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Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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A panic attack is characterised by all of the following:

  • a discrete episode of fear
  • abrupt onset of symptoms
  • maximal intensity within minutes
  • lasts several minutes
  • four or more associated symptoms including at least one autonomic symptom

The diagnosis of panic disorder is excluded by:

  • the consistent association of attacks with:
    • situations or objects
    • exertion
    • danger
  • physical disease which explains the symptoms
  • organic mental disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • affective disorder
  • somatoform disorder


  • the diagnostic process should elicit necessary relevant information such as personal history, any self-medication, and cultural or other individual characteristics that may be important considerations in subsequent care
  • according to the DSM-IV-TR , a fundamental characteristic of panic disorder is the presence of recurring, unforeseen panic attacks followed by at least 1 month of persistent worry about having another panic attack and concern about the consequences of a panic attack, or a significant change in behaviour related to the attacks
    • at least two unexpected panic attacks are necessary for diagnosis and the attacks should not be accounted for by the use of a substance, a general medical condition or another psychological problem
  • panic disorder can be diagnosed with or without agoraphobia.


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