Stopping a panic attack that has already begun often requires the use of a prescription anti-anxiety medication, such as Xanax, Ativan or Klonopin. These are short-term interventions, according to WebMD, and they are usually provided only at the beginning of a treatment course. Other methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and certain relaxation techniques, are also effective in managing the symptoms of panic attacks.
Long-term management of anxiety can involve the prescribed use of antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro or Zoloft. These drugs are frequently the first choice for managing anxiety disorders, according to WebMD, though some anticonvulsants may also be used as a part of long-term treatment. Acute attacks can be triggered unpredictably and can even be a side effect of some antidepressants, so a chronic-care plan has to be supplemented with a strategy for managing acute episodes.
In addition to medication to control the symptoms of panic attacks, patients are often advised to employ controlled breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to reduce the severity and duration of an attack, notes WebMD. Psychotherapy is used as an adjunct to medication and focuses on reducing the patients' fear that panic attacks could trigger more serious problems, such as heart attacks and psychotic episodes.
A panic attack results in the body becoming extremely tense. Psych Central explains that heart rates increase, and breathing becomes more rapid as the mind comes to fixate on sources of stress or anxiety. Calming these forms of tension helps slow and eventually eliminate the panic attack.
Consciously slowing breathing and relaxing muscles counteracts the body's tension. Try taking five deep, slow breaths, focusing entirely on breathing. Dr. Carbonell recommends focusing on breathing into the belly rather than the chest. Think carefully about individual muscles throughout the body. Focus on the shoulders, and position them in a relaxed position. Continue down the body until all the muscles are relaxed.
Panic attacks may recur due to general anxiety experienced in life. If panic attacks occur regularly, take proactive steps to limit their frequency. Talking with a therapist provides useful coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, explains Psych Central. Additionally, the therapist can help address the initial sources of stress to eliminate the anxiety.