Panic Disorders

Panic Disorders are a form of anxiety. They are sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes or longer. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, panic attacks are characterized by a fear of disaster or of losing control even when there is no real danger.

A person may also have a strong physical reaction during a panic attack, and they are often confused with having a heart attack since symptoms are very similar. Panic attacks can occur at any time, and many people with panic disorders worry about and dread the possibility of having another attack.

Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
  • A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
  • Physical symptoms, such as: pounding or racing heart, sweating, chills, trembling, breathing problems, weakness or dizziness, tingly or numb hands, chest pain, stomach pain, and nausea
  • An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
  • A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past

Types of Panic Disorders

No two panic disorders are alike. They are all rooted in various root causes, have many different levels of severity and can affect someone anywhere from multiple times a day to once a week. A single episode of panic when you lose your keys is completely normal. However, when it starts affecting your day-to-day life and is controlling your decision making, then it is time to consider getting help. While there are many types of panic disorders, there are three that occur the most.

Generalized Panic Disorder

Fear and worry are the two hallmark characteristics of panic disorders. These feelings can come on overwhelmingly, even when there is absolutely no danger present. The realization of having a panic attack, or worrying about the next panic attack, can trigger an attack in and of itself. Someone may feel dizziness, sweaty palms, chest pain and other physical symptoms. Panic attacks can subside after a few moments, or can last longer.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This is the most common type of anxiety and panic disorder among people. It is involves excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worries about nonspecific life events, objects, and/or situations. It can also include being worried and disturbed by terrible things happening, while the chances of this thing happening are actually extremely slim. These worries can cause insomnia, inability to relax, and isolation.


The exaggerated fear of specific objects, activities and scenarios are phobias. Common phobias include heights, flying, spiders, the dark and the ocean. Depending on the severity of the phobia, people go to great lengths to avoid them. If confronted with their phobia, a panic attack may come on and sweating, nausea, dizziness and more can occur.

How is My Panic Disorder Related to My Addiction?

In order to help deal with the day-to-day symptoms of panic attacks, or in an effort to help rid of them completely, many people decide to get medical help. A doctor will generally prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help with physical symptoms, and a therapist will help with working through emotional trauma that could be related to the panic disorder. However, these medications can easily lead to addiction.


Benzodiazepines are a Schedule IV in the Controlled Substances Act. They are also a helpful tool for a variety of panic and anxiety conditions. They work by targeting the neurotransmitter gamma-amino butyric acid, also known as GABA, and calming the nerve impulses. In addition, they surge dopamine levels, flooding your brain with a feel-good neurotransmitter. This sudden and strong euphoria is pleasurable to its’ users, and can also lead to addiction.

The Overprescribing of Benzodiazepines

Primary care doctors are prescribing Benzodiazepines more and more to their patients. According to NPR, the percentage of medical visits that led to a client receiving a benzodiazepine prescription has doubled from 2003 to 2015.

Benzodiazepines are best used in the short-term in order to avoid dependence, addiction and even death by overdose. However, from 2005 to 2015, continuing prescriptions increased by 50 percent. This means that people are taking benzodiazepines much longer than they need to. This can fuel dependency and make abuse of the medication extremely easy.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Once someone has become addicted to their anxiety or panic disorder medication, they have what is called a co-occuring disorder. This means that they both fuel each other, so treatment of one without the other will spark the cycle again. One will always exacerbate the other, so treatment of both disorders at the same time is vital for a successful recovery.

About Cliffside Malibu

A life free of panic attacks and addiction is possible. We can help you break the cycle of panic and benzodiazepine abuse.

Each patient is then matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific need. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stage.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain Sobriety.

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