Panic Disorder is a debilitating condition that affects one out of every seventy five people in the world. It is often mistaken for having a heart attack and in some people it makes them feel as if they are going crazy. Characteristics of Panic Disorder are sudden and unexpected discrete periods of intense fear or discomfort that is associated with shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, nausea or abdominal distress. Panic Disorder is often accompanied by agoraphobia and the begins to avoid places where a panic attack may occur. They may eventually become housebound.
There are some medications and psychosocial treatments that may be affective in treating panic disorder. Medications include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Fluvoxamine (Luvox). These are all Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s. SSRI’s are able to balance brain chemicals or neurotransmitters, by making more serotonin available. This reduces the number and severity of panic attacks associated with panic disorders. It takes several weeks for SSRI’s to be fully effective. If one doesn’t work, it is important to keep trying them until you find one that works for you.
There are many side effects of SSRI’s. These include dry mouth, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, feeling irritable and anxious, problems sleeping, drowsiness, loss of sexual desire or ability, tremor or shaky hands and weight gain. Tremors are involuntary, repetitive, rhythmic shaking or twitching movement. Tremors usually affect the hands and head, but they may occasionally occur in the feet or torso.
Prozac may cause serious and sometimes fatal reactions that may occur when used with other anti-depressants known as MAO inhibitors. These include, but are not limited to, Nardil and Parnate. Serious reactions may also occur when Prozac is stopped and a MAO inhibitor is started. Prozac is usually taken once or twice a day and should be taken regularly. If a dose is missed do not double the dose to catch up. The drugs effect may last about nine months after three months of treatment.
The more common side effects of Prozac include abnormal dreams, abnormal ejaculation, abnormal vision, anxiety, diminished sex drive, dizziness, dry mouth, flu-like symptoms, flushing, gas, headache, impotence, insomnia, itching, loss of appetite, nausea, nervousness, rash, sinusitis, sleepiness, sore throat,sweating, tremors, upset stomach, vomiting, weakness and yawning.
The less common side effects include abnormal taste, agitations, bleeding, problems, chills, confusion, ear pain, emotional instability, fever, frequent urination, high blood pressure, increased appetite, loss of memory, palpitations, ringing in the ears, sleep disorders and weight gain.
Other less common side effects that may occur in children and adolescents include agitation, excessive menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, hyperactivity, mania or hypomania (inappropriate feelings of elation and or rapid thoughts), nosebleeds, personality changes and thirst.
Zoloft is well tolerated and FDA approved. It is the number one prescribed brand and is available in multiple strengths. Side effects include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness. Side effects will most likely lessen over time. Not all persons taking Zoloft will get side effects. Zoloft is not associated with weight gain, is not addictive and does not cause personality change. It is important not to take Zoloft with or soon after MAO inhibitors.
It is also important to not take Paxil with or soon after MAO inhibitors, thioridazine or pimozide. Paxil is generally well tolerated. Side effects include infection, injury, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, constipation, decreased appetite, sleepiness, dizziness, sexual side effects, nervousness, tremor, yawning, sweating, abnormal vision, weakness and insomnia. Paxil also has side effects if the medication is stopped. These include dizziness, sensory disturbances, abnormal dreams, agitation, anxiety, nausea, sweating, mood fluctuations, headache, fatigue, nervousness and sleep disturbances.
Luvox has serious, life-threatening effects if used in combinations with thioridazzine (Mellaril) or pimozide (Orap). Avoid taking Luvox within fourteen days of MAO inhibitors including Nardil and Parnate.
Serious side effects include allergic reaction, irregular heartbeat or pulse, low blood pressure, high blood pressure, chills or fever. If any of these side effects occur seek medical attention immediately. Other less serious side effects include headache, tremor, nervousness, anxiety, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, changes in appetite or weight, sleepiness or insomnia, decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having orgasm.
It is important to find the proper treatment for panic disorder that best suites your individual needs and symptoms. If you or someone you know suffers from panic disorder it is important to seek medical attention and start treatment as soon as possible.