A diagnosis is made via a medical professional’s evaluation based on specific criteria.
Because serious physical disorders often cause some of the same physical and emotional symptoms as panic attacks, medical professionals first make sure individuals do not have a physical disorder.
Panic disorder is diagnosed when individuals have repeated unprovoked and unexpected panic attacks plus at least one of the following for at least one (1) month:
- Persistent worry that they will have more panic attacks or worry about the consequences of the attack (for example, that they will lose control or go crazy); and/or
- Changes in behaviour due to the panic attacks (for example, avoiding situations that may cause an attack).
Once medical professionals are confident that an individual’s symptoms are caused by a panic disorder, they try to avoid doing extensive tests when future panic attacks occur unless the individual’s symptoms or physical examination results suggest a new problem.