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Discharge Instructions for Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It is can cause intense burst of fear called panic attacks. During an attack you may have a racing heart, shaking, dizziness, and trouble breathing.

Therapy, education, and medicine can help you manage or prevent these attacks.

Steps to Take

Home Care

Learn what you can about panic disorder. Symptoms can feel intense, but know they are not life-threatening. In some people, knowing this is enough to ease an attack.

Reach out to family, friends, or a support group. Teach people who are closest to you about panic disorder so they can better help when it is needed.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise will help to boost your mood. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week. Choose any activity that works best for you.

Activity like a short walk can also help during tiems of increased stress. It may calm or prevent a panic attack.

Medications

Medicine may be needed to ease anxiety symptoms. They may also help to treat any related mental health issue.

If you are taking medicine:

  • Take the medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medicine. This includes over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan for refills as needed.

Lifestyle Changes

Some habits can make anxiety symptoms worse. Limit or avoid:

  • Foods or drinks with caffeine—this includes coffee, soda, and chocolate
  • Smoking—ask your doctor for tools to help you quit
  • Alcohol—if you drink aim for no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men
  • Illegal drugs

To help ease general stress and anxiety:

  • Learn relaxation techniques. Examples include deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Set aside time each day for yourself. It will help you assess your stress and try to relax.
  • Seek therapy to learn about your triggers and create coping skills. Psychotherapy options include:
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)— to help you better react to triggers that cause panic
    • Exposure therapy—face your fears to decrease reaction to them

Follow-up

Your doctor will want to check on your progress. Treatment may need to be adjusted to find what works best for you. It is important to go to all recommended appointments. Let your care team know about any challenges you are having because of anxiety or panic attacks.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occur

Call your doctor if you are not getting better as expected or have problems such as:

  • Worsening feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Symptoms make it hard to get through work or school day
  • Signs of depression that last longer than 2 weeks
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased sleepiness

Call emergency medical services right away for:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lightheadedness that leads to fainting

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America
https://www.adaa.org

Mental Health America
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Psychiatric Association
https://www.cpa-apc.org

Canadian Psychological Association
https://cpa.ca

REFERENCES:

Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Updated July 2018. Accessed February 22, 2019.

Panic disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder. Accessed February 22, 2019.

Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115030/Panic-disorder. Updated September 21, 2018. Accessed February 22, 2019.

Panic disorder. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated June 30, 2018. Accessed February 22, 2019.

Panic attacks and panic disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorder. Updated July 2018. Accessed February 22, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 2/22/2019