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Old 09-17-2014, 04:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Sobriety and Panic


I'm a week shy of 3 months sober. Last night, just prior to going out for my "recovery meeting", a bad mood descended for a variety of reasons I need not go into, other than to mention it was "fear and intimacy" based. Unfortunately, I found little mood change from what folks shared at the meeting. I left promptly afterward in more of a "state" I guess.

By the time I got home I was both a little hungry..and growing increasingly frustrated with all the things I have left unattended at home. I went about tidying up as well as figuring out what I should eat...

Then suddenly I noticed my heart start to race...and my breath getting shallow. I realized what I was feeling was a bit of a "panic attack". I was able to finish what I was doing and sit down..and well, it passed. But it scared me...

I have NEVER been one prone to panic attacks. My question is..has anyone discovered the onset of "panic attacks" AFTER they sobered?
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Old 09-17-2014, 04:56 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi,

Panic attacks are really scary. I had them before I began drinking and I still get them occasionally. When I was drinking, I had a lot of panic attacks.

You talked about your breathing becoming shallow. That's so significant. The shallow breathing perpetuates the panic attack, so by simply taking three deep "belly breaths" you would likely find that you feel more calm. Sitting down and waiting till it passed was a good idea.

One thing I would mention is that balance is a key for me. If you were hungry, already feeling 'off' and knowing you needed to do things at home, it was probably enough to allow the anxiety/panic to overwhelm you.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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You talked about your breathing becoming shallow. That's so significant. The shallow breathing perpetuates the panic attack, so by simply taking three deep "belly breaths" you would likely find that you feel more calm. Sitting down and waiting till it passed was a good idea.
Thank you for this Anna! I do believe I did take some breaths. I have found since I started doing a morning meditation that I am actually finding "pause" to breathe when something starts "to happen within my head" that I don't like. It wasn't so long ago that I wondered if I would EVER find pause before an emotion overwhelmed me.

Thank you again for this.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Sorry you experienced this, Nuu. Panic attacks are horrible!

I think anxiety (and panic attacks) can develop anytime. We all know the strong relationship with drinking/withdrawal/early sobriety, but it can be triggered by a million things. I have life-long a history of anxiety and have had numerous panic attacks in my life. I started having them in my late teens in a period when I very rarely drank. The worst phase where I had very frequent panic attacks was much later, in my late 20's and they were related to my strong sensitivity and bad reaction to the sweetener aspartame (it's toxicity was not well-known back then). Of course I had hellish anxiety as a heavy drinker. Sometimes I think my anxiety (and milder panic attacks) are hormonal, I tend to get them as PMS symptoms, but not always.

Since these symptoms are generated by changes in our brain chemistry, many things can be triggers, including food additives, medications, and physiological or emotional fluctuations we are not aware of easily. I just recently had some pretty bad anxiety when taking an antidepressant, prescribed for anxiety primarily, and while it's normal that they often increase anxiety at first, mine made me pretty unstable and up/down even after 5 weeks, so I stopped it.

Maybe yours was indeed at least in part related to your bad mood and the fears that you have mentioned. If it's something that bothers you, I would try to sort it out somehow. I think new and unexpected challenges can increase anxiety in everyone. I find that the best remedy for it is exercise.

I know quite a few people who developed anxiety and occasional panic attacks later in life, totally unrelated to drinking or any drug use. My dad started having this in his 70's, for example, and apparently never before.

I hope it was a one-time event for you!
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I started getting them too late in my drinking, and especially when I first quit. I still get them from time to time, but far less common and much less intense. For me it always starts with an odd feeling of impending doom, but with no source. My heart speed up and sometimes I feel weak and very shaky...like I'm going to have tremors or a seizure (but I never do ). And the just like that it's done.

I've told my doctor and they say it's just anxiety. I can't help but think all those years of drinking didn't burn out some brain cells and nerves that are partially responsible, but it's impossible to know for sure. I just keep reminding myself that nothing bad ever comes of them other than seriously freaking me out for a bit!
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Nuu, I never had a full blown panic attack, but did get quite panicky & anxious for about the first 6 months. I agree with haennie - hope there's no repeat.

Good that you posted about it.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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my experience is much like Anna's - I've always had them but I find breathing belly breaths helps a lot.

They can be really debilitating. I'm sorry you are experiencing them too Nuu.

D
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:10 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Since these symptoms are generated by changes in our brain chemistry, many things can be triggers, including food additives, medications, and physiological or emotional fluctuations we are not aware of easily.
Interesting Haennie. Based on what you're saying, perhaps peri-menopause could possibly be at issue? Ugh..I am at that age.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I cannot contribute as I only had anxiety while drinking. But wanted to say that I hope it resolves itself.

The part that you don't want to talk about, intimacy and things would be a great place to introspect. Maybe? Dunno.

Good luck my friend
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:14 PM   #10 (permalink)
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For me it always starts with an odd feeling of impending doom, but with no source.
Now that's also interesting! I was fine yesterday! And then the weather started to change and it was like some sort of dark cloud descended upon me as well..from out of nowhere! I later speculated it was something that was kind of eating at me earlier...but it was later...like someone pulled down a shade and darkness just enveloped me. I sat through a meeting but couldn't shake it..and then later at home it happened...

Really interesting. Glad I posted bout this...
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:14 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Interesting Haennie. Based on what you're saying, perhaps peri-menopause could possibly be at issue? Ugh..I am at that age.
It is possible. If you have other episodes, it might be worth investigating hormones with a doctor.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Interesting Haennie. Based on what you're saying, perhaps peri-menopause could possibly be at issue? Ugh..I am at that age.
Same here. I went to see my doctor last week because of panic "waves" all through the day. He recommended anxiety medication and long long baths. He promised me that a long hot bath with essential oils (lavender works great) will do wonders.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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It wasn't so long ago that I wondered if I would EVER find pause before an emotion overwhelmed me.
I was exactly like that. I felt I had no control over the emotions, but was simply along for the ride. It was amazing to me that I didn't have to 'go with it'.

Eckhart Tolle talks about the 'space' between the breaths, that quiet spot when you are neither breathing in, nor out.

Two great books on dealing with panic attacks:

'From Panic to Power' by Lucinda Bassett

'When Panic Attacks' by David Burns MD
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Usually when I go to a meeting, and since
it is just for an hour, I make sure I leave
all my outside worries, home, family, whatever
is bothering me at the door and enter with
a clear, openmind, to hear the message
or whatever it is that I need to hear at
that time to take with me when I leave.

For the rest of the day I can reflect on
what I may have heard that made sense
to me and useful in my own life situations.

I also say the Serenity prayer and 3rd
step prayer along with others I memorized
to say when Im hit with a mood that seems
to over power me.

You are doing good in ur recovery as you
continue to reach out for help and suggestions
here amongst supporting friends in SR.
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:20 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Hey Nuudawn

I had a huge panic attack about 5 months into my sobriety. I had travelled overseas for a job interview and the day before the meeting, I was overcome with anxiety. It consumed me and I could not shake it. I tried to walk around and get some fresh air, eat something sweet, etc but nothing helped. It was a horrible feeling where I was overwhelmed. Now when I read about folks who suffer from anxiety, I truly feel compassion for them as it must be tough to continually suffer from anxiety attacks.

Strangely enough, I did not have any desire to drink, but I did have this strong desire to have a smoke. This was despite the fact that I had given up cigarettes for more than 5 years. I didn't succumb to that but had a cigar (I smoke about 3 cigars a year on average) in what I thought was a divan but which turned out to be a whisky bar. Its funny as I didn't even realise there was liquor until I left.

In retrospect, I would should have meditated but I know better now.

I guess the point is that I did have a panic attack after gaining sobriety. Fingers crossed, it will be the only one and I'm grateful I didn't get the urge to drink. I think I have learned from it as well.

Hang in there Nuudawn !
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:23 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Nuu - congratulations on the 3 months. I enjoy watching you transform in your journey. I am sorry about your panic attack. Do you meditate? Dee's suggestion of belly breathing is often how I focus on my breath in meditation. Its a technique I learned in yoga. When I competed in triathlons I found this breathing technique could be used to slow my heart rate to keep it in the zone I needed it in (used a HR monitor to do this). I find may of us take very shallow breaths and can hyperventilate. This is often seen in a new swimmer in the pool. Interestingly, as babies and children we breath naturally through the belly and then over time somehow transition to shallower chest breaths. Like most good things, I find going back to the traits of children can be useful.

If you feel faint, cold towel and lying down can help too. Perhaps this is your HP sending a message...maybe to slow a little and be gentle? Maybe its just a panic attack. Either way I wish you the best!
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