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Types of Antidepressants Used to Treat Panic and Anxiety Attacks


Panic PuzzleAs I mentioned on another page, physicians commonly use antidepressants as part of the treatment of panic and anxiety attacks. 

On this page I’m going to give you a bit more information about the type of antidepressants out there.

Remember, I’m not a physician and this is just general information and my opinion.

There are several types of antidepressants and different drugs within each type.


Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors

As you’ve probably learned from all the ads the drug companies put out for antidepressants, serotonin is a chemical in the brain. Decreased levels of it are associated with depression.

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Drugs in this class increase serotonin by blocking its reuptake by cells after its release. They called selective inhibitors because they affect different cells differently.

There are two subcategories of serotonin uptake inhibitors. One is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and the other is serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

While all drugs can cause side effects, serotonin uptake inhibitors have the lowest risk and are the ones most physicians tend to prescribe these days.

 The SSRI class includes drugs like Prosac (the granddaddy of them all), Zoloft, and Paxil.

Examples of SNRIs are Cymbalta and Effexor.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of drugs. They also work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin but they aren’t as selective as the drugs we just talked about.

Because they aren’t as selective they tend to cause more side effects. It appears physicians still might use them if other drugs aren’t helping.

Sinequan, Pamelor and Tofranil are examples of this type of drug.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

I mention this class of drugs only for completeness. Apparently this type of drug was the only antidepressant available decades ago. They can cause severe, even life-threatening, side effects and don’t work as well as newer drugs, so physicians almost never recommend them.

Personally, I’d think twice about taking them even if they did.

In Summary

Antidepressants can be very helpful for some patients, but they don’t help every one. As I pointed out on Antidepressant and Panic Attacks, they probably only help about 20% of people who take them.

While it may they may be a useful treatment for the short term, I highly recommend you explore other treatments that don’t involve drugs.

And if you do need to take antidepressants, you need to look out for side effects. I list some of them for you on Side Effects of Antidepressants Used To Treat Panic Attacks

Here's a great non-drug system for the treatment of panic attacks:

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