Everyone who has panic disorder will experience panic attacks.
However, not everyone who has panic attacks is diagnosed with panic disorder.
Some people have panic attacks in response to specific situations. For example, they may have a phobia (overwhelming fear) of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) and have a panic attack when faced with an enclosed space.
While most people with Phobias only experience panic attacks when faced with the thing that triggers their fear, the panic attacks of people with panic disorder usually occur without warning and for no obvious reason.
This means that panic disorder will only be diagnosed after experiencing recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, and if the attacks are followed by at least one month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.
Your GP will ask you to describe the symptoms you've been experiencing. They'll also ask you how often your symptoms occur and in what situations.
It's important to tell your GP about how you've been feeling and how your symptoms have affected you.
Although it can sometimes be difficult to talk to someone else about your feelings, emotions and personal life, try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.
Your GP needs to gain a good understanding of your symptoms to make the correct diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment for you.
Your GP may also want to carry out a physical examination to look for signs of any physical conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
For example, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can sometimes cause similar symptoms to a panic attack.
By ruling out any underlying medical conditions, your GP will be able to make the correct diagnosis.
Panic disorder is where you have recurring and regular panic attacks, often for no obvious reason.
The symptoms of a panic attack can be very frightening and distressing. They tend to occur very suddenly, without warning and often for no apparent reason.
As with many mental health conditions, the exact cause of panic disorder isn't fully understood.
Everyone who has panic disorder will experience panic attacks. However, not everyone who has panic attacks is diagnosed with panic disorder.
The main aim in treating panic disorder is to reduce the number of panic attacks and ease the severity of symptoms.
If you have panic disorder, there are several self-help techniques you can use including slow, deep breathing, relaxation techniques and visualisation.
Panic disorder is a treatable condition, but to make a full recovery it's very important you seek medical help as soon as possible.
Colin Hammond describes how panic attacks affected his life and became a series of phobias and anxieties, and how therapy helped his recovery.
Claire Ledger had her first panic attack while shopping in her local high street.