Therapy for Panic Attacks

A combination of psychotherapy and medication has good empirical support for its effectiveness in the therapy of panic attacks. In more severe cases of panic attacks, when it is no longer possible to leave the house, medication may be needed to make psychotherapy possible.

Among the various psychotherapeutic approaches, CBT targets maladaptive thought processes and beliefs. Exposure therapy is used to face situations that increase anxiety, such as open places in agoraphobia, while training relaxation and self-awareness rather than self-consciousness.

Panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on the role of dependency, separation anxiety, and anger in causing panic disorder. This focuses on the emotional conflicts underlying dynamics and defence mechanisms that maintain panic attacks.

On the medication side, an SSRI can help reduce the anxiety which leads to panic attacks. SNRIs, such as venlafaxine, may also be helpful, while they can, however, increase anxiety early on during treatment. Benzodiazepines can be helpful once off but should not be used regularly over more than 4 weeks because they can induce tolerance and dependency. However, often people find it helpful to have a tablet of a benzodiazepine with them, which reduces the fear of an ‘uncontrollable’ panic attack.

Support groups and psychoeducation for the patients and the family can be helpful.

Exercise, lifestyle changes, and reducing stressful situations can also help substantially.

This website contains some further information on panic disorder, including books and articles by Jonathan Haverkampf, such as

You may also find the following links helpful:

Mayo Clinic

Panic attacks and panic disorder

“Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is considered an effective first-choice treatment for panic attacks and panic disorder. Psychotherapy can help you understand panic attacks and panic disorder and learn how to cope with them.”


This webpage provides a brief overview of the diagnosis and treatment of panic disorder. One may add that other psychotherapeutic techniques and supplementary methods not mentioned on the page can also be helpful.

Johns Hopkins University

Panic Disorder

This webpage contains another brief overview of panic disorder.

You may also be interested in their video at

National Health Service (NHS)

The NHS maintains an informative overview of panic disorder on

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *