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10 Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Panic Disorder

Understanding Panic Disorder

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Updated October 09, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Communicating your questions and concerns about your panic attacks to your doctor will help you to get the information and treatment you need. Your doctor is there to support and assist you in achieving better health. Bring these questions and any others you may have to your next doctor's appointment to get answers to your questions about panic attacks.

1. Are you diagnosing me with panic disorder?

Your doctor can help you understand your panic attacks.

After reviewing your symptoms with your doctor, it is important to know what you have actually been diagnosed with. Before making a definitive diagnosis, your doctor may first want to gather more information, conduct follow-up interviews, pursue further testing, or refer you to a specialist. Your doctor may diagnose you with a different psychiatric condition, such as generalized anxiety or depression. Ask your doctor directly about this diagnostic process so that you have a clear understanding of what you are being treated for.

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2. What type of panic disorder do I have?

Once your doctor has confirmed a diagnosis of panic disorder, it is important to get further clarification as to what type you have been diagnosed with. Panic disorder is divided into two diagnoses: panic disorder with or without Agoraphobia.  

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3. Can other medical conditions be associated with panic disorder?

In order to get the best treatment possible, it is important to consider potential co-occurring medical issues. For example, headaches and gastrointestinal issues have been associated with anxiety disorders. You may want to ask your physician to help you understand the relationship between your physical symptoms and your panic disorder.

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4. What types of medication are used to treat panic disorder?

Your doctor may want to prescribe medication to help alleviate your symptoms. Find out what to expect from your medication, including the length of time for it to take effect and potential side effects.

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5. Will you refer me to other mental health specialists?

If you are being evaluated by your primary-care physician, you may be referred to another provider who specializes in treating mental health disorders, such as a psychiatrist to help manage your psychiatric medication, or a psychotherapist to help you delveop more effective ways to manage your panic.

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6. Do you recommend any coping techniques or self-help strategies?

Your doctor may provide you with some instructions on effective ways to develop your coping skills. You doctor may also be able to point you in the right direction for further resources and information.  

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7. Is it possible that I also have depression?

Panic disorder has the potential to be associated with depression. You may have noticed that you have developed other symptoms that seem unrelated to your panic attacks, such as frequent feelings of hopelessness or sadness. It is important to review all of your symptoms with your doctor to get the proper treatment you need.

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8. Can you recommend any support groups?

Your doctor may recommend a local support group for panic disorder, if available. This type of setting can help further your understanding of panic disorder, as well as provide an opportunity to share your experience with others with similar challenges.

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9. When can I expect to feel better?

You may have questions about the length of your treatment, including how long it will take for medication and psychotherapy to begin to work.

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10. When can we follow up?

Make sure to ask for any further clarification you may need and make a follow-up appointment before you leave. It can take a while before your doctor can determine if your medication is having a positive effect. Adhere to your doctor's recommendations and be prepared to discuss your progress and any further questions you have at your follow-up appointment.

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