Have you ever felt like a blanket of fear and anxiety has been dropped on you suddenly? Has this feeling been so overwhelming that your heart started pounding and you felt like you couldn’t breathe? Has the feeling left you sick to your stomach and so dizzy that you thought you were dying or going crazy? Do these symptoms recur so frequently that you find yourself withdrawing from normal activities? If the answer to all these questions is “yes,” then it is very likely that you suffer from a panic disorder.
A panic attack often strikes when you are away from home, but they can happen anywhere and at any time. The signs and symptoms of a panic attack begin abruptly, peak within ten minutes, and usually end within half an hour to an hour. Anxiety panic disorder or bipolar panic disorder seems so similar to a heart attack that it is often mistaken for one, and any underlying medical disorder must be ruled out before a diagnosis of panic disorder is made.
The exact causes of anxiety attacks or anxiety panic disorders are unknown; however, it does tend to run in the family. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as marriage, a new job, a new baby, the death of a loved one, divorce, or a loss of job, etc.
Panic disorder treatment is possible. Although panic disorder medication does not treat or resolve a panic attack or panic disorder, it is used to temporarily control the symptoms and reduce their number and severity. Panic disorder drugs are most useful when combined with therapy that addresses the cause of the disorder, through lifestyle changes, and by relaxation exercises such as yoga.
The top drugs that work for panic disorder include:
- Antidepressants: These take several weeks to work, so you have to take them continuously, not just during a panic attack. These include Venlafaxine, Tofranil®, Norpramin®, and Anafranil®.
- Benzodiazepines: These are anti-anxiety drugs that act very quickly (usually within 30 minutes to an hour). Taking them during a panic attack provides rapid relief. However, benzodiazepines are highly addictive and have serious withdrawal symptoms, and should hence be used with caution. They include Xanax®, Valium®, Ativan®, or Klonopin.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (type of antidepressants): These include Prozac®, Zoloft®, or Paxil®.
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (type of antidepressants): These include Marplan®, Nardil®, or Parnate®.
- Beta blockers: These include Propranolol and Atenolol.
Besides these drugs, tranquilizers and anticonvulsants may also be administered. Most panic disorder medications need to be taken for at least a year, and then the dose has to be decreased gradually over several weeks. As with most medications, you may also experience side effects with panic disorder drugs and must immediately report them to your physician.
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