What educational information about panic disorder should be provided to patients and their family?

Updated: Mar 21, 2018
  • Author: Mohammed A Memon, MD; Chief Editor: Randon S Welton, MD  more...
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Inform patients that the causes of panic disorder are likely biologic and psychosocial, and that panic symptoms are not life-threatening or uncommon. [55]

Educate patients about their diagnosis and treatment options, as well as about potential adverse effects of not only their treatment medications but also any comorbid substance use such as alcohol consumption and recreational drug use. These psychoactive substances can impact the course of panic disorder. Although some substances may seem to avert the anguish of an acute attack, they often compromise the long-term treatment plan.

Consider educating patients diagnosed with panic disorder about cognitive distortions that may help to amplify anxiety. Teach patients to recognize trigger stimuli so that they can contribute this to their psychological treatment approach.

Obtain verbal informed consent for psychotropic medications, and document the discussion of the risks and benefits of treatment medications. Promote healthy behaviors, including exercise and good sleep hygiene. Advise patients to avoid anxiogenic substances, such as caffeine, energy drinks, and other OTC stimulants. [55]

Talk to the patient’s family about the importance of minimizing any avoidance behaviors by the patient and ensuring pharmacologic compliance and adherence to therapy appointments. Help the family to understand the nature of the anxiety symptoms and to provide reasonable accommodation (without enabling dysfunctional behaviors or alcohol/prescription drug use). Family members can be particularly important in helping the patient to overcome unrealistic fears and ingrained avoidance behaviors, in the context of ongoing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in which the patient learns the coping skills to manage anxiety.

Although dietary modification (eg, 5-hydroxytryptophan or inositol [30] supplementation) may be effective in preventing recurrence, there is much more evidence for the effectiveness of CBT and medications. Herbal supplementation should be deferred until after the patient has discussed it with his or her psychiatrist or primary care provider.

For more information, see Anxiety Center, as well as Anxiety, Panic Attacks, and Hyperventilation.

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