Does Sertraline treat panic attacks? (+5 options)

In this article, we will discuss the potential efficacy of Sertraline for the management of panic attacks. Additionally, we will also delve into research studies on this topic and discuss what to do if Sertraline is not effective in the management of panic attacks.

Does Sertraline treat panic attacks?

Yes, Sertraline can be used to treat panic attacks. Sertraline is a selective serotonin receptor inhibitor (SSRI) that is used in the management of panic attacks if prescribed by your healthcare provider. However, its effectiveness may vary among individuals due to factors such as the severity of the condition and genetic differences (1,2).

Panic attacks are characterized by abrupt episodes of intense fear or discomfort. These attacks can lead to various physical reactions throughout the day, significantly impacting an individual’s quality of life. What sets this condition apart is that panic attacks occur unexpectedly, without warning (2).

Antidepressant medications, such as Sertraline and other SSRIs, have gained attention for their potential to alleviate panic attacks as panic disorders often occur concurrently with depression and other anxiety disorders (1,2,3).

What does research suggest?

Numerous clinical trials and research studies have provided evidence that Sertraline may effectively reduce both the frequency and severity of panic attacks.

SSRIs, including Sertraline, exhibit effectiveness in managing panic attacks through their mechanism of action. Sertraline’s ability to enhance serotonin levels plays a crucial role in managing panic attacks. Low serotonin levels are associated with mood disorders and anxiety which may present as shortness of breath, abdominal distress, chest discomfort and depersonalization in panic attacks (1,2).

A study assessing the efficacy of Sertraline in managing panic disorders substantiated this hypothesis, demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of Sertraline in treating this condition (3,4).

Furthermore, a systematic review examining drug treatments for panic disorder further supported the hypothesis that SSRI medications have high rates of remission with a low risk of adverse effects for the treatment of panic disorders  (5).

What factors influence the treatment of panic attacks with Sertraline?

While Sertraline can be effective for some individuals with panic attacks, it is important to consider several factors including (3,4,5):

  • Individual sensitivity – Some individuals may be more responsive to the medication, making it more effective in the management of panic attacks.
  • Dosage – Administering the lowest effective dose is beneficial for patient compliance and minimizing side effects. 
  • Duration of treatment – Long-term use of this medication has proven effective in the management of panic attacks.
  • Drug interactions – Concurrent use of Sertraline with other medications may potentially reduce the medication’s efficacy.
  • Underlying medical conditions – Conditions such as depression and other mood disorders can affect the treatment of panic attacks.
  • Substance abuse – Excessive use of recreational drugs and alcohol can affect the efficacy of Sertraline treatment.

How long does Sertraline take to treat panic attacks?

Sertraline works by gradually elevating serotonin neurotransmitters in your brain to counteract symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, negative thoughts, suicidal ideation and shaking associated with panic attacks and mood disorders. This medication is not a rapid solution for managing panic attacks (1).

While it may take approximately 4-6 weeks for Sertraline to manage the physical manifestations of panic attacks, it often takes several weeks for the medication to achieve its full psychological therapeutic effect (5).

However, properly following your doctor’s recommended instructions is key to managing panic attacks effectively.

What to do if Sertraline does not treat your panic attacks?

If Sertraline does not effectively treat your panic attacks, it is important to consult your healthcare provider. They will evaluate your condition, review your treatment plan and provide guidance on how to make your treatment effective.

If your doctor suspects that the dose of the medication might not be effective, they may recommend titrating your dose. Some individuals may require higher doses for symptom relief.

Additionally, your doctor may consider switching to a different medication such as escitalopram, that may be associated with fewer side effects.

In the event of severe manifestations involving suicidal ideation and behaviours, you should seek immediate medical assistance.

Furthermore, your healthcare provider may recommend augmenting your therapy. This may involve adding cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to your treatment plan for management of panic attacks. Additionally, psychotherapy may be useful in addressing triggers that may cause panic attacks.

Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, nutrient-rich diets, good sleep hygiene and reducing substance abuse could complement medication treatment in this condition.


In this article, we have discussed the potential efficacy of Sertraline in treating panic attacks. Additionally, we have addressed how long the medication takes to become effective, as well as appropriate steps to take if Sertraline is ineffective in your case.

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Singh HK, Saadabadi A. Sertraline [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 [cited 2023 Oct 5]. Available from:



Cackovic C, Nazir S, Marwaha R. Panic disorder [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 [cited 2023 Oct 7]. Available from:



Pollack MH, Otto MW, Worthington JJ, Manfro GG, Wolkow R. Sertraline in the Treatment of Panic Disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry [Internet]. 1998 Nov 1 [cited 2023 Oct 7];55(11):1010. Available from:,of%20week%202%20(P%3D.



Pohl RB, Wolkow RM, Clary CM. Sertraline in the Treatment of Panic Disorder: A Double-Blind Multicenter Trial. American Journal of Psychiatry [Internet]. 1998 Sep [cited 2023 Oct 7];155(9):1189–95. Available from:



Chawla N, Anothaisintawee T, Charoenrungrueangchai K, Thaipisuttikul P, McKay GJ, Attia J, et al. Drug treatment for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ [Internet]. 2022 Jan 19 [cited 2023 Oct 7];376:e066084. Available from:


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