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The treatment of panic disorder varies because responsiveness to different kinds of treatment is individual. Some respond more strongly to cognitive interventions, while others respond more strongly to medication, while others still respond more strongly to a combination of the two. The most effective treatment across many different longitudinal and between-subjects studies is a combination of medication and cognitive behavioural therapy.
An individual with a minor form of panic disorder is likely to first be treated with a cognitive-only intervention. These people will see a therapist on a regular basis and undergo cognitive-behavioural therapy, which operates under the theory that if you change the thoughts associated with some stimuli, you can change the behaviour.
An individual with a moderate form of panic disorder will likely be offered a choice between medication and cognitive-behavioural therapy and through the process of undergoing treatments will most likely try both separately and then together to see what works best.
An individual with severe form of panic disorder will most definitely be prescribed a medication and highly encouraged to also undergo cognitive behavioural therapy.
One common medication prescribed for panic disorder are anxiolytics, which are taken on an as needed basis when anxiety is severe. These come from the benzodiazepine family, are highly habit forming, and not meant to be used on a regularly basis.
Daily levels of anxiety are often treated with anti-depressants prescribed at higher doses than those for depression. These are taken on a daily basis and are meant to help lessen daily levels of anxiety. A person can still have a panic attack on these medications, but their occurrence is decreased.
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