DSM 5 Criteria for Panic Disorder

Learn about the DSM 5 Criteria for Panic Disorder and how it is diagnosed. Download a free handout PDF to use in your mental health practice.

By Ericka Pingol on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is panic disorder?

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that involves sudden and repeated episodes of intense fear or panic. These episodes, also known as panic attacks, can be very frightening and cause physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heart rate, and dizziness.

Individuals with panic disorder often live in fear of having another panic attack and may avoid places or situations that they associate with previous attacks. This can significantly impact their daily lives, leading to social isolation and relationship difficulties.

Panic disorder is a common mental health condition. It usually develops during late adolescence or early adulthood but can occur at any age. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with panic disorder than men.

Printable DSM 5 Criteria for Panic Disorder PDF

Download this DSM 5 Criteria for Panic Disorder to diagnose various mental health conditions, including panic disorder.

Causes and symptoms

The exact cause of panic disorder is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors. Some people may be more prone to developing panic attacks due to their brain chemistry or the way they respond to stress.

Panic attacks are characterized by the following:

  • Sudden and overwhelming feelings of fear or dread
  • Intense physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling or shaking
  • Feeling like you are losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Feeling detached from reality or yourself
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands, feet, or face

Panic attack symptoms can be very distressing and often lead to a fear of having another attack. This fear can escalate into a panic disorder when it causes significant impairment in daily life.

Treatment options

Panic disorder can be successfully treated with a combination of medications, therapy, and self-help strategies. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are commonly used to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks.

Therapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is also an effective treatment for panic disorder. CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to panic attacks.

Self-help strategies, such as deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, can also help manage panic disorder symptoms. However, seeking professional help and working closely with a healthcare provider to develop an individualized treatment plan is important.

Coping strategies

Living with panic disorder can be challenging, but many coping strategies can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Some helpful tips include:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises regularly
  • Engage in relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness or meditation
  • Identify triggers that may cause panic attacks and develop a plan to cope with them
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly
  • Seek support from friends and family members, or join a support group for individuals with panic disorder
  • Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones

DSM 5 Criteria for Panic Disorder

Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) to diagnose various mental health conditions, including panic disorder.

The following are the diagnostic criteria for panic disorder according to DSM 5:

  • Recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.
  • At least one of the attacks has been followed by one month (or more) of persistent concern or worry or a significant maladaptive change in behavior related to the attacks.
  • The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance.

Download our free DSM 5 Criteria for Panic Disorder for the comprehensive list.

Co-occurring disorders

Panic disorder can also occur along with other mental health conditions, known as co-occurring disorders. Some common disorders that may co-occur with panic disorder include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Individuals with GAD experience excessive and persistent worry about various aspects of their life. This constant worry can cause physical anxiety symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, abdominal distress, and muscle tension.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

A fear of social situations and interactions with others characterizes SAD. People with this disorder may avoid social situations altogether or have intense anxiety when faced with them.

Major depressive disorder (MDD)

Panic disorder and MDD often co-occur, as individuals may experience feelings of hopelessness and despair due to their panic attacks. This can lead to disruptions in daily functioning and decreased quality of life.

Substance use disorder

Those with panic disorders may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with their symptoms. However, this can lead to a substance use disorder, which can further exacerbate the symptoms of panic disorder.

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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5(5). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, June). Table 3.10, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia Criteria Changes from DSM-IV to DSM-5. Nih.gov; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t10/

What is the relationship between panic disorder and other anxiety disorders?
What is the relationship between panic disorder and other anxiety disorders?

Commonly asked questions

What is the relationship between panic disorder and other anxiety disorders?

Panic disorder is often seen alongside other anxiety disorders, each with distinct characteristics. While panic disorder is marked by sudden and intense episodes of fear or panic attacks, other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), involve persistent worry.

Can posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) co-occur with panic disorder?

Yes, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder can co-occur. PTSD, a mental disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, may share common symptoms with panic disorder, such as intense fear and anxiety.

What are some ways to cope with and manage panic attacks?

Individuals with panic disorder can benefit from learning coping strategies to manage symptoms and reduce panic attack frequency. Techniques like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help challenge negative thought patterns. Seeking support from loved ones and stress-reducing activities like exercise or meditation can also help.

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