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Diagnosis of Panic Disorder

Diagnosis of panic disorder can be difficult. Several other physical and mental disorders are related to panic attacks. You will need a thorough physical and mental evaluation before a proper diagnosis can be made. Diagnosis of panic attack is based on a proper evaluation and the standards outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

In the DSM-5, panic disorder is defined as repeating, unexpected panic attacks. It is followed by at least one month of concern about having another attack, worry about the consequences of panic attacks, and a change in behavior as a result of the attacks.

Your doctor will conduct an evaluation that may include the following:

Your doctor will ask about the following:

  • Your medical history
  • Symptoms you experience during an attack
  • How long you have been having the attacks
  • When the attacks started
  • How often they occur
  • When and where they tend to occur
  • How long they last
  • What effect they have on your ability to function

Your doctor will also look for and rule out medical disorders that could cause your symptoms including:

Your doctor should also ask about your intake of:

  • Medications
  • Foods
  • Herbs and supplements

Use or withdrawal from addictive substances can cause symptoms of panic. Substances that can cause symptoms of panic include stimulants, such as cocaine and caffeine. Your doctor may also ask about your use of alcohol , nicotine , addictive medications (particularly sedatives), illegal drugs , and other substances.

Depression , generalized anxiety disorder , social phobia , substance abuse, and personality disorders often occur with panic disorder. You may be evaluated for these and other disorders.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 06/2017 -
  • Update Date: 12/20/2014 -
  • Answers to your questions about panic disorder. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder.aspx. Accessed June 27, 2017.

  • Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Updated March 2016. Accessed June 27, 2017.

  • Panic attacks and panic disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorder. Updated May 2014. Accessed June 27, 2017.

  • Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115030/Panic-disorder. Updated April 17, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2017.

  • Panic disorder and agoraphobia. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/panic-disorder-agoraphobia. Accessed June 27, 2017.