I am posting this question in the anxiety forum because I've been led to believe that my drinking has caused me major anxiety and panic attacks, which began with a somewhat traumatic experience driving and passing out while on the freeway. Hopfully my information here might help someone else as well! Now I'm scared to drive, have full on panic attacks while driving, and am looking to improve my situation.
Here's the details:
I am a professional 30-something in sales and have been drinking alcohol heavily since I was in my early 20's. I would binge drink in college, and then when I started making more money, I was going out all the time, drinking 8-10 drinks per day, getting up the next morning early, working, and repeat the process. About 2 years ago, one day, while travelling, all of a sudden I passed out (got tunnel vision and then felt my head tilt down) while driving with a coworker. I pulled over on the side of the road and switched drivers, however I went from feeling fine that morning (we had drinks the night before) to completely losing it by 9:00 a.m. I had no idea originally that this was caused by alcohol.
Since then, several other rather large problems have arisen. I have trouble talking to people or driving if I've had anything to drink for up to 3-4 days after I've had alcohol due to panic and anxiety. Sometimes I can be talking with a colleague and feel myself almost fall over, chest tight and hands very sweaty. I've even had experiences where I was just fine giving a presentation and then my whole world came crashing down - very embarrasing when you have to leave a room (sometimes asking the group if they'd like a break works, however weird if the presentation is only an hour to ask for a break, but what other choice do I have?) Because I'm a woman people rarely ask me to explain my 'breaks' however I'm not sure how much longer I can pin this up.
I love my job, it is very rewarding but very fast-paced. I don't agree with my doctor that the way to solve my problem is to reduce stress by changing jobs. I handle stress currently by playing music, working out all the time, detoxing in steam, diet, etc...
My doctor recommended a benzo, which I took just 1/2 mg up to 1 mg per day for a while, but not everyday. Coming off of this actually made things WAY worse than just the alcohol (it delayed the anxiety, however when I stopped taking hte benzo, even one dose I had worse symptoms than I ever experienced) WOW - I would NEVER recommend benzos to ANYONE who's not in super severe trouble. If you've had 4-5 drinks and think you can get through the morning, taking the benzo delays the attack and makes it at least twice as bad. The other thing about coming of benzos is that the effects last way longer than coming off of alcohol. I'm glad I didn't get addicted and end up in one of the other discussion groups I've found on here talking about convulsions and complete loss of motor control - I can see from taking it briefly how easily that can happen. If you're considering taking a benzo, just browse the discussion forums of addicts trying to get off and the story of how they got started will probably be very similar to yours: Young prefessional prescribed benzos to curb alcohol related anxiety. Young professional continues getting more and more addicted, taking 5-6 mg/day, loses job due to addiction and ends up buying prescription off of the streets, ends up in hospital with assorted life-threatening detox symptoms, etc... I find this repulsive that doctors hand this stuff out like candy, however they are powerful in treating really severe symptoms so even withmy feelings towards these devilish white pills, I do keep a few in my purse, use 1/2 mg rarely, to curb really severe anxiety attacks. Any thoughts? Has anyone successfully used them as a long term solution to anxiety and not gotten addicted? I'm not addicted, however I only take a little once in a while and am extremely consciess of the ramifications for letting myself take too many.....
I used to get regular hangovers, and ever since the day driving I just get reallly bad anxiety when I drink. I can't sleep, for up to three nights, but the good news is the symptoms really improve if I don't drink for extended periods of time.
I guess what I'm wondering is if this has happened to anyone else? If so, did you ever return to 'normal', being that you could have occasional drinks and not have a full on panic attach the next day?
I should also say that this problem seems more widespread than I originally thought, but when I talked wtih my doctor years ago, she was more concerned with the fact that I was having attacks while I was driving (safety) than actually solving the problem. It seems to me that this happens to just about everyone who drinks for years and years, it will happen suddenly, and then get worse and worse. People medicate by drinking (temporarily stops the attack since it calms the part of the brain that's causing the attack, however only delays the problem from my experience from 6-48 hours later) - I've actually had attacks up to THREE FULL DAYS after my last drink.
I have also had a lot of problems with anxiety attacks while driving, again, well documented. These can be either after I've drank or for up to a week after IF I go to the gym, detox really well. Sometimes, though, even after I've had no drinks for up to a week, I still have anxiety attacks when I drive. This is really frustrating.
The other thing I should mention is that until this incident, I've never had any health issues, except a very severe reaction to Cipro (about 6 months, hallucinations, loss of motor control, the works when it comes to having a flox reaction, your brain gets permanently stuck in GABA down-regulation, I think, or from what I can read - this might be relavant since alcohol messes with GABA, along with benzos.... ugh)
I've never had anxiety, never had socially crippling issues, etc. which is why I believe I did this to myself with alcohol. WHY don't people tell you that this could happen? The health effects of over-conumption of alcohol are really severe - I think "drink in moderation" really doesn't cut it as a warning. I will tell you, however that if someone told me this could happen, I would have written them off, thinking that I am one of the folks that is immune.
I'm already curbing my alcohol intake considerably. I just want to know if anyone's been through a similar situation, and if there's anything that I can do to help myself.
Other things that really help:
- Chromium - helps regulate blood sugar
- Enough sleep (this one's really important, as when I have anxiety I have trouble sleeping. If I haven't drank in several days I will drink some Kava Tea (Will make you throw up if you have ANY alcohol in your system)
- Potassium and Magnesium along with Vit B, Citrical works well. I also take another Magnesium supplement in addition to Citrical at least 2-3 times/day.
- Niacin - helps regulate blood sugar
- Evening Primrose (helps with cognitive function)
- Milk Thistle
Even if I've only had 2 glasses of wine after dinner, stopping the alcohol for the most part has done wonders. If I keep it down to 2 drinks, work out and detox the next day, take the above supplements I can usually drive the next day as well. Certain drinks seem to have stronger effects (heavy beer, certain wines, etc.) so I stick to what I know, or don't drink at all.
The steam room also does wonders!! If I can make it to detox in steam for about an hour, doing hot/cold/hot/cold it improves my anxiety symptoms 10 fold. Again, this tells me that my anxiety is environmentally induced and toxic.
Any comments are appreciated! Hopefully my story can also help someone figure out how to manage their alcohol-related anxiety as well!
you asked and please believe me I am NOT trying to be nasty here, but from you writing all I can say is Deal with the Alcohol problem first. if someone told you they were "sick" but still drinking, I would say, well then you must not be that sick.
Anxiety / Panic happens to everyone professional, blue collar, poor middle class, rich, and every color humans come in.
I also wanted to mention one more thing in addition to my post that will hopefully give people hope:
My condition has improved DRAMATICALLY since I started managing it with exersize, getting enough magnesium, and making checks on my blood sugar. I try not to have those 'spikes' by drinking too man sugary drinks, eating candy, drinking soda, etc.
I remember when it was so bad that I couldn't even think about leaving the house - light would really hurt my eyes and make things worse. This is so strange considering how care-free I used to be. You could have asked me to go skydiving and I wouldn't have paused for a second before agreeing to jump out of a plane. Now I can't even think of doing stuff like that, however, things are looking up!
Now if I'm having an attack, I to try and get right to the gym, take a job, whatever I can do to get My heartbeat up, drink loads of water, get electrolytes. All of these things helped me feel more normal again, if I tried to get the anxiety out of my system when it happens instead of waiting days and days while suffering. Now I have a rule - if I have an attack during the day I work out for at least an hour and then try to sit in the steam room, drinking plenty of water, for 20 minutes or so. Bikram Yoga is also a one-stop-shop of anxiety reduction. Sometimes if I am having an attack I'll go to Bikram in the morning to keep from having a panic attack at work, even if it makes me late. Also, if I can leave work to go to the gym I do, then return in much better condition than when I left and have a 'good day' vs. coming home after battling with anxiety all day still wound up and upset, unable to enjoy my evening or anything for that matter, repeating the next day.
The lingering problem that I'm having is driving-induced anxiety. I leave for work 1/2 hour early all the time so I have time to try and get my anxiety under control when I get there. I've turned back time and time again, calling in sick even after I've almost finished my commute of an hour! This *****! I hate missing work, and really hate missing meetings that I initiated! I like my job and am sick of this problem.
All I can say is I think alcohol is the worst psychotropic drug on the face of the earth and anybody can get it without a prescription....I don't understand.
I believe it is what led me to my panic attacks. I didn't know how to deal with issues I was going through at the time and began to self-medicate on alcohol and that's when the attacks began. I didn't believe friends who told me to lay off the booze, that was probably what was causing it. I lightened up quite a bit in the late 90's and the attacks pretty much subsided.
My mom had a severe stroke in late 2001-my alcohol consumption rose again to a frightening level after she died in 2003 and I was drinking very heavily. About 8 months after she died I stopped because it was just making things worse and I was sick and tired of being in that boozy state of mind.
While I will have one or two drinks out at dinner, I no longer keep alcohol in the house and I just don't really have a taste for it anymore. My personal feeling on it is I think alcohol should not be available to anybody without a script. It is a drug and we drink to the feeling it gives us. If I told my doctor I wanted more Xanax for the feeling it gives me (it gives me no feeling-just saying), he'd never prescribe it again, yet booze is different for some reason.
You seem to have a handle on what is working for you :) For me, jeeping alcohol out of the equation is best tho it does nothing to quell the anxiety I live with.
hi there. sounds like you've been doing your homework as you have a grasp of the pharmaceutical/alcohol effects on neurotransmitters. often as a result of chronic use, there can be neurological damage, the worst of which is manifested in a disorder known as wernicke-korsakoff syndrome aka wet brain. additionally, a lowered tolerance and/or increased intoxicating effects can indicate things like liver damage, but your symptoms seem to occur once there is no more alcohol in your system. there has been an increase in reports of similar psychiatric issues in some people weeks or months after ending alcohol consumption, however there are no concrete answers in the research community to my knowledge. i would recommend having bloodwork done including a liver panel as well as possibly consulting a neurologist to rule out or confirm any damage as a result of your past consumption. if you would, please let me know what you come up with and i'll advise if i come across anything on my end, as i already have run across this in others. hope things are improving and take care, gm
Xanax and alcohol, that's what nearly killed me. After 16 months of horrible withdrawals, I'm starting to feel normal again. I am an alcoholic, I got that first prescription of ativan 9 years ago and eventually took more and more because it's like drinking alcohol. The benzo's work on the same brain receptors as alcohol so I got addicted to the pills. Of course I didn't know that at the time. I certinally didn't think I was an alcoholic. I started drinking when I was 17 and managed to have a successful life, but alcoholism is a progressive disease.
Your perfectionistic thinking about how you can compensate for your drinking with a more healthy lifestyle is part of the insanity of alcoholism. I don't know if you are one or not, I'm just letting you know some things I've learned. I did the same things, I worked out, juiced organic vegetables, spent hundreds of dollars on vitamins, etc... if I had a hangover I would run an extra mile to make up for the drinking. It made perfect sense at the time. None of these things worked of course and after 10 years of running one day I just stopped. Instead I learned a xanax would get rid of the hangover. Can you imagine if Pfizer could advertise xanax as the "cure" for the common hangover.
I did jump out of air planes. 82 times to be exact, I Ioved it, I loved life. But now I'm very sick and find it hard to leave the house. I am healing very well and I know I will have a great life again soon. But once you're an alcoholic you cannot drink one drop again. There are chemical reasons for this and I can pm you and explain all of it if you like. The only program that works is AA, one alcoholic talking to another. Is alcohol making your life unmanageable? Can you stop drinking if you want to? Do you drink more than you want to? I am not trying to preach to you, but I've been down that road, that's all. I will say that based on what I've read you definitely have a drinking problem.
You are very wise to take the benzodiazepine on a rare occasion, but I will tell you that it could trigger the craving for a drink.
I had some anxiety, not a lot, but more than most. I had trouble sleeping and I would take a drink before bedtime to help me sleep. Now I know that's all something I could of dealt with without pills or alcohol.
I don't know what exactly could be causing your panic while driving. Driving is not an unusual trigger for a panic attack. But you answered your own question regarding the alcohol making things worse. There is not one part of the body that alcohol doe's not damage. The withdrawals can cause seizures just like the benzo's. They are both very powerful drugs.
I’m surprised no one has ever posted a similar experience. Most of us drive, after all, and so there’s a pretty good chance for an anxiety sufferer to have a panic attack while driving. I had never passed out (though felt as though I would), but many, many times I had to exit off the highway. I’d often pull up somewhere I could get something to drink, somewhere to take my mind off the panic. Then I’d consider if I wanted to continue going where I was going because – as often was the case – I knew the anxiety would continue. You see, at the time when this used to happen to me, there was a good chance my legs would also go numb. It was as if my anxiety was so severe that even if I continued with my day, my mind was capable of shutting my legs down to try and prevent me. (Crazy, I know; but I believe this is called conversion disorder.) Anyways, imagine walking down the hall at college, and your legs go numb: somewhat similar to trying to walk on legs that have “fallen asleep.” Imagine people staring at you; the last thing you need.
It affected my life in so many ways. For example, I had straight A’s in an online English course, but because everyone had to meet the final day to give a speech, I refused and failed the course. I failed a second course for the same reason, but after that one, I made the decision to give those damn speeches – even if they killed me. (Luckily no one has ever died from giving a speech.) And so, it went something like me looking a bit lame walking up there; PowerPoint looked great, and it was obvious I knew what I was talking about. But about a minute into it, there you’d have it. I couldn’t breathe and could barely continue. Funny thinking back on this, though, because my attempts nearly always sparked a class discussion on anxiety and speeches.
Anyways, I can totally relate to the above post. It’s just that I never thought medication could help; I don’t believe in that, and actually I think I’ve read somewhere that anxiety comes back worse when discontinuing the medication. I also know that you shouldn’t stop doing things. The best way to get better is to force yourself to do what triggers an attack. IT DOES GET BETTER. Avoidance is the worst thing you can do, and more importantly, many recognize anxiety, can relate and/or will support you through it.
And yes, alcohol played a role for me too. I’m just not convinced it was the alcohol that caused the anxiety. I believe it’s more than that, meaning, for me, it was the way I was coping with life and probably my reasons for drinking in the first place. The alcohol only exasperates the disorder in the sense that you’re not dealing with what’s really bothering you, which is why I don’t believe in medicating yourself either. Like I said above, I believe avoidance in any way is the worst thing you can do, and not just in the sense of getting rid of anxiety, but what caused it in the first place.
Hey I have had simliar experiences with alcohol, I get extreme hot flashes like Im on fire and literally dying, and then I faint. Its rediculous and embarassing. My drinking experiences are pretty similar. I always black out and have to get sick. It is like I am ultra sensitive to alcohol, but I get so out of it I can't cut back.
Anyways I know this is a problem, but I have never been able to talk to anyone about it seriously ( i feel rediculous talking about alocholism at the age of 23), but it looks like some people may have similar issues who also struggle with anxiety. I have severe anxiety issues, and for no good reason.
Is this not alocholism, but just another side affect of anxiety? Do they go hand in hand?
Or are most sufferers of anxiety alcoholics?
I’m not a doctor, but I have my own theory.
I believe a lot of people drink, yes, to deal with “normal” anxiety. But just like with any drug, drinking is going to make anxiety worse in the long run. So my answer to your question is both.
Anxiety is a psychological disorder, and the reason it is labeled that way is because what triggers anxiety isn’t identifiable. In other words, I might experience an anxiety attack when approaching traffic or an intersection, though, that’s not my real fear, while someone else might in an elevator. A lot of times it has to do with something we haven’t or refuse to deal with. But that’s another story.
What you need to know is one of two things. You can either stop drinking to treat the anxiety, or you can keep drinking and see if you can manage it knowing it might get worse. My advice is to stop drinking, but if you can’t right now, keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Tell yourself you are not going to die, there really isn’t anything to be afraid of, and above all, make yourself do whatever causes an anxiety attack. Continually approach the situation that causes anxiety.
See, the whole thing with alcoholism is that not only are you not dealing with things, but also, it’s keeping you in the same state that you originally started in, that is when you learned to self medicate yourself with drinking.
I know it’s hard to quit drinking, but you have to continually try to quit, unless, of course, you are smart enough to outdo it or manage it.
I am soooo sick of people and doctors labeling this as ONLY anxiety, it is alot more complicated than that. We are anxious people, adrenaline naturally high on our bodies, binge drinking and damaging our CNS, we are in need of GABA because we are beating our neuro transmitters all to hell. It is not dehydration, it is not sugar problems, it is not heart problems. It is the combination of an already anxious person, or person just wth higher adrenaline, who abuses alcohol and the total cobination is causing our nervous sytem to malfunction and shut down on us. The only real solution, is not to drink at all if you cant promise to limit your self. The anxiety is kicking in after the physcial symptoms of falling, so anxiety is not the whole problem. Until I am at a better point in my life, I gotta lay off the booze. Melatonin helps with getting a good nights sleep when sober, Kashwagandha helps if you wake up in the middle of the night after drinking and need more sleep and then take a GABA supplement. Im soooooo sick of all the ******** answers for this problem. It is an actual physical problem, which understandably is freaking us out and sending us into a panic attack or anxiety symptoms. Doctors do not know the complexity of what is happening with our adrenal, nervous sytem, ect....So it is easier to tell you to hydrate and relax, or take a happy pill.
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