Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) for Panic Disorder

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
isocarboxazid Marplan
phenelzine Nardil
tranylcypromine Parnate

How It Works

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) help balance certain chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) to relieve symptoms of anxiety associated with panic disorder.

Why It Is Used

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are usually given to people who have panic disorder and who:

  • Do not get better with other antidepressants.
  • Cannot tolerate the side effects of other antidepressants.
  • Have a history of successful treatment with MAOIs.

How Well It Works

Although MAOIs are as effective as other antidepressants for treating panic disorder, other antidepressant medicines such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants are typically tried first because they have less serious side effects.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor right away if you have:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

Serious reactions—or even death—can result when MAOIs are combined with some foods and medicines. While taking MAOIs, you must avoid eating certain foods, including many alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, sour cream and yogurt, bananas, chocolate, and some cheeses such as American, cheddar, and Swiss. Eating these foods can cause severe high blood pressure and other health problems. Talk with your doctor about diet and medicine restrictions that you need to follow if you are planning to take an MAOI.

You must wait at least 14 days after you stop taking MAOIs before taking another antidepressant. Common nonprescription medicines, particularly certain cold remedies and diet pills, can also be dangerous when taken with an MAOI.

MAOIs can cause death if they are taken in overdose.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Taking medicines for panic disorder during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, talk to your doctor. Medicines may need to be continued if your panic disorder is severe. Your doctor can help weigh the risks of treatment against the risk of harm to your pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last Revised September 7, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Today on WebMD

Understanding Anxiety Prevention
Article
Unhappy couple
Article
 
Couple walking outdoors
SLIDESHOW
Man texting
Article
 
Phobias frightened eyes
Slideshow
Antidepressants
Video
 
organize
Article
Stressed businessman
HEALTH CHECK
 
Distressed teen girl in dramatic lighting
Article
Quit Smoking
Slideshow
 
Teen with OCD
Article
Too Scared Social Anxiety Disorder
VIDEO