Understanding The Connection Between Panic Attacks And Drug Use
Panic attacks are episodes of extreme fear accompanied by uncomfortable physical symptoms that can feel especially overwhelming for people struggling with substance use or mental health issues. Panic attacks can be triggered by drug use and withdrawal and often occur out of the blue. Because it is impossible to anticipate the onset of a panic attack, the element of surprise involved can create a great deal of anxiety, fear, and feelings of helplessness for people who experience them. It’s important to understand and be able to recognize the symptoms of a panic attack so you can help yourself and others cope with them more effectively.
What Are Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear or discomfort that occur without warning. People who experience panic attacks often share that they felt like they were having a heart attack or even as though they were going to die. Physical symptoms of panic attacks such as sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath make it easy to understand why they feel so threatening. Panic attacks can be triggered by unmanageable stress, excessive smoking or caffeine intake, other drug use and withdrawal, or a history of trauma, and can co-occur with mental health issues such as anxiety and psychosis.
Common physical and psychological symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
- Cold sweat
- Hot flashes
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- A feeling of impending doom or danger
- Fear of losing control
- Intense fear
The Link Between Panic Attacks and Drug Use
There is a significant connection between substance use and panic attacks. For example, stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines put a great deal of stress on your central nervous system by accelerating your heartbeat and raising your blood pressure, which can trigger a panic attack. Hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and PCP can also cause panic attacks because they alter a person’s perception and take away their sense of control.
Withdrawing from drugs can and often does trigger panic attacks. Once a person is dependent on a substance and is using it to feel “good” or “normal”, their body and brain adapt, and withdrawal can feel very destabilizing. Many people turn to drugs to help soothe thier anxiety and trauma in the first place and withdrawing from the substance brings those feelings back to the surface in a very intense way. If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, or panic attacks as a result of drug use, there is plenty of help available and tools you can learn about right now to help you cope the next time you feel overwhelmed.
Coping Strategies for Panic Attacks
There are a number of tried and true coping strategies and tools you can use to manage panic attacks, including breathing techniques and professional support from a psychologist or trauma therapist. One of the best things you can do is to reach out to trusted family and friends for support and to share what you’re going through. Connection is one of the strongest antidotes to feelings of fear and anxiety, so it’s important not to isolate yourself if you’re struggling in any way.
Here’s some more information on how to cope with a panic attack:
Breathwork: Your breath is a powerful tool for regulating your nervous system. Even if you feel overwhelmed by a panic attack, you can breathe through it and get to the other side, one breath at a time. Attending a weekly or bi-weekly yoga class or breath workshop can help give you more confidence and has many physical and psychological health benefits.
Professional help: Panic attacks can be debilitating, and if you’re experiencing chronic or severe panic attacks, a psychologist, counselor, or trauma therapist can help address the underlying cause. Different kinds of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and in some cases, medication, can help people find significant relief from panic attacks and other mental health issues. If you are struggling with panic attacks and substance use, look for a recovery center that offers a dual-diagnosis treatment program.
Avoid triggers: If you have some insight into what may be triggering your panic attacks, whether it’s a certain person, environment, or situation, do what you can to avoid them until you have the tools to manage being around them.
Professional Support for Panic Attacks and Substance Use
At Quest 2 Recovery, our holistic treatment philosophy is focused on the unique needs of the individual. Our knowledgeable and professional team members offer incredible support and guidance to everyone who attends one of our programs and also help oversee the practical details involved with attending treatment to make your path to recovery as smooth as possible. With a trauma-based approach in a safe, family-like environment, we offer medical detox and tailored treatment plans to help people of all ages learn more about and resolve the underlying issues that cause substance abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, contact us today.