The goal of treatment is to help you function well during everyday life. A combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) works best.
Antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most commonly prescribed for panic disorder. These include:
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Other SSRIs
Other medications that may be used include:
- Other types of antidepressants, such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Antiseizure drugs in severe cases
- Benzodiazepines, including diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and lorazepam (Ativan) may be used for a short time.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are only used when the other drugs do not work, however they can have serious side effects.
Your symptoms should slowly get better over a few weeks. Talk to your doctor if they do not. Do not stop taking your medications without talking with your health care provider.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you understand your behaviors and how to change them. You should have 10 to 20 visits over a number of weeks. During therapy you will learn how to:
- Understand and control distorted views of life stressors, such as other people's behavior or life events.
- Recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts, and decrease the sense of helplessness.
- Manage stress and relax when symptoms occur.
- Imagine the things that cause the anxiety, starting with the least fearful. Slowly become involved in the real-life situation may help you overcome the fears.
The following may also help reduce the number or severity of panic attacks:
- Regular exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Regularly scheduled meals
- Reduce or avoid caffeine, certain cold medicines, and stimulants
Review Date: 04/11/2011
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California.