What are the physical signs of panic disorder?

Updated: Mar 21, 2018
  • Author: Mohammed A Memon, MD; Chief Editor: Randon S Welton, MD  more...
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There are no physical signs specific for panic disorder. If the patient presents in an acute state of panic, he or she can physically manifest any anticipated sign of an increased sympathetic state. These nonspecific signs may include hypertension, tachycardia, mild tachypnea, mild tremors, and cool, clammy skin. Blood pressure and temperature may be within the reference range. A panic attack normally lasts 20-30 minutes from onset, although in rare cases it can go on for more than an hour. Somatic concerns of death from cardiac or respiratory problems may be a major focus of patients during an attack. Patients may end up in an emergency department.

Hyperventilation may be difficult to detect by observing breathing, because respiratory rate and tidal volume may appear normal. Patients may sigh frequently or have difficulty with breath-holding. Reproduction of symptoms with overbreathing is unreliable. Chvostek sign, Trousseau sign, or overt carpopedal spasm may be present.

The remaining physical examination findings are typically normal in panic disorder. However, remember that panic disorder is largely a diagnosis of exclusion, and attention should be focused on the exclusion of other disorders.

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