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Avatar universal


I've been recently diagnosed by my family doctor and a psych consult as having GAD. Up until recently my history has been 2-3 days of unease and discomfort and sometimes insomnia but that usually passes after 2-3 days. Recently I had an episode that has lasted for over 2 weeks. I'm currently taking valium 2.5mg prn as the doc's aren't convinced that this is anything but a few times a year. I have been under a great deal of stress the last 3 months at work but that will be changing next month and things should smooth out considerably.

My question is really whether abusive amounts of alcohol consumption can trigger these anxiety phases. The most recent phase was at the end of a two week period of drinking at least a few drinks everynight and some weekend nights were excessive (8-10 drinks). Does anyone know if there is any evidence that short periods of excessiving drinking can be the trigger for attacks? Both doc's don't believe I'm alcohol dependent I just sometimes overdo it. I generally enjoy drinking for the social aspects of it--but there is always that "one more round" thing I need to get past.

My symptoms are fairly mild from what I've read on other posts but since they have lasted several weeks I'm becoming more concerned. Typical symptoms, diaphoresis, palpitations, muscle twitching or tightness, slight reddening of the face/hands and some sort skin crawling feelings including in the head/brain. So far not debilitating but the fear is really that I'll have to deal with this now at this level from now on.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks
14 Responses
Avatar universal
Yes.  Alcohol can cause panic and/or anxiety.

When you drink to excess, you throw your body in a state of chaos which has to be sorted out by a few sensitive and coordinate organs, most prominently the liver and the brain.

The two most prominent psychiatric features of excessive drinking is linked to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) by interfering with the bodies natural process of gluconeogenesis, or the normal release of glucose; the quick explanation is that when you drink a couple of beers, the liver begins to work exclusively on the processing of alcohol to the exclusion of all other tasks, including keeping your blood glucose balanced.  The brain gets deprived of glucose; you develop fatigue, mind-fog, dizziness, and as the process progresses you can develop restlessness as the brain searches for natural alternate energy sources such as adrenaline, which can then cause anxiety and even panic attacks.

The other psycho-active effect of alcohol consumption is the depressive effect that excessive drinking has on glutamine, which is the brains natural stimulant and it is a good stimulant.  Alcohol causes glutamine levels to crash and as the alcohol wears off, the glutamine levels rebound to abnormal highs which can cause tremors, inability to lay down or sit still, sweating, palpitations and yes, anxiety.

One or two drinks per day is probably okay for most people and shouldn't cause excessive anxiety, some studies indicate that light to moderate drinking is actually good for you as long as you are drinking for pleasure and not medicating yourself.

Excessive drinking can cause all of the above and more, so it is should be noted that heavy drinking is one of the worst quick-fixes for anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, it is the most common way to self-medicate.    

Avatar universal
Hi vc.  Yes, abusing alcohol can trigger anxiety attacks, most assuredly  (hence the reason people begin abusing alcohol - to take away the anxiety that comes from being cold sober.)  "Hair of the dog that bit you" is a common phase for indulging to take away the "bad feelings" with cold sober.  The anxiety is another reason people sometimes drink on "binges", and it's also the reason alcoholic drinkers have a very difficult time stopping drinking.

Please - be very careful about this Rx for Valium (even though it's only 2.5 mg).  That would be of great concern to me with your admission of "overdoing" it in the alcohol department and complaints of anxiety.  Many, as I'm sure you know, have unintentionally overdosed on the combination of alcohol and Valium - most times because they don't remember taking that much Valium.  Valium potenitates (makes more pronounced) the effects of alcohol, and vice versa.   Be very VERY careful that you NEVER EVER combine the two.  I can't stress that enough.  

But back to your original question - most certainly alcohol in the manner you are drinking it can cause anxiety (great anxiety).

Best of luck.
Avatar universal
Chicagopsy explained the anxiety / depression part wonderfully.   Many people think alcohol will help them sleep (when in fact it is a stimulant and cause restlessness and insomnia, sweating, palpitations, etc.)   Many also think alcohol will lift their spirits (and it might temporarily) but alcohol is also a depressant and can cause depression.  The physiological process behind this is exactly as Chicagopsy stated. Interesting, huh?  

Please watch out for that Valium!

Happy Holidays.
165308 tn?1323190145
Get rid of the alcohol.  Even though you do not think you have a problem with it, see how you feel when you give it up.  I found that when I gave up drinking my life took on a whole different perspective.  YOU WILL FEEL MUCH BETTER BOTH PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY.  If your anxiety persists after a few weeks, go see a psychologist/psychiatrist for the next step.  GP's try to help, but you need a specialist to really diagnose.
Avatar universal
In some cases the excess consumption of alcohol can be one of the main causes of frequent panic attacks. The depressing affect of the alcohol can cause a person to dwell on the unwanted stress-giving-thoughts that trigger their panic attacks.  This only increases the likelihood of stronger, more frequent attacks; something panic attack sufferers would prefer to do without.

It doesn
Avatar universal
Alcohol as well as any drugs can significantly effect mental status.  Until you have you anxiety under control the best thing to do would be to lay off the booze as much as possible.  Don't forget alcohol is a depressant.  It makes you feel like **** the next day and continues to effect you until it's toxins have completely left the body. good luck!
Avatar universal
Dear All,

Thanks for your prompt and astute advice and support. I haven't had any drinks in the two weeks I've been on the valium as I know it is not supposed to be mixed.

Does that mean that once I get past this acute phase I can slowly reintroduce casual drinking (if controlled) or do I now have a tendancy to drop back into acute anxiety with any alcohol? I'm mostly curious. The idea of spending the rest of my life without ever having a drink is a sad thought but not even close to the thought of having to spend my life the way these last two weeks have been.

By the way, I've actually been cutting the 2.5mg pills into quarters and taking a quarter at a time prn as a full pill makes me too drowsy. So far it has been working but the first four or five days were pretty up and down until I modified the dosages.

Again, thanks to all for your thoughts and advice. Just your words have helped calm me.
Avatar universal
Hi VC, I think it's great you're trying to understand the effects of alcohol on your system and make a decision on this.  

When you say "the acute phase", are you talking about the symptoms you are having off alcohol?  Are you asking if you can be a "controlled drinker."  If they gave you a Rx for Valium to take away the anxiety that came with cessation of alcohol, then I think it's real important for you to understand (and believe) that the anxiety you feel now with this cessation will be worse with more cessations.

I wouldn't advise you to try "controlled drinking" (because what you have said already is telling me that you have a problem with drinking.)  Only you can decide, though, if you do and if putting it up totally is best for you.  (I tend to think it would be the best thing, though.)

I'm glad you're not mixing the two.

165308 tn?1323190145
From the original post, I also think the drinking can be a problem with you. Even the fact that not drinking again bothers you can also be a sign of problem drinking.  As they say  "one drink is too many, and two is not enough".  If you feel the need to keep going for "one more" and you would have to consciously stop at one (and it would be hard)and the "next day" you have to say, "why did I do all that drinking?"  and "next time I won't drink as much"  and these sayings have become a habit, it is a drinking problem.  I know it is hard in the beginning to stop drinking...very hard, but the benefits of being sober truly outweigh it in the long run...PEOPLE PLACES AND THINGS.  You may have to find new "hobbies" and once you have gotten more in touch with yourself, you will LOVE your new life.  Let us know how things go.
Avatar universal
Find an AA meeting and attend. See if others are saying the things you feel.
Avatar universal
I don't know if all of this anti alcohol talk is completely true.  I took one dose of Lexipro about a month ago and had horrible side effects of extreme anxiety.  It was almost debilitating.  Sleeping has become impossible.  I have found that two or three glasses of wine make me feel normal and relaxed for at least a few hours.  This may not be very healthy but it does help get through the nervous, trembling feelings.  When your are feeling nervous and depressed you have to get through the moment as best as you can.  My doctor told me that a glass of wine works exactly the same as taking a Xanax.
181321 tn?1209835595
I suffer from anxiety as well and I have experienced a few panick attacks which is an extremely exagerated feeling of anxiety (a terrible feeling...I wish nobody has to experience it!)  I experienced anxiety everyday for every hour I was awake.  Not a good feeling to be tired and have anxiety.  I let my anxiety overtake my life and used sleep as an aid to escape the feelings.  That didn't work becuase the anxiety caused me to wake up periodically and I isolated myself to my home because of fear, which is a symptom.  Isolation caused a lack in support.  I held in my anxiety which therefore led to my panick attack and a cycle began.  It just got worse!  Until one day...I felt like I was going crazy (no joke!). I wasn't hallucinating I just believed life was out of my control and my world was crumbling when in fact my life was fairly normal.  I wanted to SCREAM!  As kids we scream when we are excited or sad or happy but as we get older we hold it in and I did that for too long.  So I said to myself why don't I, right into my pillow I screamed (as people were sleeping above me.) followed by concentrating on deep breathing exercises for 10 - 15 minutes.  That helped my immediate tension.

I decided I had to do something about it.  One thing I was determined to do was to NOT take any medication.  As it is very difficult to weine yourself off and may cause anxiety to return on a larger scale.

As recommended by my doctor I exercised daily.  I did a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio exercise to raise my heart rate to around 140-160 (I'm 25).  I did that a couple hours before bed during the week with exceptions on weekends.  I cut out ALL caffeine!!!! That includes pop, coffee, teas and yes, chocolate, although I have a bite from time to time. Not alot!.  Before my panick attack I drank one cup of coffee suring the weekdays which is pretty normal but it does not help people who suffer from anxiety.  Caffeine worsens anxiety!!!  I also eat food less in sugar, which if your not familiar with, sugar can be stored as energy quicker.  Think about the way children react to high sugar diets.  In adults it affects our bodies more on a physiological level.  It is less noticeable but sugar can cause hyper activity.  I ate foods which did not store fat or high energy such as veggies (having fatty foods and sugars can cause your body to react like a see-saw "up and down, up and down")I slept on time even on the nites where I was struggling to sleep.

I would have to say the biggest change was letting out my tension and aggression out on sports.  I began playing squash and I started hiking and swimming laps.  I would recommend ultimate sports.  I am now "in recovery" and I have not experienced an attack.  I feel less anxious, somedays I don't feel the anxiety and I am now healthier.  I have no fear of leaving the house (agoraphobia).

There are 2 parts to treating anxiety.  Dealing with the mind and dealing with the body.  I chose to deal with the body first and with that I developed ways to deal with my mind, such as retraining my thoughts.  For example, reminding myself everyday that I am strong and that worrying does not solve anything.

It is soo important to NOT ignore your body.  Your body right now..... is reacting because it's trying to tell you that something you are doing to your body is not right.  My biggest piece of advice is to take care of your overall health and to realize that sacrifice is part of life ie. alcohol.  You may in the future, such as I, be able to have some drinks here and there but I would advise you to not drink until you have gained control of your anxiety!  Giving up alcohol especially excessive drinking is a small price to pay for living a normal, happy and healthy life.

Best of Luck and take care =)
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