Living with the symptoms of panic attacks can make every single day feel like a major ordeal. It can become difficult to leave the house without thinking about whether you will end up spiraling into a state of panic. For some sufferers, even routine tasks, such as going to the grocery or taking in a movie – can prove to be a harrowing experience.
It’s little wonder, then, that substance abuse and panic attacks often go hand in hand. The grinding, ever present stress that comes with suffering from panic attacks can gradually wear a person down. In a desperate quest to find relief, many sufferers end up self medicating.
Studies have shown that nearly half of all people diagnosed with a panic disorder turn to alcohol or other drugs to numb their symptoms. This is especially true in social situations – panic attack sufferers will often have a few drinks before attending a social function – or even before going to the mall – in an effort to keep their anxiety at bay.
Unfortunately, substance abuse and panic attacks are a very bad combination. Although it may feel as though those few drinks are actually helping to calm you down, they are actually making your condition much worse. And alcohol is not the only chemical that will worsen your symptoms – recreational drugs, tobacco, and even coffee can cause you to have panic attacks that are both more severe and more frequent.
Alcohol and other chemicals disrupt your central nervous system, preventing serotonin and other mood enhancing chemicals from being released into your body. As a result, depression and anxiety often occur, and you will have diminished control over your emotions.
Many chemicals, especially alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, also cause severe physical tension. This shows up as physical pain, muscle aches, and reduced mobility. This tension, in turn, increases your anxiety, setting the stage for more severe panic attacks.
Another strong connection between substance abuse and panic attacks is sleep – or rather, the lack of it. The chemicals most often used to self treat panic attacks actually impair your ability to obtain restful sleep. Tobacco, for example, contains dozens of stimulants that keep your body from getting proper rest. And while alcohol may make you feel drowsy, it keeps your body from entering the deep stages, which is when healing, cellular regeneration, and other important physical functions take place. Even if you stay in bed for eight hours, your body is processing and eliminating alcohol, not rebuilding your body.
Over time, a lack of restful sleep will cause a variety of emotional problems – including panic attacks. When you abuse alcohol, you are essentially robbing your body (and your brain) of the opportunity to function at optimal levels.
By eliminating things such alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and caffeine from your life, you can break the chain between substance abuse and panic attacks – and you will find that your attacks become less severe and less frequent. You will likely need to take additional steps to eliminate the symptoms of your panic attacks – such as exercise, therapy, or medication – but getting rid of harmful, toxic substances will go a long way toward helping you live a panic free life!