Panic attacks can become associated with specific places or events, causing people to change their daily routines to avoid the attacks. People suffering from panic attacks are at higher risk for substance use disorders, often because they begin using drugs or alcohol as a means of “self-medicating” their symptoms or in an attempt to avoid future panic attacks.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks tend to be abrupt events that may include at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate, chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or a choking sensation
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Dizziness, light-headedness and nausea
  • Chills, hot flashes or excessive sweating
  • Feeling detached from yourself or reality
  • Acute fear of losing control or dying

Because the symptoms of a panic attack often mimic other physical conditions, many people suffering from one of these events may seek medical attention. In fact, those with persistent panic attacks may make multiple visits to the emergency room, mistaking the panic attack symptoms for a heart attack or other life-threatening issue.

Treatment for Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be effectively treated, just like other types of anxiety disorders. Common treatment options include:


Medications used to treat depression (antidepressants) and anti-anxiety medications can be effective in managing panic attacks. Some patients may need to try different medications before they find the one that works best for them.


One specific form of psychotherapy (cognitive behavior therapy) has been found to be especially effective in treating panic attacks. This therapy focuses on healthier ways of thinking and behaving that may help you feel less fearful that a panic attack is imminent.

Panic Attacks and Substance Abuse

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 20 percent of people suffering from a panic disorder will also struggle with a substance use disorder. While some people may turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of “self-medication,” the practice can also lead to further complications. Fortunately, there are professional treatment programs that can now treat substance use disorders and panic disorders simultaneously for the best possible outcome. To learn more, contact Treatment Now.