How Are Panic Attack Symptoms Treated?

Treatment Options for Panic Attacks

If you have experienced panic attacks, you may be all too familiar with their challenging symptoms. When panic strikes, feelings of extreme fear and apprehension can suddenly take over. You may experience a sense of dread that is accompanied by unpleasant physical sensations, such as dizziness, shaking, and shortness of breath. Such distressful symptoms may have even caused you to live in fearful anticipation of future panic attacks.

As a panic attacks sufferer, you are most likely looking for some relief from your symptoms. Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options available that can assist you in managing panic attacks. The following describes common ways panic attack symptoms are treated: 

Psychotherapy for Panic Attacks

Psychotherapy, or simply therapy, involves meeting with a mental health professional on a regular basis. During these meetings, you and your therapist will discuss your symptoms and progress. Additionally, you will be involved in a treatment plan that will outline your goals and steps towards achieving your objectives. Your treatment plan will change over time as you accomplish, adjust, and set new goals.

To treat panic attacks, your therapist will help you better understand the factors contributing to your symptoms, and may ask you to work on building your coping skills both in and out of therapy sessions.

This can be done through role-playing, learning new ways to manage anxiety, and developing healthier thoughts and behaviors. Your therapist may request that you complete homework assignments in which you practice the skills you learned within the session, such as tracking your mood, anxiety levels, and panic attacks, keeping a panic attack diary, or practicing panic-reducing relaxation techniques.

Going to therapy will take an investment of your time, effort, and resources. To get the most out of therapy for panic attacks, it is important to follow through on your homework assignments and regularly attend your scheduled sessions. Stick with therapy as long as recommended and you may develop many useful skills and strategies for getting through panic attacks.  

Medications for Panic Attacks

Prescribed medications are another popular choice to help alleviate panic attacks and other anxiety-related symptoms. Some medications work towards reducing and averting panic and anxiety over time, while others are used to immediately ease panic attack symptoms. Two of the most commonly prescribed medications to treat panic attacks include: antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. 

Antidepressants first became available in the 1950’s and were initially only prescribed to treat the symptoms of depression. It has since been found that these medications can also alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.

In particular, a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for panic attacks. SSRIs have been found to effectively lessen the severity of panic attacks and anxiety with minimal side effects for most users. Some of the most frequently prescribed SSRIs include Prozac (fluoxetine)Celexa (citalopram)Paxil (paroxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline).  

Anti-anxiety medications, or benzodiazepines, are frequently prescribed for their fast-acting, sedative effects. These medications are often called tranquilizers as they provide quick relief from panic attacks, allowing the person to feel calmer and more tranquil. When taken as prescribed, benzodiazepines are considered safe, but due to potential side effects, these medications are typically only prescribed for a limited amount of time. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam)Ativan (lorazepam)Klonopin (clonazepam), and Valium (diazepam).

Self-Help Techniques for Panic Attacks 

Self-help techniques can provide you with ways to cope with panic attacks. These techniques consist of any strategies that you can practice independently as a way to manage your symptoms. Self-help techniques are often learned through psychotherapy, self-help books, or audio formats (i.e. videos, CDs, or other recordings).

Self-help techniques for panic attacks involve learning ways to remain calm when faced with anxiety and other panic-related symptoms. Common techniques for panic attacks include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

Self-help techniques are usually most effective if you practice them on a regular basis, even when you are not feeling anxious. Through practice, you will be able to use your self-help strategies when faced with panic attacks or high anxiety. 

Finding Treatment for Panic Attacks

The first step to finding help for your panic attacks is to schedule an appointment with your doctor. Panic attacks are often linked to panic disorder, but these attacks can part of a different mental health condition, such as agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.

Your doctor will be able to rule out other mental health conditions, determine your diagnosis, and help you get started on a suitable treatment plan. This plan will take into account your symptoms, diagnosis, and individual needs. Your doctor may suggest the treatment options presented here, including psychotherapy, medication, and self-help techniques. By following your treatment plan, you can expect to eventually learn how to better cope with your panic attack symptoms.  


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

Greenberger, D. & Padesky, C. (1995). Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think. New York; The Gilford Press.

Silverman, Harold M. (2010). The Pill Book. 14th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 

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