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    Understanding Panic Attacks -- Treatment

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    What Are the Treatments for Panic Attacks?

    The cause of most panic attacks is not clear, so treatment may be different for each person. Medication is used for prevention and/or immediate alleviation of symptoms and is usually the main line of treatment. In addition, psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation, and/or meditation are often used to help relax the body and relieve anxiety.

    If you're in the middle of a panic attack, immediate relief of anxiety symptoms can come from taking a sedative type anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. These drugs are provided at least in the beginning of medical therapy, but are not for long-term use.

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    Certain antidepressants can help prevent anxiety and reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks, but are not used for immediate relief during an attack. Frequently used antidepressants are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft. This group of medications is often considered the first line of treatment for panic disorders.

    Some newer anticonvulsant drugs, such as Lyrica and Neurontin, have also begun to show value in research studies as experimental treatments for some anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.

    Important note regarding medications: Some of these drugs can actually produce the anxiety symptoms of a panic attack. It is often best to start with a low dose and slowly increase medication as recommended by your health care provider.

    For preventive or maintenance care, psychotherapy offers support and helps minimize fear. In some cases, psychotherapy alone can clear up the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people learn to deal with panic symptoms by teaching them to recognize that their sense that something terrible is about to happen is actually an irrational thought or belief – a false alarm. CBT gradually exposes and desensitizes people to situations that trigger feelings of anxiety and panic, which can also trigger physical symptoms including the sense that you are having a heart attack or going crazy. Some behavioral therapists teach breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to help sufferers gain a sense of better control over their bodies during a panic attack, although many experts believe that the cognitive approach of "restructuring" s

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