Panic disorder is a psychological disorder characterized by episodes of intense fear called panic attacks. Panic disorder is often treated with medications such as Zoloft®. The effect of Zoloft® on panic disorder is typically a reduction in panic attacks.
Zoloft®, also known as sertraline, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It increases the amount of serotonin in the brain by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin into the transmitting neuron. SSRIs are most often used to treat depression, but they can be effective for a wide range of psychological disorders, including anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or social anxiety disorder.
The effects of Zoloft® on panic disorder typically relieve the most debilitating symptom of panic disorder: panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden episodes where a person feels very fearful and anxious, and they are usually accompanied by physical symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, and racing heartbeat. Often, the physical symptoms and the fear induced by the panic attack are so powerful a person suffering from an attack may feel like she or he is having a heart attack. It is important to get the symptoms of a panic attack checked by a physician, because they can also be indicative of a serious medical condition.
Often, panic attacks make people extremely fearful of having another attack. This can lead to avoidant behavior, or even agoraphobia, where a person is afraid to leave the house because he or she might have another panic attack. If a person has had four or more panic attacks, and has been fearful of having another one for a month or more, he or she is suffering from panic disorder.
SSRI drugs like Zoloft® are usually the first-line treatment for panic disorder. Zoloft® can help reduce panic attacks, as can other SSRIs. These drugs are safe and effective, and serious side effects are rare. Some common side effects of Zoloft® on panic disorder or other disorders include nausea, diarrhea, and dry mouth.
Psychotherapy is another common treatment for panic disorder. If the panic disorder is severe, a person may want to combine psychotherapy and medication for the best results. Cognitive behavioral therapy, where a person examines his or her thoughts and behaviors and works to change negative thoughts and adopt healthy behaviors, is particularly effective for panic disorder.
Sometimes panic disorder is accompanied by depression and generalized anxiety. SSRI drugs can help with these problems as well, as another effect of Zoloft® on panic disorder is alleviating depression and anxiety. Psychotherapy can help with these problems as well.