Treating Addiction and Severe Panic Disorder Together

Treating Addiction and Severe Panic Disorder Together

One out of five people that experience an anxiety or mood disorder also suffers from an alcohol or drug addiction. Panic disorder, a kind of anxiety disorder, is commonly seen amongst people in treatment seeking help for addiction. Severe panic disorders can leave a patient seeking drug or alcohol addiction treatment in debilitating fear, causing them to not make progress in recovery. Those struggling with both addiction and severe panic disorder are said to have a dual diagnosis; meaning that each ailment plays off the other and must be treated concurrently. With commitment, dual diagnosis treatment does work for those suffering from addiction and mental health disorders like severe panic disorder.

What is Severe Panic Disorder?

Individuals with the panic disorder experience occasional panic attacks. A panic attack is when the body goes into “flight or fight” mode because it senses danger. When the body is in this state, it gets ready to either run or fight the danger, causing the heart rate to rise, palms to sweat, and blood pressure to increase. Panic attacks come to those with panic disorder even at times when danger is not evident.

These attacks cause pain; some even describe it as an imitation heart attack. Generally, panic attacks are not deadly or even threatening to physical health, but they are an extremely uncomfortable experience that can cause increased fear in those that have them. That’s where panic disorder comes in. A person can experience panic attacks without having panic disorder. Those that live in fear of the next panic attack suffer from panic disorder. These individuals will be so in fear of the next panic attack that their daily life suffers from it. They are in too much fear to drive a car, go to school or work, or even leave their house.

Drug Addiction Caused by Severe Panic Disorder

There are many reasons why people develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. For those with mental illness, drugs or alcohol can make their condition even worse. It’s important to recognize the underlying causes of addiction so the individual can receive the right treatment for their condition. Common reasons for those diagnosed with a panic disorder to develop a drug or alcohol addiction include:

Self Medication: Individuals who suffer from panic disorder and have not received a diagnosis from a doctor will not have the necessary medication to manage their anxiety. Some reach out to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate feelings of anxiety or prevent panic disorders. This may make them feel better until they develop a tolerance and eventual addiction.

Prescription Medications: Many individuals who receive a panic disorder diagnosis receive addictive medicines, mainly benzodiazepines like the brand name Xanax. These have the potential for abuse since they are addictive. Once an individual with severe panic disorder starts upping their dose to get the effect they want, addiction quickly forms.

Pre-Exposure: Those diagnosed with panic attack disorder that has been exposed to illicit drugs earlier in life are more prone to develop drug or alcohol addiction when the panic disorder starts to affect their daily life.

Panic Disorder Caused by Drug Addiction

Sometimes drug addiction does not follow an anxiety disorder. In many cases, panic disorder will be the result of a drug or alcohol addiction. There are specific drugs that induce anxiety and may be the direct cause to why many patients in addiction treatment also suffer from anxiety disorders like severe panic disorder. The substances that contribute to anxiety include:

Alcohol: This substance can be the direct reason for panic attacks. It causes physical and mental effects that leave a person feeling stressed and anxious. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms of this substance can leave a person feeling extremely anxious and depressed.

Marijuana: Some symptoms of marijuana use can leave an individual feeling anxious or paranoid. Sometimes the use of this drug can make a person feel like they are experiencing a panic attack.

Stimulants: This class of drug including cocaine, methamphetamine, and even caffeine are the leading drugs that cause the onset of anxiety symptoms in its users. During use of these drugs, neurotransmitters in the brain overfires and produce feelings of anxiety that could lead to panic disorder.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Panic Disorder

Treatment for both severe panic disorder and drug or alcohol abuse treatment should be done concurrently because they directly affect each other. If only the mental disorder is treated, a patient is highly likely to continue drug use that promotes their mental disorder. Conversely, a patient treated for only addiction is likely to continue experiencing a mental illness that could lead to relapse. Treatment helps an individual point out the underlying causes of both their addiction and mental disorder so that they can be confronted together. Once an individual confronts them, they can better control and manage any symptoms that happen in everyday life. You don’t have to live with both your mental illness and addiction any longer. Treatment is available and helpful through behavioral therapy, medication plans, and exposure therapy.


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