Panic and Drug Addiction

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic is a state of heightened fear of some terrible occurrence about to happen. Many things can set off a panic attack such as a life threatening event or an overwhelming fear. Sometimes, a person can suffer a panic attack and never experience one again. For those who develop panic disorder, the regular experience of panic attacks, the onset of the disorder begins in late adolescence.

Twice as many women as men suffer from panic disorder. Scientists are not sure why people suffer from panic disorder, but data seems to have a genetic component. The American Psychiatric Association defines Panic Disorder as “developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear of anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the individual is attached.” (DSM-5)

Panic attacks, which are part of the Panic Disorder, can last up to 10 minutes in duration. The sufferer will experience a range of physical and psychological sensations which include:

  • Palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • Chills
  • Fear of being out of control
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Nausea
  • Choking sensation
  • Fear of dying
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tingly in hands and feet
  • Sweating

The person suffering from panic disorder will have an ever growing fear of experiencing more panic attacks. A change in behavior will occur due to the fear associated with a panic attack. This anxiety will increase, making simple tasks like food shopping impossible. The severity of the panic disorder can lead to Agoraphobia (the fear of being out in public.)

Sometimes panic disorders develop out of other underlying mental health disorders such as depression, PTSD, or substance abuse. Without proper diagnosis, a person can go years with untreated panic. He or she may turn to drugs and alcohol to alleviate the signs and symptoms of panic disorder. Sadly, drugs and alcohol will only increase the intensity of the disorder and bring upon the added burden of substance abuse.

Treatment for panic disorder and substance abuse requires clinicians who are trained and experienced in treating co-occurring or dual diagnosis. Treating substance abuse without treating the panic disorder will not resolve the panic. The client will begin to use again to self- medicate and manage the panic. Once a person with panic disorder becomes an addict the addiction must be addressed, as well. Addiction is a disease of the brain; drugs and alcohol alter normal brain function. Proper treatment can break the cycle of addiction (using, detox, using) and moderate or disrupt the panic disorder.

Treatment Alternatives provides every client with therapists who are experienced in treating co-occurring disorders. We believe that comprehensive addiction treatment is the only way to break the power of addiction and address mental health disorders simultaneously. Treating the whole person is necessary if treatment is to be successful.

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