URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/panic-disorder-test/

Panic Disorder Test

What is a panic disorder test?

Panic disorder is a condition in which you have frequent panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear and anxiety. In addition to emotional distress, a panic attack can cause physical symptoms. These include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. During a panic attack, some people think they are having a heart attack. A panic attack can last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour.

Some panic attacks happen in response to a stressful or scary situation, such as a car accident. Other attacks happen without a clear reason. Panic attacks are common, affecting at least 11% of adults each year. Many people have one or two attacks in their lifetime and recover without treatment.

But if you have repeated, unexpected panic attacks and are in constant fear of getting a panic attack, you may have panic disorder. Panic disorder is rare. It only affects 2 to 3 percent of adults each year. It's twice as common in women than in men.

While panic disorder is not life-threatening, it can be upsetting and affect your quality of life. If left untreated, it can lead to other serious problems, including depression and substance use. A panic disorder test can help diagnose the condition so you can get the right treatment.

Other names: panic disorder screening

What is it used for?

A panic disorder test is used to find out if certain symptoms are caused by panic disorder or a physical condition, such as a heart attack.

Why do I need a panic disorder test?

You may need a panic disorder test if you've had two or more recent panic attacks for no clear reason and are afraid of having more panic attacks. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

What happens during a panic disorder test?

Your primary care provider may give you a physical exam and ask you about your feelings, mood, behavior patterns, and other symptoms. Your provider may also order blood tests and/or tests on your heart to rule out a heart attack or other physical conditions.

During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

You may be tested by a mental health provider in addition to or instead of your primary care provider. A mental health provider is a health care professional that specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health problems.

If you are being tested by a mental health provider, he or she may ask you more detailed questions about your feelings and behaviors. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire about these issues.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for a panic disorder test?

You don't need any special preparations for a panic disorder test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is no risk to having a physical exam or filling out a questionnaire.

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

Your provider may use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to help make a diagnosis. The DSM-5 (fifth edition of the DSM) is a book published by the American Psychiatric Association that provides guidelines for diagnosing mental health conditions.

DSM-5 guidelines for diagnosing panic disorder include:

  • Frequent, unexpected panic attacks
  • Ongoing worry about having another panic attack
  • Fear of losing control
  • No other cause of a panic attack, such as drug use or a physical disorder

Treatment for panic disorder usually includes one or both of the following:

Is there anything else I need to know about a panic disorder test?

If you are diagnosed with panic disorder, your provider may refer you to a mental health provider for treatment. There are many types of providers who treat mental disorders. The most common types of mental health providers include:

  • Psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specializes in mental health. Psychiatrists diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They can also prescribe medicine.
  • Psychologist, a professional trained in psychology. Psychologists generally have doctoral degrees. But they do not have medical degrees. Psychologists diagnose and treat mental health disorders. They offer one-on-one counseling and/or group therapy sessions. They can't prescribe medicine unless they have a special license. Some psychologists work with providers who are able to prescribe medicine.
  • Licensed clinical social worker (L.C.S.W.) has a master's degree in social work with training in mental health. Some have additional degrees and training. L.C.S.W.s diagnose and provide counseling for a variety of mental health problems. They can't prescribe medicine but can work with providers who are able to.
  • Licensed professional counselor. (L.P.C.). Most L.P.C.s have a master's degree. But training requirements vary by state. L.P.C.s diagnose and provide counseling for a variety of mental health problems. They can't prescribe medicine but can work with providers who are able to.

C.S.W.s and L.P.C.s may be known by other names, including therapist, clinician, or counselor.

If you don't know which type of mental health provider you should see, talk to your primary care provider.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleveland (OH): Cleveland Clinic; c2019. Panic Disorder: Diagnosis and Tests; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder/diagnosis-and-tests
  2. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleveland (OH): Cleveland Clinic; c2019. Panic Disorder: Management and Treatment; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder/management-and-treatment
  3. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleveland (OH): Cleveland Clinic; c2019. Panic Disorder: Overview; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4451-panic-disorder
  4. Familydoctor.org [Internet]. Leawood (KS): American Academy of Family Physicians; c2019. Panic Disorder; [updated 2018 Oct 2; cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://familydoctor.org/condition/panic-disorder
  5. Foundations Recovery Network [Internet]. Brentwood (TN): Foundations Recovery Network; c2019. Explaining the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.dualdiagnosis.org/dual-diagnosis-treatment/diagnostic-statistical-manual
  6. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2020. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one; 2017 May 16 [cited 2020 Jan 5]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health-providers/art-20045530
  7. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2019. Panic attacks and panic disorder: Diagnosis and treatment; 2018 May 4 [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376027
  8. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998–2019. Panic attacks and panic disorder: Symptoms and causes; 2018 May 4 [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021
  9. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc.; c2019. Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder; [updated 2018 Oct; cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mental-health-disorders/anxiety-and-stress-related-disorders/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorder
  10. National Alliance on Mental Illness [Internet]. Arlington (VA): NAMI; c2019. Anxiety Disorders; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
  11. National Alliance on Mental Illness [Internet]. Arlington (VA): NAMI; c2020. Types of Mental Health Professionals; [cited 2020 Jan 5]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Types-of-Mental-Health-Professionals
  12. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
  13. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2019. Health Encyclopedia: Panic Disorder; [cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00738
  14. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2019. Health Information: Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder: Exams and Tests; [updated 2019 May 28; cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 8 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/major/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorder/hw53796.html#hw53908
  15. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2019. Health Information: Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder: Topic Overview; [updated 2019 May 28; cited 2019 Dec 12]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.uwhealth.org/health/topic/major/panic-attacks-and-panic-disorder/hw53796.html

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.