Panic Disorder and Addiction Treatment

panic disorder and addiction treatmentPart of the human condition is to experience brief moments of anxiety. As stressors multiply and intensify, it is only natural to feel momentarily overwhelmed. In a similar way, it is common to seek solace from life’s stressors in addictive behaviors, such as food, alcohol or exercise. However, individuals with panic disorder find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of fear, anxiety and addiction. Without intervention, the cycle continues to wreak havoc on all aspects of their lives.

Basics of Panic Disorder

Individuals with panic disorder live daily with the debilitating experience of anxiety and fear. Oftentimes, those suffering from panic disorder will be plagued with recurrent fears of death, having a heart attack or “going crazy.” More specifically, each episode of a panic attack is accompanied by a host of physical symptoms, from chest pains to a racing heart. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, panic disorder affects 2.7 percent of the US population, with approximately 45 percent of cases deemed severe. Panic disorders can afflict anyone and strike at any time during their lives; however, panic disorders tend to affect more women than men, oftentimes surfacing in adult years.

Due to the delicate interplay between physiological and psychological symptoms, treating panic disorders can be tricky. Thus, the most effective treatment plans employ a combination of psychotherapy, medication and lifestyle recommendations. While each treatment component will aid in the healing process, practitioners must be cautious of treating underlying addictions as well. At the root of both panic disorders and addictions is profound anxiety. It is the overwhelming sensation of anxiety that initially leads individuals to rely on drugs, alcohol or food as a means to cope. During moments of extreme anxiety, the addictive behaviors can no longer mask the overwhelming fears. As a result, individuals may suffer from anxiety attacks. Thus, effective treatment must address both disorders – panic and addictive.

Therapy as an Effective Treatment

Fundamental to overcoming panic disorder and addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Within the supportive environment of a trained professional, individuals can explore the root causes of their anxiety. For individuals suffering from debilitating and frequent panic attacks, therapy allows them a safe space to work through individual symptoms. Through regular therapy, individuals learn to trust that their panic attacks are not life-threatening, but rather a sign of imbalance. Eventually and over time, individuals will learn to better manage their anxiety.

Therapists take a similar approach in treating addictive behaviors. Because anxiety surfaces in both panic attacks and addiction, it is crucial for individuals to explore the messages behind their fear. By creating a safe space for individuals to express their anxiety, therapists enable those suffering from addictions to explore healthier means of coping with stress. In addition to regular therapy, professionals may recommend lifestyle modifications, from relaxation techniques to daily exercise.

The Role of Medication

While therapy is a crucial component in treating panic disorder and addictions, medication is sometimes used. Depending upon the individual, doctors may recommend one of several medications. Although the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most often chosen family of drugs for treating panic disorder, doctors may employ any number of medications. The most common medications in treating panic disorder and addiction are as follows:

  • Xanax
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Effexor XR

According to recent statistics, only 65 percent of those suffering from panic disorder are being treated. Without intervention, the underlying anxiety will only intensify. Therapy, medication and lifestyle changes are viable alternatives for individuals struggling to break free from the destructive cycle of addiction and fear.

If you’d like more information on how we here at The Oaks at La Paloma can help you address panic disorder and addiction issues effectively, please give us a call today.