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A Guide to Medication for Panic Attacks

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 12/1/2021

Unexpected panic attacks. If you’ve had them, you know how awful they are. They are as befuddling and terrifying an experience as anyone can have.

They seem to come out of nowhere and, without proper assistance, can seem to run your entire body and mind by their own accord.

If you’re a patient with a panic disorder, or you’re someone who’s been bitten by a panic attack, you know how frustrating and painful an experience they can be.

Today, mental health professionals have far better tools with which to help people cope with and overcome such crippling moments in their lives. And the options are only getting more democratized and effective.

But you may be asking yourself: Do I even have panic attacks? What kind of medical care should I seek for my panic attacks? What is a panic attack, anyway?

Read on to learn what a panic attack is, as well as remedies for what can be crippling, painful moments of anxiety for anyone who suffers from them.

What Is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a moment of intense anxiety. People with panic disorder experiencing a panic attack may experience a number of physical symptoms and psychological symptoms. Among them

  • Sense of impending doom

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Numbness in hands and feet

  • Pounding heart

  • Nausea

  • Fear of dying

  • Shortness of breath

  • General, intense fear

  • Upset stomach

  • Dizziness

Panic attacks arise in seemingly benign, banal situations. Basically, a panic attack is when your body is thrown into full-on fight-or-flight mode in situations that don’t require it

The dynamic between these two antithetical polarities are what’s often frustrating for those who endure the trauma of a panic attack.

The feeling can be one of having a heart attack or losing complete control over your body — and anyone can experience them, regardless of age, gender, etc.

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What Causes a Panic Attack?

The challenge with panic attacks is they do not have one specific source. Genetic makeup, as well as environmental stimuli, however, can influence the likelihood of a panic attack.

For example, if you have a hard time in group settings, they may be self-evident scenarios in which a potential panic attack can arise.

Other underlying issues that may contribute to one’s likelihood of experiencing a panic attack include:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been found to increase the likelihood of a panic attack. One’s compulsiveness can force them to fixate on something that causes them anxiety, thus heightening the likelihood of a panic attack — or the potency of one.

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can cause someone to worry about losing control over their bowels, thus increasing the anxiety they feel in social situations.

  • Asthma can trigger a panic attack, because a symptom of a panic attack is the perception that you can’t breathe. 

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) increases one’s hypervigilance, which can flare or fully explode in a social setting, even one in which the surroundings are harmless.

  • Major Life Transitions, which disrupt your sense of normalcy, and tell the body that not all is right in your world.

How to Help Mitigate the Effects of a Panic Attack

While things like deep breathing exercises are good starting points in ramping down a rough moment, there are other, more effective and longer-lasting ways of addressing your mental health conditions.

There are many ways to remedy a panic disorder or recurrent panic attacks. The first is via psychological care. 

While psychological care isn’t a panacea, the data on seeking and undergoing psychological treatment to reduce one’s panic is extremely encouraging.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to have a positive impact on those who suffer from panic attacks. 

Talking to a mental health professional can encourage deep breathing techniques, teach progressive muscle relaxation and help you come to terms with and cope with your mental health issues.

In trials, an overwhelming majority of patients who suffered from panic attacks reported extreme improvement — to full eradication — of their panic attacks.

Can Prescription Medication Stop a Panic Attack?

Though medication can’t stop a panic attack in its tracks, they can help prevent and/or reduce the severity of one. 

Medications can also help prevent and/or reduce the severity of a panic attack. 

The treatment of panic disorders comes in many forms. Natural remedies, as well as antidepressant medication (along with psychiatric care), can be excellent ways of preventing a panic attack.

For instance, the research on cannabinoids, specifically CBD, and their impact on pacifying panic disorder has been encouraging.

But cannabinoids aren’t the only remedy to ingest in order to tamp down a panic attack.

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a common form of prescription antidepressant medication that have proven effective in combating panic. 

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs developed specifically to treat anxiety. As a result, the data has shown that benzodiazepines are effective in tamping down the severity one feels during a panic attack, or the overall severity of one’s panic disorder.

SNRIs, or selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are sometimes employed by psychiatrists to treat depression and are also effective tools in combating anxiety.

However, when following the data, the most effective means of treating one’s anxiety or panic disorders is when combining talk therapy with some form of medication.

That means, if you’re experiencing panic attacks, your first step should be reaching out to a healthcare professional. 

They’ll ask you more about your symptoms, about any medications you’re already taking, about any medical conditions you have, your family history, etc. and help you come up with a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Hers offers a two-pronged approach to assisting someone in need of care, if they suffer from panic attacks — or if they simply need some mental care outside of the realm of a general panic disorder.

First, Hers offers psychological counseling in the form of online therapy. Given the therapy’s efficacy when it comes to assisting people with anxiety disorders, there’s only an upside.

Further, Hers offers anxiety treatment online for those wishing to combine talk therapy with medication.

What About Other Methods to Combat Panic Attacks?

You don’t need simply to look towards the pharmacy or your therapist for assistance when it comes to addressing your mental health needs.

A whole range of physical activities can better your mood and, in turn, long-term well-being. 

Regular exercise — aerobic exercise being a prime example — has been shown to be an effective tool in strengthening your body and, in turn, your noggin. 

Research indicates that regular exercise can have some pretty serious positive benefits to your overall mental well-being.

Getting frisky in the bedroom has been shown to reduce anxiety, as well. 

Grounding techniques are easy and fast ways to root yourself in the space you inhabit, recenter your mind on something concrete and push it away from the intrusive — even painful — anxiety-inducing thoughts that, during a panic attack, seem to control the show. 

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The Bottom Line on Medication for Panic Attacks

We’d never wish a panic upon ourselves or anyone. If a panic attack hits, however, there are a variety of ways to help treat the effects of that panic attack in the short-term, and then take concrete action to mitigate the likelihood of future panic attacks.

Research has proven that psychiatric care is a safe, effective short-and-long-term solution to help you cope with panic attacks. 

Medications like benzodiazepines, SSRIs and SSNRIs cut down the severity of a panic attack in the moment. 

Further, those same medications can reduce the number of panic attacks your experience in the future.

Most importantly, there’s no shame in needing some help in addressing your panic attacks or other anxiety disorders

It’s normal to seek out help — and it’s the right thing to do by you. We’re proud of you for doing it. 

If you’re interested in taking the next step right now, hers offers psychological or psychiatric services that could provide you the relief, stability and strength you want to live with and conquer your panic attacks.

19 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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