Panic Disorder Treatment How Prozac Works for Panic Disorder By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD Facebook LinkedIn Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 21, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Paul S. Howell/Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Understanding Prozac How Prozac Treats Panic Disorder Prozac and Panic Disorder Common Side Effects Rare Side Effects How Quickly Prozac Works Stopping Prozac If you have panic disorder, you will likely be treated with antidepressant medication. One popular antidepressant used to treat panic disorder and other conditions is Prozac (fluoxetine). Understanding Prozac Prozac is the trademark name of the drug fluoxetine, a medication belonging to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs first became available in the United States in the 1980s and quickly came to be the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant medication. Due to the effectiveness, safety, and limited side effects of SSRIs, their popularity continued to grow. Being the first SSRI introduced in the U.S., Prozac is the most well-known and one of the most prescribed antidepressants. Doctors initially prescribed Prozac to treat depression. However, research has shown that it can treat a variety of mental health and medical conditions. Currently, Prozac is used in the treatment of major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, chronic pain, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety disorders including panic disorder and agoraphobia. Prozac for Anxiety Disorders How Prozac Treats Panic Disorder Prozac stabilizes your levels of serotonin, a naturally-occurring chemical in the brain that's linked to how we regulate our moods. People with mood and anxiety disorders have an imbalance of serotonin. As an SSRI, Prozac works to influence serotonin by inhibiting its absorption in nerve cells in the brain. How SSRIs Are Used in the Treatment of Panic Disorder Common Side Effects Prozac has the potential for side effects, which often vary for different people. Some of the most common side effects include: AnxietyBlurred visionDizzinessDry mouthFatigueHeadachesHeartburnIncreased sweatingLightheadednessNauseaNervousnessSexual side effectsSleep disturbancesYawning Many people experience side effects that later subside or become less bothersome. Please note that these are only some of the side effects that can occur while taking Prozac. Consult your doctor if you experience any side effects that become unmanageable or don’t go away. Your doctor will need to monitor your reaction to your medication, especially when initially starting with Prozac or when adjusting your dosage. Understanding Prozacs Side Effects and Drug Interactions Rare Side Effects As with any medication, there is the potential to experience an allergic reaction to Prozac. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following rare side effects: Accelerated heart rateDifficulty breathing or swallowingExtreme nervousness and anxietyFeelings of confusionFeverJoint painRash or hivesSeizuresStrange bleeding or bruisingSuicidal thoughts or behaviorsSwelling of the face, mouth, or tongueVomiting If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. How Quickly Prozac Works Don’t expect Prozac to immediately make you feel better. Improvements are often noticed days to weeks after starting Prozac, but it can actually take up to several months before you experience the full effect. Try to give your medication some time before determining whether or not it's helping you. Stopping Prozac Never abruptly stop taking your prescription. Although Prozac is long-acting and tends to taper itself, discontinuing it on your own may lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as increased anxiety and irritability, headaches, confusion, and lightheadedness. Additionally, your panic disorder symptoms can worsen if you suddenly stop taking your medication. Your dosage of Prozac can be gradually and safely reduced with your doctor's guidance. How to Taper Off Your Antidepressant Medication Precautions There are several precautions with Prozac, including: Black box warning: In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black box warning for all SSRIs. The FDA cautioned that SSRI usage has the potential to increase thoughts and behaviors related to suicide. This issue was found to be particularly concerning for children, adolescents, and young adults who are taking SSRIs. Prescribing doctors must be especially observant of young people just beginning SSRI usage and monitor for signs of worsening mood or any suicidal thoughts. Pregnancy/nursing: Prozac can be passed on to unborn babies during pregnancy or through breast milk when a baby is nursing. If you're pregnant or nursing, consult with your doctor about the possible risks of taking Prozac. Alcohol: It is recommended that you avoid alcohol while taking Prozac, as it may increase the medication's toxicity or decrease its effectiveness. Lightheadedness, dizziness, and drowsiness: Prozac can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy, and tired. It's important to be cautious while driving or performing any other duties that require your full alertness and concentration. Older adults: If you're 65 or older, you may be at higher risk for some side effects of Prozac, so it needs to be used with greater caution in this group. Drug interactions: You should be cautious when taking Prozac with other medications, as drug interactions can lead to serious issues. Keep your doctor up-to-date on your current medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, as well as nutritional supplements or herbs you take. Can You Overdose on Prozac? Symptoms and What to Do Next A Word From Verywell The information provided here is simply an overview regarding the use of Prozac for panic disorder. This information does not cover all potential variables, including possible side effects, precautions, and contraindications. Always talk to your medical provider about any questions and concerns you may have about your prescription. 14 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Fluoxetine (Prozac). Horwitz AV. How an age of anxiety became an age of depression. Milbank Q. 2010;88(1):112-38. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0009.2010.00591.x Wenthur CJ, Bennett MR, Lindsley CW. Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Fluoxetine (Prozac). ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014;5(1):14-23. doi:10.1021/cn400186j Andrade C, Rao NS. How antidepressant drugs act: A primer on neuroplasticity as the eventual mediator of antidepressant efficacy. Indian J Psychiatry. 2010;52(4):378-86. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.74318 Drugs.com. Fluoxetine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Label for PROZAC (fluoxetine). Erb SJ, Schappi JM, Rasenick MM. Antidepressants Accumulate in Lipid Rafts Independent of Monoamine Transporters to Modulate Redistribution of the G Protein, Gαs. J Biol Chem. 2016;291(38):19725-19733. doi:10.1074/jbc.M116.727263 Harvard Health Publishing. Going off antidepressants. Jha MK, Rush AJ, Trivedi MH, When Discontinuing SSRI Antidepressants Is a Challenge: Management Tips. Am J Psychiatry. 2018;175:12. Fornaro M, Anastasia A, Valchera A, et al. The FDA "Black Box" Warning on Antidepressant Suicide Risk in Young Adults: More Harm Than Benefits?. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:294. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00294 Nischal A, Tripathi A, Nischal A, Trivedi JK. Suicide and antidepressants: what current evidence indicates. Mens Sana Monogr. 2012;10(1):33-44. doi:10.4103/0973-1229.87287 Dubovicky M, Belovicova K, Csatlosova K, Bogi E. Risks of using SSRI / SNRI antidepressants during pregnancy and lactation. Interdiscip Toxicol. 2017;10(1):30-34. doi:10.1515/intox-2017-0004 Petrow S. The New York Times. Drinking on Antidepressants. Harvard Health Publishing. Treating generalized anxiety disorder in the elderly. Additional Reading Drugs.com. Prozac (fluoxetine) Drug Interactions. International OCD Foundation. Medications for OCD. National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. Fluoxetine. Silverman HM. The Pill Book, Fifteenth Edition. New York, New York: Bantam Books; 2012. By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Panic Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.