Panic Disorder Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing & Treating Panic Disorder 

If you’re experiencing repeated panic attacks and think you may have panic disorder, share your concerns with your Mercy doctor. Although no specific lab test can diagnose panic disorder, your doctor may have you complete self-evaluations, assessments as well as ask questions regarding your symptoms. After your diagnostic evaluation, your doctor or therapist will reference the DSM-5 to determine if you meet the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder.

Panic Disorder Treatment Options

Your doctor may refer you to a Mercy behavioral health professional to ensure you get the best possible care. Therapy can help you manage thoughts and behaviors that contribute to panic attacks. A combination of the following programs is often used to treat panic disorder.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT for panic disorder teaches you skills to manage anxiety, and it’s effective for treating panic disorder. CBT can be done individually or in a group of people with similar issues. You’ll learn how to change the unhealthy thoughts and behaviors that can bring on a panic attack.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders by helping you face your fears in a controlled setting. It helps treat external fears (of objects, activities and situations) and internal fears (thoughts and physical sensations) by gradually reducing your reaction to them.


Medications may also help with panic disorder. Your Mercy doctor will discuss your options and may prescribe medications, in addition to therapy. Some of these can be taken for years, while other medications work better in the short term.

Alternative Methods

Alternative medicine such as therapeutic yoga, massage or meditation may also help reduce your panic and anxiety symptoms.

  • Therapeutic yoga postures ease tension, tightness and pain sensitivity.
  • Massage therapy relieves tension and promotes relaxation.
  • Meditation practices like mindfulness help you replace unhealthy thoughts with a sense of calm and acceptance. Reflecting on your thoughts and feelings lets you observe them from a safe place.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes like limiting caffeine and alcohol, exercising regularly and practicing deep breathing can help with managing panic attacks.