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NHS Choices Condition

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Panic attacks

Everyone who has panic disorder will experience panic attacks. However, not everyone who experiences panic attacks is diagnosed with panic disorder.

Some people have panic attacks in response to specific situations. For example, they may have a phobia of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), and therefore experience panic attacks when faced with an enclosed space.

However, most people with phobias will only experience panic attacks when they are faced with whatever triggers their fear. The panic attacks of people with panic disorder are usually triggered without warning. For people with panic disorder, a panic attack often seems to occur for no obvious reason.

Your GP will diagnose you with panic disorder if you experience recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. These attacks should also be followed by at least one month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.

Talking to your GP about how you feel is very important

When you visit your GP, they will ask you to describe what symptoms you have been experiencing. They will also ask you how often your symptoms appear, and in what situations they occur. It is important to tell your GP about how you have been feeling, and how your symptoms have affected you.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life with someone else. Try not to feel anxious or embarrassed. Your GP needs to have a good understanding of your symptoms in order to make the correct diagnosis, and to give you the most appropriate treatment for your individual situation.

Physical examination

If your GP feels it necessary, they may want to carry out a physical examination to look for signs of any physical conditions that could be causing your symptoms. An overactive thyroid, for example, can sometimes cause similar symptoms to a panic attack. By ruling out any underlying medical conditions, your GP can be sure that they are making the correct diagnosis.

view information about Panic disorder on www.nhs.co.uk »

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