Finding Help for Co-Occurring Panic Disorder and Depression

Common Treatment Options

Panic disorder sufferers are at greater risk of developing a co-occurring mental health disorder. Depression is one of the most common co-existing conditions to be diagnosed with panic disorder. According to information found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition (DSM 5) – the handbook used by mental health practitioners - approximately one-third of those who have been diagnosed with panic disorder will also experience an episode of major depressive disorder.

Given how common panic disorder co-occurs with depression, you may be wondering where to turn if you suspect that you also have depression. You be may be unaware of the fact that many of the treatment options available for panic disorder can also assist with treating depression.

Read ahead to learn more about getting help for co-existing panic disorder and depression.

The Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that is characterized by intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.  Due to life’s struggles and disappointments, most people will occasionally experience a gloomy or down mood. However, a person with depression experiences a longer-term sense of melancholy. Extending beyond just the “blues,” the symptoms of depression impact one’s thinking, emotional wellbeing, behaviors, and overall quality of life.  

As listed in the DSM 5, depression is diagnosed when 5 or more of the following symptoms are present within a two-week period:

  • Feeling sad or depressed most days
  • Changes in appetite that may result in weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in hobbies that were once enjoyable
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or oversleeping
  • Irritability and lack of concentration
  • Persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and sadness
  • Withdrawn or feelings of loneliness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

These symptoms typically appear without any known cause and will not just clear up on their own.  When a panic disorder sufferer is faced with depression, she is not only challenged with these symptoms, but also the common symptoms of panic disorder, including anxiety, fear, and panic attacks. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can assist in coping with both panic disorder and depression.

Treatment Options for Panic Disorder and Depression

Panic disorder and depression are often treated at the same time with similar treatment options. Prescribed medication is one of the most common treatment options for both of these conditions. In particular, antidepressant medications have been found to be effective in treating both the symptoms of panic disorder and depression. Antidepressants can work to decrease feelings of depression along with reducing one’s sense of anxiety. If prescribed antidepressants, your doctor will need to carefully monitor your progress to ensure that the medication is effectively treating your symptoms.

Used along with prescribed medication or as a treatment option on its own, psychotherapy is another popular choice for successfully treat both conditions. Therapy involves regular meetings with a trained professional who can help you work through difficult emotional, physical, and cognitive symptoms. Through therapy, you may learn to manage depression symptoms, cope with panic attacks and anxiety, and learn healthier ways of thinking and behaving.

Consult your doctor or mental health specialist if you are concerned that you may be suffering from both panic disorder and depression. He or she will be able to determine if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression and rule-out common related conditions, such as bipolar disorder, dysthymia, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Your provider will also be able to get you started on a treatment plan that will assist you in dealing with both conditions.

It is important to seek out immediate help if you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions. Direct 24-hour assistance can be found ye either calling 911 or a suicide prevention hotline. There are two toll-free hotlines available in the United States: the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).  


American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).” Washington, DC: Author. 

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