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Can Alcohol Cause Panic Attacks?

Woman and dog looking out over the water

A drink to take the edge off. A way to unwind after a long day. Relaxing with friends over a bottle of wine.

Most of us think of drinking as a quick way to feel better and relax, but the fact is that it can have the opposite effect, heightening anxiety—and sometimes worse.

The Link Between Panic Disorder and Alcohol Abuse

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that approximately 20 percent of people who experience panic disorder also abuse alcohol.

The question is one of the chicken and the egg. Do people who experience panic attacks tend to self-medicate with alcohol? Or can alcohol abuse actually lead to panic attacks?

Before we get into that, let’s talk about what a panic attack actually is. Technically speaking, a panic attack is the abrupt onset of intense fear that reaches a peak within minutes and includes symptoms such as a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, chills, fear of losing control, and a fear of dying.

The medical consensus seems to be that alcohol abuse can lead to anxiety, but is unlikely to be the cause of panic attacks. However—and this is a big however—alcohol abuse can make panic disorder worse.

The take home? If you suffer from panic attacks, it may be tempting to “relax” with a few drinks, but alcohol is not your friend.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Disorders at The Raleigh House

At The Raleigh House in Denver, Colorado, we understand that it’s not good enough to just treat the addiction. Instead, we work with each of our residents on an individual basis to see if they might be struggling with a co-occurring addiction such as anxiety or depression.

The truth is that getting better isn’t just a matter of getting off of drugs or alcohol. It’s our mission to help you recover psychologically, mentally, spiritually and socially as well. Rehab isn’t just about giving something up; it’s about getting your life back. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the alcohol addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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