The relationship between alcoholism and panic attacks (anxiety in general) is complex. Sometimes it is obvious and some other times it can be hidden or masked.
An important thing to know is that the relationship between alcoholism and anxiety does exist and that it can be very strong, which is unfortunate for those that self-medicate with alcohol.
In general there are two major links between alcoholism and panic attacks, in other words there are two types of panic attacks that are associated with alcoholism. There are panic attacks that are caused by alcoholism and there are panic attacks that are not necessarily caused by alcoholism but they are “nourished” and maintained by it.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is characterized by compulsive drinking (in company and alone) to such a degree that it produces mental disturbance and, if not treated, mental regression or even retardation due to the brain damage cause by alcohol abuse (overuse). There is a big debate over alcoholism these days considering its status as a disease or weakness. Whether alcoholism is a disease or not is not important for this subject. What is important, however, is that alcoholism and panic attacks are closely related and that alcohol is not a cure or therapy for anything.
What are panic (anxiety) attacks?
Panic attacks are the episodes of acute anxiety (fear) and disorganization. Individuals that experience these attacks are sometimes so terrified that they are capable of hurting themselves or others. This is why it is very important to know how to react when someone has panic attack.
Panic Attacks that are caused by Alcoholism
The important thing to notice is that in this case panic attacks do not occur before the individual becomes an alcoholic.
Panic attacks that are caused by alcoholism can occur in more than one way:
1. Panic attacks under the influence of alcohol.
2. Panic attacks during the sober stage (between two drinking sessions).
3. Panic attacks during alcohol withdrawal.
4. Panic attacks after alcohol withdrawal.
Panic attacks under the influence of alcohol can be very intense and potentially dangerous for the afflicted individual or the people around him or her. Delusions and hallucinations are common for alcoholics. This is especially the case with alcoholics that experience panic attacks which is what makes them potentially dangerous.
Sometimes panic attacks occur when an alcoholic is sober. This could make them believe that their alcoholism and panic attacks are not connected but they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact it is quite common that an alcoholic experiences anxiety attack when sober.
Panic attacks during alcohol withdrawal are unfortunately common and they may be the strongest evidence of the link between alcoholism and panic attacks. An alcoholic that hadn’t had any panic attacks prior to the alcohol withdrawal is the living proof of the relationship between alcoholism and anxiety.
Anxiety attacks can also occur after the alcohol withdrawal is completed and they may be the cause of relapses. However, panic attacks rarely occur this way and the relapses are usually caused by other factors.
Panic attacks that are not caused by alcoholism but “nourished” by it are those panic attacks that started occurring before the person became an alcoholic. However their alcoholism makes their panic attacks more intense and horrifying which deepens their suffering. This is another example of the connection between alcoholism and panic attacks.
Sadly, many individuals that suffer from panic attacks self medicate with alcohol without knowing that alcohol abuse will only make things worse for them. Don’t be one of those people. Get yourself in alcohol counseling and psychotherapy. Deal with your anxiety disorder and don’t surrender the control of your life to alcohol, but take it in your own hands.