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How are nonphobic panic attacks treated?

Spontaneous, nonphobic panic attacks, marked by respiratory distress, respond better to SSRIs (e.g., fluoxetine [Prozac]), SNRIs (e.g., venlafaxine [Effexor]), and imipramine (Tofranil) than benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax). It is thought that imipramine as well as the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil),and fluvoxamine (Luvox) decrease the sensitivity of the suffocation alarm (the solitary nucleus), and perhaps the locus ceruleus.

Cognitive therapy should be of limited value in this group, since the panic is unrelated to cognitions, but education about the lack of danger, a search for cause, and the treatable nature of the disorder can be very helpful. Relaxation training would be harmful, since it would slow respiration and increase CO2. This would lead to panic. Exercise, and the premenstrual and postpartum period would also increase vulnerability to these panic attacks.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.