The National Institute of Mental Health explains that there are two main types of medication for panic attacks: antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. Antidepressants improve panic-related symptoms in the long term, while anti-anxiety medications provide fast-acting, short-term relief for panic attacks. In some cases, MAOIs may be prescribed instead of a traditional antidepressant, explains WebMD.
Fast-acting benzodiazepines often prescribed for panic attacks include Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin (also known as alprazolam, lorazepam and clonazepam, respectively), states WebMD. These medications are PRNs, meaning they are taken as needed when panic symptoms arise. This contrasts with antidepressants for panic disorder, as antidepressants must be taken every day to receive any benefit. NIMH says that it typically takes a few weeks of antidepressant use to see improvement. Some antidepressants prescribed for panic attacks and anxiety disorders are SSRIs, such as Paxil and Zoloft, and tricyclic antidepressants, such as Norpramin.
Each type of medication comes with its own risks and side effects. General side effects include headaches, nausea and sleeping problems, explains NIMH. Additionally, Klonopin and several types of antidepressants may increase suicidal ideation, so people who take medication for panic attacks should be monitored closely. In rare cases, allergic reactions are possible. WebMD advises patients to seek medical help immediately if they experience hives, facial swelling, confusion, slurred speech or problems breathing.