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Panic Disorder

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How Is Panic Disorder Treated?

A combination of the following therapies is often used to treat panic disorder.

  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) addresses the emotional response to mental illness. It is a process in which trained mental health professionals help people by talking through strategies for understanding and dealing with their disorder.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. A type of psychotherapy that helps a person learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. Therapy also aims to identify possibly triggers for panic attacks.
  • Medication. The anti-depressant drugs Paxil and Zoloft and anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan, or Klonopin are used to treat panic disorders. Sometimes, heart medications (such as beta blockers) are used to help with anxiety.
  • Relaxation techniques.

Some people will respond well to treatment only to experience panic attacks later in life. When panic attacks continue after treatment has stopped, additional treatment may still help control and reduce panic attacks. In addition, relaxation techniques, such as breathing retraining and positive visualization, may help a person during an attack.

What Is the Outlook for People With Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder can be successfully treated, and sufferers can go on to lead full and satisfying lives. With appropriate treatment, nearly 90% of people with panic disorder can find relief. Unfortunately, many people with panic disorder do not seek treatment. Without treatment, panic disorder can have serious consequences and can severely impair quality of life. Complications of untreated panic disorder include.

  • Avoidance. A person may discontinue any activities that seem to trigger a panic attack. This can make a normal work and home life nearly impossible.
  • Anticipatory anxiety. This refers to anxiety that is triggered merely by thinking about the possibility of having an anxiety attack.
  • Agoraphobia. This is the fear of being in places or situations in which an attack may occur, or from which escape would be difficult or highly embarrassing. This fear can drive people to avoid public places and crowds, and may even progress to the point that the person will not leave his or her home. About one-third of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia.
  • Claustrophobia. The person fears enclosed spaces.

Can Panic Disorder Be Prevented?

Panic disorder cannot be prevented; however, there are some things you can do to reduce stress and decrease symptoms, including:

  • Stop or reduce consumption of products that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that can increase anxiety symptoms.
  • Exercise daily and eat a healthy, balanced diet.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Marina Katz, MD on February 20, 2012
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