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Dual Diagnosis: Panic Attacks & Addiction

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Panic attacks are periods of intense fear; the attack can last from minutes to hours. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, and in many cases, without warning. A person does not need to suffer from any immediate danger to have one. An attack usually will peak within 10 minutes. If the person’s attack was triggered by a situation; it may last as long as the person feels in danger or in fear.

Signs & Symptoms of Panic Attacks

  • Intense fear
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Hot flashes
  • Cold flashes
  • Burning sensation or numbness is face, neck, or limbs
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Hyperventilation
  • Tingling sensation
  • Sensation of choking or being smothered
  • Difficulty moving


Prescription Drug Addiction & Alcoholism

When panic attacks and anxiety disorders go untreated, many sufferers will turn to a substance or alcohol for escape. Prescription drugs, like Xanax, are given to control anxiety disorders. Without proper therapy, the sufferer is only treating the symptoms and not the underlying cause of the attacks. Unfortunately, now they have a higher chance of alcohol or drug addiction.

As addiction is becoming more common in society today, those who struggle with panic attacks are now starting to find themselves suffering from alcoholism or prescription drug abuse. A common misconception is that those who suffer from chronic or acute anxiety disorders will not be able to fully get clean or sober because they need Xanax or some form of relaxant to control their attacks.

Treating Anxiety Disorders

Those who suffer from a dual diagnosis of anxiety and alcohol or drug addiction can and do get clean and sober. The truth is that both drugs and alcohol can actually cause panic attacks when there is not enough in the system, even after only a short time of using or drinking. Many panic attack suffers will continue to self medicate with extended use of prescription drugs and/or alcohol resulting in physical and mental dependence. Serious withdrawal symptoms, even death, can occur if stopped abruptly. It is best to seek medical attention when trying to detox off of alcohol or prescription drugs.

Working with experienced mental health professionals, group therapy, one-on-one counseling, and building a foundation in recovery through the 12 steps, suffers have found they no longer need to rely on a substance to be free of their panic attacks.

Written By: Ashling C.-  Watershed Ashling

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