Learn About Panic Disorder and Its Role in Addiction
Panic attacks can be terrifying experiences. Symptoms of overwhelming anxiety include an elevated heart rate, uncontrollable sweating, trouble breathing and difficulty sorting one’s thoughts.
For most individuals, this type of panic attack occurs very infrequently, and only in response to particularly intense or traumatic scenarios. For someone dealing with a panic disorder, however, these devastating panic attacks are a regular occurrence.
For a person with panic disorder, panic attacks are not triggered by any specific events or scenarios. The unpredictable nature of these attacks, in turn, inspires greater fear in an individual, making him or her even more vulnerable to a panic attack down the road. These symptoms make it very difficult for individuals to lead a normal life as well.
Over time, this pattern of fear and isolation can leave those suffering from a panic disorder feeling disconnected from others. This loneliness may even lead them to self-medicate through substance abuse. Addressing the relationship between panic disorder and addiction is critical for guiding these individuals back to a life of sobriety and clarity.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Panic attacks are commonly described as sudden and overwhelming sensations of fear. These attacks can be so intense that many who experience them report feeling as though they are having a heart attack, losing control of their minds or dying.
For those with panic disorder, these attacks are reoccurring and impossible to predict. Patients are forced to structure their lives around the fear of a surprise panic attack, preventing them from living out a happy and healthy life.
Other common symptoms of reoccurring panic attacks include:
- Intense feelings of helplessness
- Obsessive fear of death or sickness
- Strong sense of impending doom
- Strong sense of being detached from reality
While the psychological distress caused by panic disorder is immense, the physical symptoms of the mental illness are equally hard on the patient. These extreme physical symptoms are a large part of why panic disorder can be so debilitating.
Patients are less likely to leave their homes, socialize with friends or engage in new activities if they fear the return of their panic disorder symptoms at every turn.
Physical symptoms associated with panic attacks and panic disorder include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Stomach cramps
- Rapid changes in body temperature
- Pounding headache
Risk Factors for Panic Disorder
As is the case with many mental illnesses, there is no sole identifiable cause for why an individual develops a panic disorder. However, the medical community has identified several risk factors that are associated with a high likelihood of developing the disorder.
The more of these risk factors that are present in an individual’s history, the more likely that he or she will demonstrate behaviors or symptoms that are characteristic of the disorder.
The following risk factors are helpful predictors of panic disorder:
- Family history: Individuals who have a close relative with panic disorder are at high risk for developing the same mental illness.
- Major trauma: A death of a loved one, a serious automobile accident or any other traumatic or highly stressful event could trigger a panic disorder in an individual.
- Life change: Extremely emotional life changes, even positive ones such as a marriage or birth, can induce the string of unpredictable panic attacks that characterize a panic disorder.
- Childhood abuse: Individuals with a history of physical or sexual abuse during their childhood are at high risk of developing this mental disorder.
Panic Disorder and Substance Abuse Treatment
The National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that almost a third of Americans who have a mental health condition also struggle with addiction. Evidence shows that substance abuse creates measurable differences in an individual’s mood, behavior, and thoughts.
As a result, individuals with panic disorder who choose to self-medicate with harmful substances put themselves at greater risk. Substance abuse actually worsens their symptoms and makes treatment that much more complex.
Panic disorders and substance abuse must be treated simultaneously. Failure to treat one without addressing the needs of the other can lead to worsening symptoms or relapse.
At The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village, we understand this link and thus offer treatment programs that address the individual’s unique struggles. Our admissions counselors are available 24/7 at (866) 295-6003 if you’d like to learn more about how we can help end the cycle of panic disorder and addiction for you or a loved one.