Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you've had signs or symptoms of a panic attack, make an appointment with your primary care provider. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for treatment.

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do in advance

  • Make a list of your symptoms, including when they first occurred and how often you've had them.
  • Write down key personal information, including traumatic events in your past and any stressful, major events that occurred before your first panic attack.
  • Write down medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions that you have and the names of any medications you're taking.
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend to go with you to your appointment, if possible, to lend support and help you remember information.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor at your first appointment

  • What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
  • Is it possible that an underlying medical problem is causing my symptoms?
  • Do I need any diagnostic tests?
  • Should I see a mental health specialist?
  • Is there anything I can do now to help manage my symptoms?

Questions to ask if you're referred to a mental health provider

  • Do I have panic attacks or panic disorder?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • If you're recommending therapy, how often will I need it and for how long?
  • Would group therapy be helpful in my case?
  • If you're recommending medications, are there any possible side effects?
  • For how long will I need to take medication?
  • How will you monitor whether my treatment is working?
  • What can I do now to reduce the risk of my panic attacks recurring?
  • Are there any self-care steps I can take to help manage my condition?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me?
  • What websites do you recommend visiting?

Don't hesitate to ask for more information any time you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

A doctor or mental health provider who sees you for possible panic attacks or panic disorder may ask:

  • What are your symptoms, and when did they first occur?
  • How often do your attacks occur, and how long do they last?
  • Does anything in particular seem to trigger an attack?
  • How often do you experience fear of another attack?
  • Do you avoid the locations or experiences that seem to trigger an attack?
  • How do your symptoms affect your life, including school, work and personal relationships?
  • Did you experience significant stress or a traumatic event shortly before your first panic attack?
  • Have you experienced significant trauma — such as physical or sexual abuse or military battle — in your lifetime?
  • How would you describe your childhood, including your relationship with your parents?
  • Have you or any of your close relatives been diagnosed with a mental health problem, including panic attacks or panic disorder?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
  • Do you use caffeine, alcohol or recreational drugs? How often?
  • Do you exercise?
May. 31, 2012