Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Anxiety/Panic Attacks?

Alcohol is often abused in an effort to reduce anxiety and calm nerves. Over time, alcohol use may lead to increased anxiety if a person with alcohol addiction or dependence attempts to quit abruptly.

Get Help Now!
Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


A heightened sense of anxiety and the onset of panic attacks are common effects of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. This is due to the way alcohol affects the brain and central nervous system.

While alcohol and anxiety are closely linked, particularly during the detox process, they may be uncoupled through evidence-based and holistic treatments.

How Alcohol Withdrawal May Cause Panic Attacks

Research shows that approximately 25 percent of people seeking treatment for a panic disorder also have had alcohol dependence at one time in their life.

Alcohol withdrawal may contribute to the onset of panic disorder, or heighten pre-existing mental health issues that make the condition worse.

Alcohol’s Effect On The Brain

Drinking alcohol changes the chemical composition of the brain. This means that the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters are altered to create a sense of calm in the drinker.

While the depressant effects of alcohol may work to mask existing anxiety, over time it tends to make the issue worse due to how dependent the brain becomes on the ethanol in alcohol.

Hormone Disruption

Alcohol consumption may also cause hormone imbalance, alter testosterone levels, and lead to increased cases of panic disorder as a result.

In women, drinking alcohol in excess may lead to early menopause, irregular menstrual cycles, and more due to disruptions in hormone levels.

Sleep Deprivation

While alcohol in small or moderate amounts may help some people sleep, in high amounts alcohol tends to make sleep quality much worse.

Surveys have shown that people with alcohol use disorder often have symptoms of insomnia. Poor sleep is a common catalyst for anxiety, panic, and other mental health issues.

Learn more about alcohol withdrawal insomnia.

Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal Anxiety Or Panic Disorder

Anxiety is a relatively common mental and physical state, but when it’s exacerbated by alcohol withdrawal it can be more severe and lead to panic disorder.

Symptoms Of Panic Disorder

Symptoms of panic disorder appear quickly and usually without warning. Symptoms include chest tightness, rapid heart rate, numbness or tingling, hand tremors, and fear of impending death.

Symptoms Of Anxiety

People affected by alcohol withdrawal anxiety may feel symptoms such as dread, rapid breathing, disorganized thinking, restlessness, and nervousness.

The Link Between Delirium Tremens And Anxiety During Alcohol Withdrawal

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a serious side effect of alcohol withdrawal syndrome that shares similar symptoms to anxiety. DTs symptoms typically appear around 48 to 72 hours from the last drink.

Not everyone will experience DTs symptoms, but those that do may have tactile or auditory hallucinations, disorientation, alcohol withdrawal seizures, high blood pressure, panic attacks, and more.

Due to the potentially life-threatening medical emergency that delirium tremens poses, it’s recommended that anyone with DTS symptoms seeks medical care promptly.

How To Treat Alcohol Withdrawal-Related Panic Attacks

When people experience alcohol withdrawal-related panic attacks it can be frightening, but there are ways to treat the condition so symptoms are more manageable.

Build A Support Network

One of the most important steps in relieving severe alcohol withdrawal anxiety and panic attacks is by building a strong network of supportive individuals around you.

A support system will help you navigate severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, make sure you’re getting plenty of rest and eating well, and keep you on the recovery track.

Get Plenty Of Rest

Getting plenty of sleep is one of the best methods in helping the body recalibrate itself during alcohol withdrawal. Plentiful rest will also help calm the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder.

Eat A Healthy Diet

Prolonged alcohol abuse will deplete the body of nutrients and affects the gastrointestinal system’s ability to absorb essential vitamins such as thiamine or minerals such as magnesium.

Eating plenty of healthy, nutrient-rich foods during alcohol detox is important to keep the body functioning normally and help alleviate anxiety and alcohol withdrawal panic attacks.

Seek Professional Help

Panic attacks during alcohol withdrawal are most effectively managed by medical professionals in a clinical environment. Contact an evidence-based treatment program for the care you need to overcome alcohol withdrawal.

Treatment Options For Alcohol Addiction

If you or a loved one have an addiction to alcohol, evidence-based treatment may be the best option to alleviate severe withdrawal symptoms and stay on track to sobriety.

Treatment programs may include:

Treatment of alcohol withdrawal will typically begin with a detox program and transition to an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment facility.

Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Call Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information about our evidence-based inpatient treatment program for alcohol use disorder.

Our health care providers can answer your questions about the effects of alcohol or provide referrals for medical advice.

  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH)
  3. National Institute of Health (NIH)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

Prefer Texting?
We've got you covered.

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support

Receive 24/7 text support right away.
There is no obligation and you can opt out at any time.
Ready to make a change? Talk to a specialist now.
(617) 657-2877
icon-angle icon-bars icon-times