alcohol withdrawal panic attacks

Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Panic Attacks?

Anxiety and alcohol consumption are connected in many ways. Some people may think they are drinking to calm their nerves. When they try to stop drinking, though, they can experience serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms that should be monitored by a professional. Alcohol withdrawal panic attacks are among the many issues that someone who is addicted to alcohol may face as they attempt to get sober.

Diagnostic Criteria for Panic Attacks

Research has found that individuals who have an alcohol use disorder and who attempt to withdraw from alcohol often meet the diagnostic criteria for panic attacks as well as for panic disorder and agoraphobia. The condition of agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that involves a fear of being in a situation where an escape might be difficult or where help might not be available if things go wrong.

A panic attack is characterized by the individual’s fear of losing control even if there is no actual danger. The person may have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack, which can feel as though they are having a heart attack.

As alcohol and anxiety are closely linked, research has also found that individuals who seek treatment for panic-related problems often meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. One study found that about a fourth of the individuals who were seeking treatment for a panic disorder had a history of alcohol dependence.

Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain

Alcohol alters the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Although some people make the excuse of drinking to calm their nerves, alcohol’s effects on the brain can actually worsen their anxiety.

The condition of alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours and can be one of the more serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. When an individual has consumed alcohol for a period of time and then stops drinking, their anxiety can be aggravated by alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person stops drinking after prolonged alcohol use, they can experience withdrawal symptoms because of the changes their body and brain experience. Symptoms can include insomnia, trembling, and anxiety and panic attacks. Extreme agitation, confusion, and hallucinations are some of the most severe symptoms of a type of alcohol withdrawal syndrome known as delirium tremens (DT).

A long-term drinker, especially, will experience a slowing effect on their brain as it is almost continually exposed to the depressant effects of the drink. The brain will adjust its chemistry to compensate by producing naturally stimulating chemicals in larger amounts than normal.

Alcohol withdrawal panic attacks are not unusual, as the brain becomes overstimulated when the alcohol use is stopped. The symptoms can continue for days and sometimes for weeks.

The Need for Supervised Detox

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous if not professionally monitored. The symptoms, including panic attacks, can be severe. An individual attempting to withdraw from their prolonged alcohol use on their own could even develop life-threatening symptoms. People who experience these types of withdrawal symptoms may have other issues that could be damaging to their physical health, such as alcohol-related damage to their heart, gastrointestinal tract, or liver.

Maintaining their mental health is critical throughout the detox process. Alcohol withdrawal panic attacks can create many other issues for the individual attempting to get sober on their own. Supervised detox can ensure that the person’s mental and physical health are watched closely, for their safety and well-being.

Supervised detox may also involve the use of certain medications that alleviate some of the symptoms of withdrawal. When the individual goes through detox in a medically supervised setting, the symptoms are managed in a comfortable and safe environment. Medically supervised detox is necessary, especially, for managing alcohol withdrawal panic attacks in a safe and healthy manner.

Contact Recovery Without Walls for Safe Alcohol Withdrawal

At Recovery Without Walls, we want you to get sober. We also understand that it can be difficult and even dangerous to stop abusing alcohol without help. We are here to guide you through a safe and effective detox from the alcohol in your system so you can get the individualized addiction treatment you need. We personalize your treatment based on evidence-informed research, exceptional psychotherapy, nutritional support, and integrative healing methods designed to treat your whole body. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.