A panic attack is a discrete period of fear or anxiety that has a rapid onset, reaches a peak within 10 minutes and in which at least four of 13 characteristic symptoms are experienced, including racing heart, chest pain, sweating, shaking, dizziness, flushing, stomach churning, faintness and breathlessness. Panic disorder is common in the general population with a lifetime prevalence of 1% to 4%. The treatment of panic disorder includes psychological and pharmacological interventions. Amongst pharmacological agents, antidepressants and benzodiazepines are the mainstay of treatment for panic disorder. Different classes of antidepressants have been compared; and the British Association for Psychopharmacology, and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) consider antidepressants (mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)) as the first-line treatment for panic disorder, due to their more favourable adverse effect profile over monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). In addition to antidepressants, benzodiazepines are widely prescribed for the treatment of panic disorder.
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