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The History of Anxiety Symptoms among 171 Primary Alcoholics:

Marc A. Schuckit, Michael Irwin, Sandra A. Brown

This study used patient and resource person face-to-face interviews to explore the history of anxiety symptoms and syndromes in 171 primary alcoholic male veterans on an alcohol treatment program. Almost all men (98%) reported at least one symptom of anxiety during drinking or withdrawal, including 80% who related problems with palpitations and/or shortness of breath. In addition, seven men (4%) described at least one episode of panic lasting from 1 to 4 or more hours, although only two of these individuals experienced three or more panic attacks in a 3-week period in the context of heavy drinking or withdrawal. No men evidenced repetitive panic attacks either before the onset of heavy drinking or in the context of a protracted period of abstinence. Seven individuals (4%) fulfilled criteria for generalized anxiety symptoms when dry for 3 or more months. The histories of treatment by mental health workers or in psychiatric facilities taken together with the symptom picture generated from patient and resource person interviews do not indicate an elevated incidence of either panic disorder or generalized anxiety that is independent of heavy drinking. (J. Stud. Alcohol 51: 34-41, 1990)