Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you've had signs or symptoms of a panic attack, make an appointment with your primary care provider. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for treatment.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do in advance
- Make a list of your symptoms, including when they first occurred and how often you've had them.
- Write down key personal information, including traumatic events in your past and any stressful, major events that occurred before your first panic attack.
- Write down medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions that you have and the names of any medications you're taking.
- Ask a trusted family member or friend to go with you to your appointment, if possible, to lend support and help you remember information.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor at your first appointment
- What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
- Is it possible that an underlying medical problem is causing my symptoms?
- Do I need any diagnostic tests?
- Should I see a mental health specialist?
- Is there anything I can do now to help manage my symptoms?
Questions to ask if you're referred to a mental health provider
- Do I have panic attacks or panic disorder?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- If you're recommending therapy, how often will I need it and for how long?
- Would group therapy be helpful in my case?
- If you're recommending medications, are there any possible side effects?
- For how long will I need to take medication?
- How will you monitor whether my treatment is working?
- What can I do now to reduce the risk of my panic attacks recurring?
- Are there any self-care steps I can take to help manage my condition?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me?
- What websites do you recommend visiting?
Don't hesitate to ask for more information any time you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
A doctor or mental health provider who sees you for possible panic attacks or panic disorder may ask:
- What are your symptoms, and when did they first occur?
- How often do your attacks occur, and how long do they last?
- Does anything in particular seem to trigger an attack?
- How often do you experience fear of another attack?
- Do you avoid the locations or experiences that seem to trigger an attack?
- How do your symptoms affect your life, including school, work and personal relationships?
- Did you experience significant stress or a traumatic event shortly before your first panic attack?
- Have you experienced significant trauma — such as physical or sexual abuse or military battle — in your lifetime?
- How would you describe your childhood, including your relationship with your parents?
- Have you or any of your close relatives been diagnosed with a mental health problem, including panic attacks or panic disorder?
- Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
- Do you use caffeine, alcohol or recreational drugs? How often?
- Do you exercise?
- Panic attack. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed March 6, 2012.
- Hales RE, et al. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2008. Accessed March 7, 2012.
- Panic disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/panic-disorder.shtml. Accessed March 6, 2012.
- Answers to your questions about panic disorder. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/panic-disorder.aspx. Accessed March 6, 2012.
- Practice guideline for the treatment of panic disorder, Second edition. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association. http://psychiatryonline.org/content.aspx?bookid=28§ionid=1680635. Accessed March 6, 2012.
- Inositol. National Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Feb. 20, 2012.
- Smits JA, et al. The interplay between physical activity and anxiety sensitivity in fearful responding to carbon dioxide challenge. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2011;6:498.
- Saeed SA, et al. Exercise, yoga and meditation for depressive and anxiety disorders. American Family Physician. 2010;8:981.
- Panic disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed March 6, 2012.
- Katon W, et al. Panic disorder: Epidemiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed March 7, 2012.
- Roy-Byrne PP. Pharmacotherapy for panic disorder. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed March 7, 2012.
- Whiteside SP (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2012.
- Moore KM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 17, 2012.
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly), paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva) and sertraline (Zoloft), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin) and lorazepam (Ativan). Micromedex Healthcare Series. http://www.micromedex.com. Accessed March 8, 2012 and May 23, 2012.