Panic Disorders and Addiction Need Dual Diagnosis California

Panic Disorders and Addiction Need Dual Diagnosis Treatment

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When an individual with a mental disorder has a coexisting substance use disorder, that’s known as a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is often challenging to treat because one disorder can impact the other. For example, a person with a mental disorder may attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to get temporary relief but will end up becoming addicted to those substances. [1] But it’s also true that addiction itself may lead to mental disorders since drugs and alcohol can affect and even change brain activity.  [1] Programs for dual diagnosis in California have the best outcomes for treatment. Find out more about why:

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is defined as repeated panic attacks that emerge suddenly and can last for several minutes. [4] The discomfort is so great during these episodes that the individual can experience physical symptoms that may lead to the belief that his or her life is actually in danger.

Panic Disorder affects approximately 6 million adults or about 2-3% of the U.S. population. A person diagnosed with Panic Disorder will have experienced a series of panic attacks along with a persistent fear that another attack will occur. The DSM-5 states that a panic attack will include four or more of these symptoms [3]:

  • Heart palpitations or an accelerated heart rate
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Choking feeling
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or other kinds of abdominal distress
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling detached from oneself
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

What Causes Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder?

While there’s no single factor that determines whether or not someone will develop Panic Disorder, it may be linked to:

  • Genetics [3]
  • Chemical or hormonal imbalances [4]
  • Excessive stimulation in the amygdala [4]
  • Childhood trauma [3]
  • Environmental triggers [3]

It’s certainly possible that environmental events such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., fear of getting sick, isolation, job loss, etc.) could trigger anxiety and panic. Still, most of the time, a panic attack seems to come out of nowhere with no known cause. Because Panic Disorder is described as a prolonged struggle with panic attacks that ultimately leads to fear of more attacks in the future, the panic attacks would have to be recurring to be characterized as a Panic Disorder.

Incidence of Dual Diagnosis Panic Disorder and Addiction

The journal Behaviour Research and Therapy reported that of those who were diagnosed with Panic Disorder, 10-20% also struggled with substance abuse, and 10-40% was battling alcoholism.[4]

Further backing up a connection between Panic Disorder and addiction is a chapter on co-occurring anxiety disorders and Substance Use Disorder in a book about dual diagnosis and comorbidity[5]. The authors of this chapter found that people with anxiety disorders risk developing an alcohol or drug use disorder at a rate two to five times higher than the general population. Psychiatric Times also published a study that concluded Panic Disorder is behind only Generalized Anxiety Disorder in its link to substance abuse[6].

Get Help for Dual Diagnosis California

It’s necessary to identify and treat the underlying issues that lead to a dual diagnosis to combat it effectively. Individuals suffering from both Panic Disorder and addiction can get the help they need at a treatment facility that understands how to address both the psychological and chemical problems faced by a dual diagnosis patient.

At Ocean Hills Recovery, our experienced and caring staff use an integrated approach that effectively targets and treats all underlying disorders and addictions. We call this method “Collaborative Recovery” because it includes therapists, physicians, family members, and the community to provide treatment that combines social, medical, spiritual, and psychological interventions. Customized care administered in a supportive environment allows individuals to heal properly, and our programs will arm them with the tools they need to lead a sober life once they leave the treatment center.

Contact us for more information about our programs designed to treat dual diagnosis in California. Let us help you or a loved one finally discover a path to long-term health and sobriety.






[5] Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder: The Vicious Cycle of Comorbidity by Sherry H. Stewart, Ph.D. and Patricia J. Conrod, Ph.D. – Chapter 1 Epidemiological Perspectives on Co-Occurring Anxiety Disorder and Substance Use Disorder Matt G. Kushner, Robert Krueger, Brenda Frye and Jill Peterson



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