13 Signs You Are Suffering From PAWS
Ack! The dreaded PAWS. If you went to treatment such as rehab for alcohol or others drugs, then you probably learned about PAWS – Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome – a set of symptoms that occurs after the initial (acute) withdrawal process that occurs at the time you first stop using.
PAWS can last anywhere from two years after getting clean and sober or for the rest of your lifetime. The good news is that they tend to come-and-go and so it’s not a constant thing. The other good news is that there are things you can do, that just so happen to coincide with working a program of recovery so, it’s not really any extra work.
If you are in recovery from alcohol and other drugs, here are 13 signs that you are suffering from PAWS at any given moment.
#1. Mood swings
Someone experiencing PAWS may display mood swings that are serious enough to resemble an actual affective disorder, such as bipolar disorder. It is said that a mental health diagnosis made within 2 years of last drug use is often inaccurate because the effect drugs have on the brain is profound enough as to appear as mental illness.
Anhedonia is the medical term for an experience of an inability to feel pleasure from anything beyond use of the drug. This can certainly threaten your recovery because being unable to feel joy or happiness from typical, everyday things will have you reminiscing about the days of your drug use. You might tend to romanticize your addiction, forgetting about all the awful things that it caused.
Another symptom of PAWS is described by having problems with physical coordination. You may drop things or bump into things more from time to time.
Difficulty sleeping is one of the other signs you’re experiencing PAWS. Now, there might be times you have difficulty sleeping due to an actual circumstance, such as illness or feeling anxious about something the next day. But, when you seemingly experience insomnia for no reason and it lasts for more than one night, it’s probably PAWS. The good news is that you can adjust your diet – making sure to eat more nutritionally – as well as adding exercise and meditation.
#5. Sleep disturbance
Besides insomnia, which is a difficulty with either falling asleep or staying asleep, sleep disturbances are described as using dreams or drug dreams, as well as dreaming about behaviors associated with the drug lifestyle.
#6. General cognitive impairment
At times, you may experience an inability to think clearly, including difficulty concentrating, and memory problems.
#7. Anxiety and panic disorder
People who experience PAWS might have bouts of anxiety and even panic attacks. Exercising on a regular basis, eating right, and getting good rest can help stave these off. Also, yoga, meditation, and breath work are great ways of reducing anxiety and increasing peace within yourself.
Yuck. Unfortunately, depression is another mood disorder that can be experienced by those with PAWS. Doing all the stuff mentioned above can help. Many people also incorporate going to therapy and taking medications such as an antidepressant to support them in their recovery. Remember, psych meds are not a break in sobriety and can even be taken short-term, meaning that you may be able to eventually stop taking them. Always consult your prescribing doctor as well as therapist when deciding to stop your meds.
#9. Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts
Along with depression, a person with PAWS might also experience something called suicidal ideation. This term refers to obsessive thoughts of death and dying, sometimes to include actual thoughts of committing suicide. Sadly, some people actually attempt suicide and are successful. Please consult your doctor if you are ever experiencing these symptoms. As bad as it sounds, it’s important to know that you can lead a normal life, even with these thoughts. This is coming from someone who has experienced depression and suicidal ideation for most of her life: your author (even before I started using drugs).
#10. Drug craving
This is definitely a tough one. Some people, not all, may experience cravings for their drug of choice. Again, this is something that might occur intermittently, which means that it might happen occasionally and certainly not all the time. Being prepared is your best line of defense.
#11. Stress sensitivity
There might also be times that you feel particularly stressed out or easily stressed out, where something usually so minor becomes a huge dilemma.
#12. Increased sensitivity to pain
Because of how PAWS affects brain activity, you could experience pain differently. Where stubbing your toe is an already painful experience, pain receptors in your brain are on heightened alert and over exaggerate the pain you feel.
#13. Being overly emotional or else feeling numb
PAWS also cause you, at times, to overreact emotionally. Or, to the contrary, you might feel numb or find it difficult to experience emotions.
Recovery Works – How to Cope with PAWS
Avoiding the following can help to also avoid the return of PAWS symptoms. If any of these is impossible to avoid, then working a program of recovery that includes meditation, prayer, exercise, such as yoga, getting plenty of rest and eating a well-balanced diet will help you to be able to cope better with these situations and with any PAWS symptoms that may return from time to time.
- Stressful, frustrating situations
- Feeling anxious, fearful, or angry
- Conflicts with friends and family
- Having unrealistic expectations of yourself
These 13 signs you are suffering from paws are a normal part of recovery. If you are experiencing a relapse or if you suspect that someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, help is available in the form of specialized treatment and support groups. Please call us toll-free at 1-800-777-9588 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We are available 24/7 to answer your questions.