Panic Disorder Symptoms

The formal diagnosis of panic disorder rests on these symptoms, which can be evaluated by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

According to the DSM, “The essential feature of Panic Disorder is the presence of recurrent, unexpected Panic Attacks…followed by at least 1 month of persistent concern about having another Panic Attack, or worry about the possible implications or consequences of the Panic Attacks, or a significant behavioral change related to the attacks” (p. 433). (Note that panic attacks are often called ‘anxiety attacks’ in popular parlance.) The following specific diagnostic criteria are reproduced verbatim (except for codings and page references) from the DSM-IV TR (where ‘IV TR’ indicates fourth edition, text revision), page 440 for Panic Disorder Without Agoraphobia and page 441 for Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia.

Diagnostic Criteria for Panic Disorder Without Agoraphobia

A. Both (1) and (2):

  1. recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks
  2. at least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one (or more) of the following:
    1. persistent concern about having additional attacks
    2. worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”)
    3. a significant change in behavior related to the attacks

B. Absence of Agoraphobia

C. The Panic Attacks are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

D. The Panic Attacks are not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., occurring on exposure to feared social situations), Specific Phobia (e.g., on exposure to a specific phobic situation), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., on exposure to dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., in response to stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., in response to being away from home or close relatives).

Diagnostic Criteria for Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia

A. Both (1) and (2):

  1. recurrent unexpected Panic Attacks
  2. at least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one (or more) of the following:
    1. persistent concern about having additional attacks
    2. worry about the implications of the attack or its consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”)
    3. a significant change in behavior related to the attacks

B. The presence of Agoraphobia

C. The Panic Attacks are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

D. The Panic Attacks not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., occurring on exposure to feared social situations), Specific Phobia (e.g., on exposure to a specific phobic situation), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., on exposure to dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., in response to stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., in response to being away from home or close relatives).

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. Please seek professional advice if you are experiencing any mental health concern.

Copyright © 2002-2019. All Rights Reserved.