Panic Disorder and Alcohol Abuse

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder and it is characterized by unexpected and repeated panic attacks. There are many psychological factors that cause this disorder like life transitions, stressful life events or the environment. Inheritance might also play an important role as evidence suggests that it might run in families. Sometimes the first attack is caused by certain medications, physical illness or stress.

People with panic disorders often resort to alcohol or drugs to numb the fear or calm themselves down. But this only makes things worst as they might end up with dual diagnoses which make the patient more unstable and the treatment more difficult. When people have to deal with panic disorder and lose the ability to deal with stress there is a tendency to self-medicate. About 17% of the people with panic disorder use psychoactive drugs and 30% use alcohol.

People try to find a way to cope with the disorder and sometimes they make bad choices like alcohol or psychoactive drugs. Alcohol is not causing the panic attacks directly. It actually causes panic attack triggers. Some of those panic attack triggers might include poor body functioning, dehydration, dizziness and rapid heartbeat, flu like symptoms and stressful mistakes.

Excessive alcohol use can cause dehydration which is a very common problem with all forms of anxiety. Alcohol can cause excessive urination as it is known as a good diuretic. And dehydration can cause physical sensations that make the anxiety worse.

Alcohol also causes certain parts of the body to function properly and maybe the hormones are the most affected. The physical stress often causes mental stress that can make the panic attacks worse.

Following the consumption of alcoholic beverages, a hangover can cause flu like symptoms. And flu like symptoms can trigger panic attacks or they can have a strong effect on the panic attacks.

Rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations and dizziness are other symptoms caused by alcohol that can trigger panic attacks.

But maybe the worst in this list are the stressful mistakes that are caused by alcohol consumption. When people drink it’s very likely to make stupid mistakes that will add to the stress caused by the panic attacks. And it increases the risk of panic attacks.

Alcoholism develops in 10 to 40 percent of people with panic disorder and 10 to 20 percent struggle with substance abuse. Most often the symptoms of panic disorder develop before alcoholism occurs. Despite all the warnings and consequences people with dual diagnosis still believe that alcohol and drugs could help them.

When they have to deal with panic disorder people should ask for the help of a doctor for a better understanding of the condition and medical advice.

Finding the right treatment for people with dual diagnosis could be difficult as many times it’s hard to tell if the symptoms are the result of the addiction or the mental illness. The treatment plan should include both the psychosocial therapies and medication.

Anyway, there are facilities that are equipped to deal with dual diagnosis patients. And it’s a good idea to look for help in such facilities.

Top 10 Panic Attacks Causes

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol-dependent people are driven by a strong desire to consume alcohol. Their body becomes used with large amounts of alcohol intake and 3-8 hours after the last sip of alcohol the withdrawal symptoms will appear. This is why it so difficult for chronic heavy drinkers to stop drinking.

The withdrawal symptoms might include: sickness, craving for alcohol, sweating, trembling or simply feeling terribly awful. Therefore people might depend on alcohol to prevent these symptoms. Most of the symptoms might go after 5-7 days of alcohol abstinence but the craving might last a lot longer.

Other severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal might include tremors and seizures.

Tremors – Tremors might begin 5-10 hours after the last intake of alcohol and might be accompanied by high blood pressure, sweating, rapid pulse, insomnia, nightmares, irritability, vomiting and nausea. Usually they will peak at 24 to 48 hours after the last alcohol drink.

Seizures – Usually seizures might occur 6 to 48 hours after the last sip of alcohol and many seizures might occur within several hours.

The most severe reactions to alcohol withdrawal are Alcoholic Hallucinosis and Delirium Tremens.

Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Also known as alcohol-induced psychotic disorder or alcohol-related psychosis, alcohol hallucinosis is it occurs only in alcoholics and results from alcohol abuse or withdrawal. It is a pretty rare disorder that is seen only in alcoholics with a history of very heavy drinking over many consecutive years.

The phenomenon might occur during or after acute intoxication with the possibility of developing delirium tremens. It might develop within 12 to 24 hours after the last drink and it could last for days when the heavy drinking stops all of a sudden.

Alcoholic Hallucinosis

It usually involves auditory hallucinations, most often threatening or accusatory voices but it could involve visual hallucinations as well.

The visual hallucinations usually include similar, small, moving objects such as falling coins, crawling worms or bugs. Sometimes the patients might feel the worms or insects crawling on their on their skin. It is a tactile hallucination called formication.

What causes alcoholic hallucinosis and its mechanism are still unclear. It’s very likely to be a problem of dopamine presence in the limbic system. Before the hallucinosis begins there might be some other symptoms that might warn the people of what might come next.

The alcoholic hallucinosis occurs in about 20% of the hospitalized alcoholics.

The most common symptoms that might precede alcoholic hallucinosis are dizziness, indisposition, insomnia, headache and irritability.

Another similar manifestation of alcohol withdrawal is Delirium Tremens. But delirium tremens is a much more serious diagnosis than alcoholic hallucinosis.

Most of the time nutritional supplements are used to treat people with alcohol related hallucinations as the heavy drinkers might suffer from mineral and vitamins deficiency.

Delirium Tremens (DT)

This is the most dangerous stage of alcohol withdrawal and it is experienced by 5% of the people that withdraw from alcohol.

Delirium tremens might also be caused by withdrawal other sedative-hypnotics such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines.

DT is most dangerous when it comes as a reaction to alcohol withdrawal. The main symptoms include fever, nightmares, disorientation, hallucinations, disorientation and other signs of hyperactivity.

It usually occurs 3 to 10 days after the last drink and the symptoms are worse at night. The most disturbing hallucinations include visions of snakes, rats or insects.

The rate of mortality associated with DT is about 35% without treatment and 15% with treatment.

Delirium tremens is treated with benzodiazepines. To prevent death high doses might be required. Sometimes the patient has to be sedated for a week or more until withdrawal ends.

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms


To prevent any serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal heavy drinkers should get the help of a doctor. A doctor might advices of how to quit alcohol safer.