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Recommended Treatments for Panic Attacks and Depression

Panic Attacks

It is estimated that at least 18% of the US population suffer from panic attacks. Panic attacks are different from other anxiety disorders due to their relatively short and sudden nature. Panic attacks affect people differently, although they can still be treated effectively with a variety of methods as described below.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT has been proven to be a most effective treatment, with long lasting effects. It involves the development of coping strategies that can help resolve issues contributing to the attacks.

In CBT, the patient undergoes cognitive therapy for 1-3 hours a week. Therapy sessions are aimed at carefully examining thoughts and emotions, which may trigger the panic attacks. CBT looks at the ways people who experience panic attacks have distortions in thinking which may unconsciously give rise to fear.

With the help of a CBT-trained therapist, people with panic attacks can learn to recognize their triggers and change their thought patterns leading up to the attacks.

CBT for panic attacks can also involve training in relaxation techniques. As patients learn to relax, they develop the ability to reduce their stress and anxiety.

Breathing exercises may also be part of CBT. Breathing deeply provides more oxygen to your brain enhancing relaxation to calm yourself. These exercises can also divert your attention from thoughts that are causing stress.

Cognitive behavior therapy was intentionally designed to treat depression but is now being used to treat other mental health disorders, such as panic attacks.

Conventional Psychotherapy

This form of treatment often involves education. The patient is instructed about fight or flight response and is taught to identify associated sensations. Psychotherapy also entails support, such as group therapy and learning of coping strategies. Relaxation skills learned in therapy should be practiced daily by the patient for better results.


Doctors and other health professionals may also prescribe medications to treat panic attacks:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – often used as antidepressants; can also be used to treat panic attacks and anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines – sedative medications that are effective in decreasing symptoms of panic attacks. They can also cause dependence with prolonged use.
  • Beta blockers – help reduce symptoms such as increased heartbeat rate.


Depression is a feeling of persistent sadness and hopelessness. It is a serious mood disorder and can cause severe symptoms. Symptoms, however, vary at each stage of the illness. It is a very common disorder in the United States but even the most severe cases can be treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. No treatment is effective for everyone, and it may take a while and a bit of experimenting to find the treatment that works best for you.


Depression is often treated with antidepressant medication. Antidepressants usually take a few weeks before they are effective and may produce some side effects before they take their full effect. Once you are on a full dose of antidepressants it is important to consult a doctor before you stop taking them, as there could be serious side effects and you can end up feeling more depressed.

Brain Stimulation Therapy

This method of treatment is sometimes used when medication and other forms of treatment are not working. Electro-convulsive-therapy (ECT) is usually conducted three times a week for 2-4 weeks on an outpatient basis. It may have short-term side effects.  However, it is not painful as the patient is put under anesthesia during the procedure. It can provide relief for people who suffer from severe depression.

In conclusion, panic attacks and depression don’t have to disrupt your daily life. With the right medication and treatment, you can greatly improve your quality of life.

If you or someone you know experience panic attacks, depression, or other mental health problems, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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Author Bio: Diana Paulk, PhD, practices at Birmingham Anxiety and Trauma Therapy.  Dr. Paulk is a licensed psychologist with more than 20 years of experience offering therapy in many different settings. Over the years, she has come to relish working with individuals who are striving to overcome issues associated with recent or past trauma – symptoms such as stress, avoidance and overwhelming feelings of anxiety, depression or worry. Dr. Paulk recently became certified as an advanced trauma specialist by The Trauma Center at the Justice Research Institute outside Boston, Massachusetts. The nine-month program was conducted by recognized experts in the field, including Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc.

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