Suffering from panic attacks can be like having a non-fatal heart attack every day. Panic attacks are debilitating, often causing so much stress that they make it nearly impossible to find happiness and enjoyment in the world around you.
If you live with panic attacks, you need to commit to a panic attack treatment right away. Often one of the first options that you'll consider are drugs and medications. In this article, we'll discuss some of the most common panic attack medications.
NEVER Just Use Drugs for Panic Attacks
Mental health disorders cannot be cured by drugs or medicine alone. You need to commit to treatments based specifically on your anxiety symptoms. Take my free 7 minute anxiety symptoms test to learn more.
Doctors Are Quick to Prescribe Drugs
It's extremely common to find out you have panic attacks from a medical doctor, rather than a psychologist. That's because the physical symptoms of panic attacks are very similar to serious health disorders.
The only way doctors know how to treat panic attacks is with medication. While you should always follow your doctor's advice, you should also know that medications are not generally the right choice. To learn more about non-medicinal options for panic attacks, take my free 7 minute anxiety test now.
Why Experts Recommend Avoiding Panic Attack Drugs
There are several reasons that panic attack medications should generally be avoided. They certainly have their place - if your panic attacks are so severe and other treatment options aren't working that you need immediate help, these drugs can provide that help - but they also suffer from problems that are specific to panic disorder:
- Tranquilizers and Personality Changes In order to prevent panic attacks, the drugs provided for panic disorder are incredibly powerful. So powerful, in fact, that they can cause severe fatigue, a loss of energy, and sometimes even personality changes. For some this is a worthwhile sacrifice, but most people aren't looking to deal with these types of symptoms just to cure their panic attacks, no matter how bad their anxiety may be.
- No Guarantee Many of these medications also are not guaranteed to reduce panic attacks. Most are created for anxiety, but not for panic, and while the two are related since they're both anxiety disorders they are still caused by different thought processes and physical reactions. While uncommon, some people actually see a panic attack increase because of the way the symptoms of these medications make them feel.
- Thoughts and Coming Off Meds Medications for panic attacks cannot be taken forever, nor should they. Many also lead to dependency which can cause significant withdrawal symptoms, and others may eventually be tolerated to the point where they are no longer have any effectiveness. Unfortunately, panic attacks are more common when you fear panic attacks, and as soon as you start to come off the medications you're going to focus on whether or not you have panic attacks and become more likely to have them.
Medications for panic attacks don't affect panic attacks at their source. They simply make it impossible to get a panic attack because they slow your brain and your thoughts down so that they cannot cascade into panic. You can get some relief from panic attacks, but you also suffer from fatigue, side effects, and significant changes to the way you feel every day.
Types of Medications for Panic Attacks
Despite these problems, panic attack medications do have their place. In some cases the attacks may be so severe that some temporary relief is needed. In those cases, you may be prescribed any or all of the following medications:
Benzodiazepines are a powerful anti-anxiety drug that is often prescribed for panic attacks. Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin are some of the most common. These medications have a mild sedative property and may cause dependence, but tend to work because they slow down the limbic system responsible for emotional changes.
Antidepressants are another common panic attack treatment, although they are more effective for other anxiety disorders. Antidepressants are mood boosters, and positive moods can decrease the likelihood of anxiety attacks. They come in three groups: tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples include:
- TCAs - Tofranil, Elavil, and Anafranil
- MAOIs - Nardil, Marplan, and Parnate
- SSRIs - Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil.
All of these antidepressants have side effects, including a potentially dangerous increase in depression, headache, low blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, dizziness, and weight gain.
Other Anxiety Medications
Doctors may also prescribe other anxiety medications or sedatives to control panic attacks, but usually they'll try the above options first. Drugs like buspirone may be prescribed after weaning off the above medications to manage anxiety (buspirone is a very mild anxiety drug), but it is unknown whether or not it can control panic attacks in the long term.
You may find that you need medication help to deal with your panic attacks. But the most important thing to remember is that no medications should ever be used alone. You should always combine any treatment with some type of long term method of controlling anxiety so that you can eventually stop taking the medications without the anxiety coming back.
I've worked with thousands of people suffering from anxiety attacks, and I know for a fact that you need to try to target your anxiety symptoms. Take my free 7 minute anxiety test now to get a treatment option that can control your panic attacks once and for all.
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Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.