What Type of Medications Are Used in the Treatment of Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks are sudden periods of intense fear and discomfort, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath.

Panic attacks are intense physical experiences – so much so that they can become self-sustaining. People start to fear the attacks, which in turn causes significant anxiety, which in turn triggers panic attacks.

The process to get panic attacks and panic disorder under control varies and is personalized for each patient. But often, an important part of treatment is to stop this cycle – using the tools we have available to prevent panic attacks in order to reduce the fear of panic attacks, and help the individual get them under control.

That can mean medications, which is why at Aware Behavioral Health, we often consider medications as a possible treatment for panic disorder.

Types of Medications Used in Treating Panic Disorder

As always, keep in mind that this information is not a recommendation, only designed to help people understand what might be prescribed. Medications are, however, often used in the treatment of panic attacks to reduce both their severity and their frequency. Some of the medications that may be prescribed include the following:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are often the first line of treatment for panic disorder due to their efficacy and relatively favorable side effect profile. These medications work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps regulate mood and anxiety.

Common SSRIs include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Escitalopram (Lexapro). SSRIs are effective in reducing panic attack frequency, improving mood, and lowering overall anxiety levels.

Like all medications, they are not right for all patients, so careful consideration of your health history and the different options available is required before determining what treatment is best for you.

Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs are another class of antidepressants that can be effective in treating panic disorder. These medications increase the levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

Common SNRIs include Venlafaxine (Effexor) and Duloxetine (Cymbalta). SNRIs are effective in reducing anxiety and improving mood, similar to SSRIs.


Benzodiazepines are fast-acting medications that can provide immediate relief from panic attacks. They work by enhancing the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA, which has a calming effect on the brain.

Common Benzodiazepines include Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Lorazepam (Ativan), and Diazepam (Valium). They offer faster relief than other anxiety related medications. They can, however, be addictive, so they are typically only recommended for short term use.  

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs are an older class of antidepressants that can be effective in treating panic disorder. They work by affecting multiple neurotransmitters in the brain. Common TCAs include Imipramine (Tofranil), and Clomipramine (Anafranil).


Beta-blockers are not typically used as a first-line treatment for panic disorder but can be helpful in managing physical symptoms of anxiety, such as heart palpitations and tremors. Common Beta-Blockers include Propranolol (Inderal), and Atenolol (Tenormin).

Combination Therapy

In some cases, a combination of medications may be used to achieve the best results. For example, a patient may be prescribed an SSRI for long-term management of panic disorder and a benzodiazepine for short-term relief of acute panic attacks. This approach allows for comprehensive management of both chronic and acute symptoms.

Choosing the Right Medication

The choice of medication for treating panic disorder depends on various factors, including the severity of symptoms, the presence of co-occurring conditions, and individual response to treatment. A patient’s history of addiction, the other medications they’re taking, and their tolerance for the medications may also play a role.

At Aware Behavioral Health, we make it our role to make sure that you are always getting the right medication for your mental health. For more information, contact Aware Behavioral Health, today.

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