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Panic disorder is treated with psychotherapy, medicines, or both depending on the severity of symptoms, availability of the treatment and individual preference. Treatment could help reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks and thus improve quality of life.
A special type of psychotherapy called called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used as a first choice of treatment for panic disorder. CBT helps a person to understand that there are no dangers associated with panic attack. It helps by changing a persons way of thinking, behaving, and reacting to an episode of panic attack. The attacks reduces or disappears after the person learns to react differently to the anxiety and fear that occur during panic attacks.
Doctors may prescribe different types of medicines to help in the treatment of panic disorder. These could be as follows:
1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): these are the first choice of medicines for the treatment of panic disorder which includes fluoxetine, paroxetine and others. They are generally well tolerated with no serious side effects.
2. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): these are another group of medicines that can be used and includes medicines like venlafaxine and others.
SSRIs and SNRIs may take several weeks to show it effect. These side effects are usually not severe, especially if the treatment is started off from low doses and is increased slowly over time.
3. Beta-blockers: these medicines can help to control some of the physical
symptoms, such as increased heart rate.
4. Benzodiazepines: are sedatives, which are very effective in rapidly decreasing
symptoms of panic attack. However, as they tend to cause tolerance and
dependence on regular use, they are only given for short period.
The person shouldn’t give up on treatment too early. Both psychotherapy and medicines can take some time to show effect. Different people may respond to different medicines. Following a healthy lifestyle can also help manage panic disorder better. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and exercising may help bring good effect. Support of family and friends also helps.
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