View Full Version : Clonazepam / benzo withdrawal as a cause for long-term anxiety?

22-01-14, 16:11
Hi all... New here, not sure where to start but here goes.. Apologies if this gets a bit wall-of-text:

So, I had about 2 years at work where I had way more workload and responsibility than I could handle over a long period, and it looks like I burnt myself out.

I originally went to the doctor with severe wrist pain to the point where I couldn't use a pen, and even the slightest knock or bump would send me reeling in agony. At he same time I had horrible neck, chest and back pain for which I went to a private physio who told me it was one of the stiffest backs he'd seen.

Turns out the wrist and neck pain were caused by clenching, particularly at night. I was clenching my hands into fists really tightly at night, and also my jaw. (Not teeth grinding, just clenching really tightly.)

The doctor originally prescribed me diazepam. This helped me sleep but didn't solve the clenching problems, which was something of a surprise to him and me. I came off that and he asked around, and decided to put me on clonazepam instead. He gave me fairly free reign with the dosage, which was probably a bad idea. After about 7 weeks I'd gone from 0.5mg/night to 4mg/night. The drug was helping with the clenching, but I was building a tolerance to it very quickly so after a few days it would stop helping and I'd up the dose.

The drug was also making me feel quite uninhibited and a little crazy, and I was doing things I wouldn't normally do which was a red flag to my wife. I also didn't like where it was going, and I didn't really want to keep upping the dose beyond that (I'd hit a max-dose ceiling eventually) so I spoke to my doctor and we decided to do a quick taper (I'd take the time off work while that was going on) and switch over to sertraline to try and manage stress.

Well, I tapered over about 1.5 weeks which I think is very fast considering the dosage. The clenching was gone, but my word the side effects of the taper were horrible. I was struck with quite serious generalised panic, which I'd never experienced before. I've had depression on and off since I was in my teens, I'm 35 now - although I've not really had it for 10 years or so.. But I've never experienced this kind of panic.

Panic takes the form of heightened tension, like I'm constantly experiencing fight-or-flight. Very jumpy, hate being in crowds. Noise sensitive, really can't stand multiple simultaneous conversations in the same room. Feel like my heart is pounding all the time and feeling really wide-eyed. Thoughts constantly racing, but flitting around so I'm not really sure what I'm thinking about most of the time. Constantly feeling like everyone is looking at me. I'm not really aware of any triggers apart from noise and bright lights. (I have 3 boys, noise is pretty unavoidable! :) )

I had a bunch of other side effects from the clonazepam such as terrible insomnia, literally zero sleep for nights on end. I hoped that they would all go away at around the same time. Most did, but the panic remained. Also, I didn't get on with the sertraline - although it took a while to work this out as I thought most of the bad sertraline side effects were related to the clonazepam withdrawal. (Blurred vision, extreme fatigue, physical ticks and twitches)

I was on sertraline for 4 weeks, then doubled the dose and tried another 4 weeks. The physical symptoms gradually got worse, so I cross-tapered to venaflaxine. I've been on that for 8 weeks, again doubling the dose after 4.

None of this has eliminated the panic. It's fairly crippling and I'm currently off work sick, but it's getting to be a problem as it's been going on for a while now. -- That of course adds more genuine panic (I say 'genuine' because there appears to be a reason for it) due to having mouths to feed (my wife stays at home to look after the kids, and our youngest is home-schooled.)

I've also seen a psychologist privately, but that didn't really work out as he spent most of his time telling me stuff I pretty much already knew. In the end I think he decided there wasn't much he could do to help me as he stopped responding to my texts and I still owe him for a couple of sessions.

So, what I really want to know is - is this something familiar to people? Can coming off benzos actually _cause_ a panic disorder? It's over 4 months since I came off the clonazepam and I would have thought any side effects would have gone by now as I've been off it for over twice the time I was on it.

Has anyone got any suggestions for things I might look into? I'm finding spending ~10 minutes with a GP every 4 weeks is quite hit and miss regarding getting my meds straightened out. I don't think it's really enough time for him and me to have a proper dialog about what's going on and I don't have much confidence that the correct decisions are being made. I'm going to ask him to refer me to a psychiatrist next time I see him, but I don't think I can afford to do that privately and my understanding is that waiting times on the NHS can be quite long.. And I've mentioned a psychiatrist before and he's been reluctant (probably has a budget to manage?)

Er... help?

22-01-14, 16:39
coming off benzos will almost certainly give you increased anxiety levels for a while ,starting an ssri will also increase your anxiety

22-01-14, 16:52
Thanks, that's good to know. Any idea what "a while" might be? Also, slightly annoyed at my GP that he didn't point the SSRI issue out or draw a connection when I talked to him about it. The venlafaxine is supposed to help with the problems, not make them worse.

22-01-14, 16:56
Thanks, that's good to know. Any idea what "a while" might be? Also, slightly annoyed at my GP that he didn't point the SSRI issue out or draw a connection when I talked to him about it. The venlafaxine is supposed to help with the problems, not make them worse.
sometimes you need to try a few different meds before you settle on one ,I know I did.The start up side effects are a pain but when you find the right one it is worth it.Most meds are playing darts in your head
have you had any cbt or counselling its a great help.
welcome to the site :)

22-01-14, 17:10
Thanks. Yeah I saw a psychologist but it didn't really help. I'm not sure if he was doing CBT or something else, but I found he never really told me anything I didn't already know. Maybe he just wasn't very good, I'm not sure.

I had CBT years ago, but I don't really remember much about it now.

04-01-15, 11:29
Yeah, benzodiazepines are brutal, man. I never really had anxiety problems until I started using clonazepam. Devil pills, I tell you. I was addicted for 7 months and it gave me so much paradoxical anxiety. I've been of it for a year, and although I don't get panic attacks as often, they still happen a few times a month and my anxiety is always there, albeit sometimes more manageable than other times.

Stay away from benzodiazepines. Especially that huge of a dose. 4mg a day is insane. Your doctor should be sued

13-08-15, 12:58
I agree clonazepam is addictive. Better talk with the doctor for alternative

13-08-15, 14:19
Yes is can totally be from the benzos. I gave them up years ago and it was horrendous. The symptoms can last a long time. There are sites like benzobuddies that give you all the info.
Unfortunately most doctors and psychologists don't have a clue. I did it helped by a drugs therapist.
Pm me if I can help in any way x