Panic Disorder Difficult to Diagnose -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

A review of recent clinical research on panic disorder was conducted by Dr. Wayne Katon, professor and vice-chair of psychiatry at the University of Washington School of Medicine. His analysis covers the epidemiology of panic disorder, as well as ways to screen for the condition and more effectively treat people suffering from it.

Katon found that between three percent and eight percent of patients visiting their primary-care physicians had panic disorder. Most people suffering from the condition have had major stress-inducing factors in their lives within the year before their diagnosis, and people whose close relatives have had the disorder are at much higher risk.

Panic disorder can cause symptoms such as chest and abdominal pain, a pounding heart or irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath. These alarming symptoms can often lead patients to be screened for serious physical ailments, like heart attack. “They typically go through many medical tests before their physicians accurately diagnose them,” said Katon, who studies the prevalence of mental health disorders. “Panic disorder is definitely diagnosable, and treatable – people can usually be cured in four to eight weeks with either antidepressant medication or behavioural therapy, or a combination of the two.”

Incorporating mental health professionals into primary-care settings can lead to physicians more quickly identifying and effectively treating patients with panic disorder, even when those patients may be exhibiting frightening symptoms. That faster diagnosis can help the patient, Katon explained, and can cut down on costs from unnecessary medical tests.; Source: University of Washington Health Sciences and UW Medicine