Alcohol and Panic Attacks
A subscriber to the Panic Attack Recovery Newsletter asked “Is there a
link between alcohol and panic attacks?”
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Alcohol is a means of escape and some people are drawn to it for this very reason. Some sufferers of panic attacks do seem to be drawn to
alcohol. There does seem to be a correlation in some cases between alcohol and panic attacks.
Consider the following:
Brady and Lydiard (1993) pointed out that research has proven a stronger association than what
would be left to chance between alcohol and panic attacks. There is also an overlap in the symptoms of
panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and alcohol withdrawal.
This observation from research studies has led to speculation about common neurochemical
perturbations and a kindling phenomenon as a possible connection between these disorders. Cognitive theories
have been used to connect alcohol abuse and phobic disorders. Treatment of patients with co-morbid anxiety and
alcoholism is discussed.
George, Nutt, et. al (1990) indicate that studies on alcoholic patients have found a higher than
expected prevalence of panic disorder, and suggest a positive correlation between the level of alcohol
consumption and severity of anxiety. Conversely, there is an increased prevalence of alcoholism among patients
with panic disorder and their blood relatives. A comparison of symptoms, physiological and neurochemical changes
known to occur in both alcohol withdrawal and panic disorder reveals a degree of similarity between the 2
the data, we propose that the chemical and cognitive changes occurring as the result of repeated alcohol
withdrawals may kindle and condition coincidence of panic attacks in susceptible individuals. Implications
of our postulates for treatment of alcohol withdrawal and panic disorder in alcoholics and for future
studies are discussed.
Kushner, Setter, et. al (2009) found that those with co-occuring alcohol dependency and panic
disorder were helped by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). When trials were conducted after 30 days, both the
number of individuals meeting the criteria for panic disorder and the number of individuals meeting the criteria
for alcohol dependency had decreased. good lead in to cbt.
I would recommend that if you have not considered CBT that you give it a shot. In a nutshell
the process is the following:
- locate the cognitive distortions that cause your anxiety, panic attacks, etc.
- replace these thoughts with healthier and accurate thoughts that make you feel better
You can access more information about CBT and examples of it being applied by signing up for my free newsletter