Can Panic Disorders Be Treated Without Medications?

Panic disorders have the power to impair your ability to enjoy a day, go to work, and in some cases, stop you from leaving your house. If your panic attacks have become severe enough to disrupt everyday life, it’s vital to seek diagnosis and treatment. How will you know which treatment is right for you? While medication may be used in more severe cases of panic disorder, you may have options available to you to move forward without chemical relief.

Here are some key points you must understand about panic disorder

  • Not every panic attack leads to a panic disorder diagnosis: If you are starting to experience panic attacks for the first time in your life, you must speak with a doctor to figure out the cause. There may be other underlying health reasons that might be causing your panic attacks, which include asthma, heart issues, or hyperthyroidism.
  • You shouldn’t choose between medication and therapy: If you are diagnosed with panic disorder, you have various treatment options that include medications, therapy, or a combination of both. Medicine is the most effective when used in conjunction with treatment. When treating panic disorder, therapy will provide long-term tools and coping skills that help manage and reduce panic attacks. There are various therapies that can help treat panic disorder, and these include exposure therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and mindfulness.
  • Finding the right therapist: It’s a challenge to find the right therapist – you must find one who is experienced in treating anxiety. Therapists come from various fields and specialize in different disorders, so you must find one that works specifically with panic disorder and anxiety. If you are interested in medication options, check to see if the therapist can facilitate those needs.
  • Treatment must be based on more than just panic disorder: As you’ll find with addiction treatment, you must have a tailored plan to treat your condition. Each situation is different and unique, and you must consider your immediate needs. It’s beneficial to have a therapist that you can trust and will have your best interest at heart. The hope is you find multiple effective options to determine which plan fits your needs and goals.
  • In the event you need medication, know who can prescribe it for you: Although panic disorders can be treated without medication, each case is unique and will be viewed as such. While one person can thrive in a therapy type without prescription, another may require medicine to treat their symptoms. With that said, there are only certain therapists who can prescribe medications. It’s vital for you to know who they are in the event your panic disorder becomes too much to handle without medication.
  • Set short-term and long-term goals for treatment: If you can move forward in your journey without medication, it’s crucial that you set goals. On the contrary, someone who does need a prescription should have a similar outlook and set short and long-term goals as well.

As we’ve described throughout this text, treatment is possible without medication, but only a certified medical professional can make this determination. If you are struggling with panic disorder, reach out for help immediately.

Best Medication for Panic Attacks

While most people can get through their panic attacks with therapy, exercise, or any of the other alternative treatment options available, some will need medication. Since anxiety and depression stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain, medication is the only option for some. But what is the best medication for panic attacks or how does it treat panic disorder? Panic disorder medication could range from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to benzodiazepines. Your doctor will evaluate your situation thoroughly to determine the best course of action. 

Treatment for panic attacks is a must because it can severely impact your life. Treatment helps reduce the frequency and intensity of such attacks, directly translating into a higher quality of life. The primary means of treating the condition are psychotherapy and medication. Doctors will always attempt to manage the condition before opting for medicine. However, as was mentioned above, therapy can only do so much if you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, meaning that medication is necessary.

Panic disorder medication reduces the severity and frequency of panic attacks and can keep your depression at bay if that’s an issue. Various medications have been proven effective in managing panic disorders. These include the following:

  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are potent central nervous system (CNS) depressants that produce sedative effects. Benzodiazepines are FDA-approved to treat panic disorder. The most common benzos for the condition include Xanax and Klonopin. While these are effective medications, they should never be used in the long term. You can become dependent on benzos in as little as 14 days, meaning they should be taken sparingly. These are not a good choice if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse. As a depressant, they can also adversely interact with other drugs, leading to dangerous side effects.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are another class of antidepressants and are often used to treat panic disorders. Effexor XR is approved by the FDA to treat the condition. 
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRI drugs are the safest option when treating panic disorder. Unlike benzodiazepines, these are not considered habit-forming, nor can you become dependent on them. These medications have the lowest risk of adverse side effects. If medication is something you need, these will be the first choice by doctors to treat your panic attacks. The most common SSRIs approved by the Food and Drug Administration include Prozac, Paxil, Pexeva, and Zoloft.

If one medication doesn’t work as intended, your doctor will recommend trying another. Finding the right medication and dose takes time and experimenting. However, it’ll be worth it in the long run. Panic attacks can be debilitating, and finding the right treatment option for you allows you to see noticeable improvements in your symptoms. Medications have side effects and may not be recommended in some cases. If medication isn’t an option for personal beliefs or because you’re pregnant, psychotherapy may be a better route.

Psychotherapy, which is also referred to as talk therapy, can effectively treat panic attacks. It can help you get to the root of your condition and better understand why it’s happening, teaching you how to cope with them. One common form of psychotherapy, known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), will help you learn that panic symptoms are not dangerous. Your therapist will carefully re-create these panic attack symptoms in a safe way that allows you to see them as non-threatening. Successful treatment will allow you to overcome these fears and participate in situations you may have otherwise avoided because of your condition.

Fortunately, you can overcome panic disorder without medication, but don’t be reluctant to try it if your symptoms are severe enough.

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