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Old 10-17-2016, 10:04 AM   #1
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Question Sudden panic attacks while driving. Alcohol? Neurology?

My dad (56) has been a relatively functional alcoholic for 10 years now. (Daily binge drinking, starting as early as midday. Possibly with blackouts.) In the last year and a bit, he's started having sudden panic attacks on the road. So much so that he has to pull over for a bit, sometimes several times during a 20min+ journey.

He says there's been no event that triggered this anxiety, just a sudden onset out of the blue. He also talks a lot about the movement of the cars around him being overwhelming when he's on a freeway. He seems to experience something like sensory overload and/or some kind of claustrophobia.

I'm just interested to know if any of you have some (educated-ish?) opinions on what the trouble might be. He's had his eyes tested and they're fine. We've been nagging at him to go see a neurologist, I hope he'll relent soon, so we can have real clarity on what we're dealing with here.
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Old 10-17-2016, 10:20 AM   #2
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One of my grandfathers was a "functioning" alcohlic - he said he couldn't drive because he kept getting mini blank spaces and becoming overwhelmed. Sidenote: soo many other reasons he shouldn't have been driving.

Like, he would look up and there would be no car - glance back and there was a car. Like 2-10 seconds had been blanked out. Because the gaps, the movements became choppy and hard for him to deal with. Similar to how people get high and have the same issue.

It's probably better safety wise for him to be off the road, but i hope it is nothing serious!
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Old 10-17-2016, 10:31 AM   #3
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I'm going to move this to the health forum so the people there can chime in, ODFFA.
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Old 10-17-2016, 10:34 AM   #4
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Sounds good I did weigh up the options. I guess BHM/FFA ends up being a bit of a when-in-doubt board, especially if you spend most of your Dims time there.
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Old 10-17-2016, 08:21 PM   #5
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The sensory overload could be onset or part of the panic attack. I'm not a doctor so that's just a dumb guess. Does he see a psychiatrist? It might be best to start with a general practitioner who can recommend what specialists he needs to see.
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Old 10-18-2016, 12:14 AM   #6
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Liver damage usually leads to hepatic encephalopathy (HE). HE causes cognitive disruptions, because the liver can no longer effectively filter the blood and the toxins affect brain function. I have cirrhosis not caused by alcohol. Different cause, similar result. I deal with HE myself. It can't be cured, but it can be managed. Assuming, that is, he actually has it. He needs to get his liver checked out, I'd recommend.
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Old 10-18-2016, 01:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xyantha Reborn View Post
One of my grandfathers was a "functioning" alcohlic - he said he couldn't drive because he kept getting mini blank spaces and becoming overwhelmed. Sidenote: soo many other reasons he shouldn't have been driving.

Like, he would look up and there would be no car - glance back and there was a car. Like 2-10 seconds had been blanked out. Because the gaps, the movements became choppy and hard for him to deal with. Similar to how people get high and have the same issue.

It's probably better safety wise for him to be off the road, but i hope it is nothing serious!
I couldn't agree more. And I wish he would get off the road, at least for the time being. I hate to say it, but barring unlawful restraint, that's not going to happen =/

Quote:
Originally Posted by dwesterny View Post
The sensory overload could be onset or part of the panic attack. I'm not a doctor so that's just a dumb guess. Does he see a psychiatrist? It might be best to start with a general practitioner who can recommend what specialists he needs to see.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dromond View Post
Liver damage usually leads to hepatic encephalopathy (HE). HE causes cognitive disruptions, because the liver can no longer effectively filter the blood and the toxins affect brain function. I have cirrhosis not caused by alcohol. Different cause, similar result. I deal with HE myself. It can't be cured, but it can be managed. Assuming, that is, he actually has it. He needs to get his liver checked out, I'd recommend.
That's interesting, because my dad did have encephalitis as a child. I dunno, you guys. He says he's had his liver checked, and it was A-OK. Last year, I think, was when he'd apparently done that. Writing that out now, we might have been fools to believe it. I'm not even sure I did, really. I think he has also been to a GP. Not sure if the GP asked about the drinking, or if my dad was honest about it. It's after the eye test that he stopped seeing any other specialists.

It's hard to know what to believe. My guess is, he anticipates being told that the drinking is becoming a real problem now, and he wants to avoid hearing it. (As if he hasn't heard that before. Though only from his "oversensitive" family members, so it's easy enough to dismiss.)

Thank you all for bringing these points up. Just as things to look out for / keep in mind. I know it's never a substitute for proper, professional evaluation. But it's good to have reference points, until we have a real diagnosis and/or some honesty about it.
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Old 10-18-2016, 11:34 AM   #8
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He may have gotten a blood test to check for elevated liver enzymes, which would indicate a problem, but come up negative. Sadly, that doesn't mean there is no damage. My liver was self destructing without giving any sign in blood testing that there was a problem. In cases like that, you have to pressure the doctor for more thorough testing, such as an ultrasound scan of the liver. I was not successful, and nearly died as a result.
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Old 10-18-2016, 02:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dromond View Post
He may have gotten a blood test to check for elevated liver enzymes, which would indicate a problem, but come up negative. Sadly, that doesn't mean there is no damage. My liver was self destructing without giving any sign in blood testing that there was a problem. In cases like that, you have to pressure the doctor for more thorough testing, such as an ultrasound scan of the liver. I was not successful, and nearly died as a result.
Thank you so much for this, Dromond. I might run it past my mom, to start off with at least. I have zero control over what happens, so I can allow myself only so much stress over it all. But I do the tiny, tiny bit I can. And this kind of info is a tremendous help. Even if only for my own sense of potential preparedness / understanding.
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Old 10-18-2016, 03:22 PM   #10
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I'm glad I am able to be of some help.
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