Dealing with Panic Attacks in Recovery

Panic Attacks in Recovery

Recovering from an addiction usually means facing plenty of challenges, especially in the early days of sobriety. The individual needs to once again face reality, and this can involve having to put up with a great deal of stress. Sometimes, people become so overwhelmed by the situation that they start to experience panic. Those individuals who are prone to panic attacks may find that this can make life in sobriety a bit uncomfortable. Luckily, there are treatments available that will help the individual to get over these attacks.

Panic Attack Explained

Panic attack is also sometimes referred to as panic disorder. It refers to a situation where people experience the symptoms of panic regularly without an obvious reason for why it is occurring. For some individuals these attacks seem to come out of nowhere. Panic itself is not a bad thing. It helps keep people safe as part of the fight or flight response. It is only when panic begins to interfere with the ability to live life that it becomes more of a problem.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

The symptoms of a panic attack can include:

* Difficulty breathing or a feeling of choking
* Lightheadedness and dizziness
* Feeling the heart beating in the chest (palpitations)
* Sweating
* Body shakes or tremors
* Hot flushes
* Tingling sensation in the fingers
* Feeling of impending doom
* A ringing noise in the ears
* Nausea
* Urge to go to the toilet
* Strange sensations in the body
* A feeling of being out of control
* Depersonalization, in which the individual feels detached from reality

Causes of Panic Attacks

There are several different causes or triggers for panic attack:

* People who are coming off alcohol can experience panic attacks as part of the withdrawal process.
* Those who are withdrawing from benzodiazepines are also at risk of these attacks.
* Dealing with a great deal of stress in life can trigger a panic attack.
* There is likely to be a genetic component to panic attacks.
* Those with mental health problems such as obsessive compulsive disorder or post traumatic stress disorder are more prone to panic attacks.
* Certain conditions such as hypothyroidism, Wilson’s disease and diabetes (during hypoglycemic events) make people more likely to suffer from the disorder.
* Having an excessive amount of anxiety brought on by a chronic illness might indicate susceptibility to panic attacks. This could include people who have cardiac conditions that put them at risk of sudden death.
* Over-breathing can lead to hyperventilation syndrome, which can trigger a panic attack. There is still debate as to the exact cause of hyperventilation syndrome, but it is believed to be psychological in origin.
* Those individuals who suffer from a phobia are prone to panic attacks when faced with the object of their fear.
* Some people can associate certain situations as panic inducers. This is sometimes referred to as situationally bound panic attacks.
* Different substances such as alcohol, caffeine, and amphetamine can trigger a panic attack. It is also possible that people who are beginning certain anti-depressants (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) can experience these attacks.
* Those who are overly passive in their communications seem more prone to these symptoms.
* People who engage in too much negative self-talk are more likely to suffer from panic disorder
* If people are in the middle of a traumatic event then this could trigger an attack. This could include a death or a relationships breakup.

Dual Diagnosis with Panic Disorder

There are a high number of addicts who would be classified as having a dual diagnosis. This means that they have another mental health problem along with their addiction. One type of dual diagnosis involves anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Some of these individuals will have initially turned to substance abuse as a means of dealing with their anxiety disorder, while others may have developed this condition as a result of their addiction. If this person becomes sober, they may continue to suffer from panic attacks until they get treatment for their anxiety. Those individuals who have a dual diagnosis need to tackle both of their conditions if they are to find happiness in sobriety.

Dealing with Panic Attacks in Recovery

It is not only people with a dual diagnosis who experience panic attacks in recovery. There are a number of other reasons why the individual may experience such symptoms including:

* People can suffer panic attacks during the first days of their sobriety as part of the withdrawal process. Once they have made it through the withdrawal period this should not longer be a problem.
* Early recovery can involve a great deal of stress as the individual adjusts to a life away from substance abuse – it is sometimes referred to as an emotional rollercoaster ride. If people feel overwhelmed by stress they may have a panic attack.
* Many addicts [suffer from low self-esteem](http://alcoholrehab.com/alcohol-rehab/addiction-and-low-self-esteem/. This may mean that they are unable to be assertive when it is required; their failure to communicate their needs effectively may cause them to develop panic disorder.
* It is often the case that people fall into addiction as a way to escape their situation; those who have suffered a great deal of emotional trauma can hide using substance abuse. When these people are once again faced with the realities of life it may cause them to experience panic disorder.
* Some people in recovery can drink an unhealthy amount of caffeinated drinks, as it can bring on these attacks.

How to Treat Panic Attacks in Recovery

Frequent panic attacks can seriously disrupt life. Those recovering from an addiction may find that it prevents them from enjoying their sobriety. It may even be used as an excuse to relapse. The following paragraphs explain steps people can take to prevent such attacks occurring in the future.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be highly effective at helping people overcome panic attacks. The aim of this therapy is to help people change the thought patterns that lead to the panic. This means that, when the individual is once again faced with a situation that would normally bring on an attack, they will be able to react differently. Sometimes this therapy can involve recreating the symptoms under the guidance of the therapist and then overcoming them. That way when the individual is faced with the trigger event in the real world they will be able to manage it effectively.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is another approach that can be used for dealing with panic disorder. Here the aim is not to deal with the thinking surrounding a panic attack but to search for the underlying causes of the condition, which are usually found in the unconscious mind. The idea is that this condition is caused by some type of emotional conflict. If this conflict can be resolved, the symptoms will disappear.

There are several medications available for dealing with panic attacks. There are a number of different types of anti-depressant medications that have been shown to help people deal with this problem. All of these medications have side effects and it may take a bit of experimentation before the physician finds the combination of drugs that work. Benzodiazepines can also be used to treat the condition.

Those who suffer from mild panic disorder may find that mindfulness meditation will help them cope with these symptoms. The aim of this technique is to learn to sit and observe emotions as they arise without being swept away by them. The individual learns how to observe their mind without getting caught up in the action.

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