ill almost always has an element of trauma.
This idea is not limited to Neuffer’s work. It’s held up again and again in different ways in many people’s work, especially those who work with chronic illness and trauma. I would include my own work in that collection. I simply don’t always talk about it explicitly. I’m sharing Dan’s work because it brings it together in a unique way that is fairly easy to understand given the complexity of the systems and how they interact.
His motto is treat the cause not the consequences. He believes the cause is a whacked-out autonomic nervous system. I’m in agreement – though I’ve also found we can access healing from multiple windows now and there are often multiple causes. This is one that is very helpful to me and a lot of others I’ve interacted with. Please don’t get caught up on what he is calling the phenomena of illness. It’s all linked. If you listen to his descriptions rather than the labels he uses you’ll see that. I’ve known for a long time that if I wanted to I could get a diagnosis of CFS and Fibromyalgia both. I’ve chosen to stay off that particular diagnosis merry-go-round.
So, here is Dan Neuffer’s description of what is going on. It is very much in alignment with what I’ve learned. I think it’s very helpful and perhaps often critical to have this broad view in order to heal.
7/13/13 Update — The Book — So I’ve read almost to the end of the book. It’s clear that very much of it is extremely relevant to those of us with protracted withdrawal issues.
Follow up to this post after speaking with Dan:
- Autonomic nervous system dysfunction, protracted psych drug withdrawal, CFS, Fibromyalgia and why I still limit engagement on the internet
Here is a little snippet from the book of him explaining how the autonomic nervous system dysfunction occurs:
Why does the ANS dysfunction occur?
The short answer is, the ANS dysfunction occurs as a result of overwhelming amount of physiological and psychological stress that is unsustainable and hence emergency protective measures are created – we call this the ANS dysfunction. If we consider this from the point of view of some of our bodily tissues, such as the Hippocampus, we might call this the emergency circuit breaker.
Yeah, those of us with protracted withdrawal issues know exactly what that means!
If you’re interested in checking out his book you can get it here: CFS Unravelled – One man’s search for the Cause of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Discovery Essential for You To Recover
I wrote about the link between Fibromyalgia and what is labeled Bipolar once before as well. I understand much more now, but see this: Fibromyalgia and bipolar: it’s the drugs stupid
I come at my health issues from numerous perspectives. I think it’s critically important to be able to do so because of the nature of the autonomic nervous system.
For more on chronic illness and recovery see this page: Information and inspiration for the chronically ill
And for those who’d like to minimize the potential harm to the autonomic nervous system when withdrawing from psychiatric drugs see: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up
Update 2016: It’s become clear to me that whenever it’s possible that it’s helpful for folks who’ve not begun withdrawal and have the time to consider a carefully thought out plan to attempt to bring greater well-being to your body before starting the withdrawal. That means learning how to profoundly nourish your body/mind and spirit prior to beginning a withdrawal. For suggestions on how to go about doing that check the drop-down menus on this blog for ideas. Anything that helps you learn how to live well can be part of your plan. That plan will look different for everyone as we learn to follow our hearts and find our own unique paths in the world. Things to begin considering are diet, exercise and movement, meditation/contemplation etc. Paying attention to all these things as you do them helps too. The body will start letting us know what it needs as we learn to pay attention.
*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. Do not assume your MD will know how to do it either. 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. See: Psychiatric drug withdrawal and protracted withdrawal syndrome round-up