Symptoms and Medication For Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are extremely distressing and frightening and countless sufferers have described them as being one of the most horrible things they’ve ever experienced. They arise from the ‘flight or fight’ response that is occurring in an out of place situation. Panic attacks typically last for around thirty minutes, which may not appear very long, but if you are a sufferer, that is a very long time to endure the alarm, deep unease and discomfort that they bring. In addition separate panic attacks may occur in cycles that last for a long time. Those who suffer from panic attacks typically feel anxiety persistently as they anticipate the next attack.

Lots of people, suffering from a panic attack for the first time think they are undergoing a heart attack or nervous breakdown and often call the emergency services. The ‘fight or flight’ response releases adrenaline and norepinephrine into the bloodstream which prepares the body to cope with the projected crisis and this is the reason for the many physical reactions that take place. There may perhaps be a panicked urge to run away from the room, nausea, feelings of dizziness, sweating and breathlessness all of which arise from the rising amount of adrenaline in the bloodstream. These symptoms themselves cause anxiety which forms a positive feedback, causing additional adrenaline to surge into the blood making the physical reactions even worse.

Medication for Panic Attacks

The typical medication for panic attacks is an antidepressant, usually an SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline or fluvoxamine. These can diminish the regularity and the number of attacks and help to decrease general anxiety, though they can take more than a month to work. They also have some side effects which may include tiredness, constipation, vomiting, a dry mouth and migraine. Benzodiazepines were often used previously and whilst extremely efficient at stopping attacks have a high risk of addiction and are prescribed a lot less frequently nowadays. They also have a number of side effects including lack of concentration, decreased alertness and coordination and lethargy.

Additional Coping Methods

Lots of people who experience panic attacks and do not wish to use panic attack medication have found help using one of the following techniques. These may help to relieve the fear experienced during an attack and prevent it from escalating.

1) Slow deep breathing – inhale through the nose, while slowly expanding the abdomen then breathe out gradually. This may help to correct the imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.

2) Using coping thoughts such as

“I can deal with this even though it feels bad”

“Give it time – It will pass”

“A panic attack isn’t going to kill me”


The first time you experience a panic attack can be very distressing and it’s important that you know their cause. You can then learn ways to cope with them bette, which will help to prevent the anxiety from getting out of control and making the attacks much worse.