Can medicines help people who have panic attacks and panic disorder?
Several medicines can make panic attacks less severe or stop them altogether.
Paroxetine and sertraline are antidepressant medicines that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat panic disorder. Antidepressants are very effective in preventing anxiety and panic attacks. Often they completely stop the attacks. You don't have to be depressed for them to help. Side effects are usually mild. Antidepressants will not make you lose control or change your personality. These medicines can be used for as long as necessary, even for years.
Alprazolam and clonazepam are also medicines approved by the FDA to treat panic disorder. These medicines give relief from fear and anxiety. They should be used only for a short period of time (a few weeks to a few months), unless you absolutely can't function without them. Never suddenly stop taking either of these medicines. If you need to stop, these medicines should be slowly tapered off over several weeks under your doctor's supervision.
Can counseling help people who have panic attacks and panic disorder?
Several kinds of counseling are very effective in treating panic attacks and panic disorder. You can ask your doctor about the different kinds of counseling that are available. Counseling does not work as fast as medicine, but it can be just as effective. The combination of both counseling and medicine seems to be an effective treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder.
How long does treatment last?
How long treatment continues depends on you. Stopping panic attacks completely is a reasonable goal. Your doctor will design a treatment plan just for you. A treatment period lasting at least 6 to 9 months is usually recommended. Some people taking medicine for panic disorder are able to stop treatment after only a short time. Other people need to continue treatments over a long period of time, or even for their lifetime.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff