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Drugs to Treat Panic Disorder

by Krissi Maarx
  • Overview

    A anxiety attack from panic disorder can be a debilitating experience, as the severity of an attack may make it feel like a heart attack and add difficulty to everyday activities. Treatment for this disorder may include pharmacotherapy with anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications.
  • Types

    Panic disorder medications include benzodiazepines, such as Xanax; tricyclic antidepressants, such as Effexor; and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are also antidepressants, such as Prozac.
  • Function

    Benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety medications, are fast-acting and can lessen symptoms of anxiety while reducing frequency of panic attacks. The antidepressants may eliminate attacks and can reduce their severity.
  • Warning

    Benzodiazepines can be addictive, especially for those who have a history of substance abuse. They also can cause depression. Both antidepressants and benzodiazepines may cause symptoms of withdrawal when a person stops taking them.
  • Efficacy

    According to American Family Physician, meta-analyses found that 61 percent of people with panic disorder were free from panic after six to 12 weeks of antidepressant treatment, whereas benzodiazepines have poorer long-term outcomes.
  • Considerations

    Medications are not a stand-alone treatment for mental health conditions, though they can be used long-term if directed by a psychiatrist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is used with and without medication in the treatment of panic disorder.

    References & Resources