Risk Factors for Panic Disorder
by Amy Scholten, MPH
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop panic disorder with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing panic disorder is. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Panic disorder typically develops between the ages of 15-24, especially for men. However, it can also begin in the 30s and 40s, especially for women. The prevalence of panic disorder seems to be increasing in younger generations.
Panic disorder is twice as common in women as in men. Pregnancy can either improve the condition or make it worse. Panic disorder with agoraphobia is more common in women, too. More than 75% of people with severe agoraphobia are women.
Family History TOP
There is some evidence that panic disorder and other anxiety disorders tend to run in families. Many studies have shown that panic disorder is common among first-degree relatives of people with panic disorder. Family dynamics, such as overprotective behaviors and failure to learn effective coping skills, may play a role in panic disorder.
Stressful Events in Susceptible People TOP
The initial appearance of panic attacks often follows a highly stressful event, such as, history of childhood sexual or physical abuse, being the victim of a crime, or the loss of a job, loved one, or important relationship.
Increased Sensitivity to Physical Sensations TOP
This occurs when the circuits in the brain take normal events or surroundings and exaggerates them, creating a sense of anxiety. These feelings of anxiety can heighten into repeated panic attacks.
Anxious Temperament TOP
A method of approaching or thinking about ordinary situations and exaggerating them to a point where the body physically reacts to them. The physical response to the anxiety contributes to the onset of panic attacks.
Having Another Mental Disorder TOP
Studies show that tobacco use during adolescence and young adulthood contribute to an increased risk of having panic attacks and other anxiety disorders.
Low Socioeconomic Status TOP
Being in a low socioeconomic group is a risk factor for panic disorder. This may be due to factors such as perceived low social status, cultural factors, financial problems, stressful environments, social isolation, and greater daily stress.
Answers to your questions about panic disorder. American Psychological Association website. Available at:
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Accessed June 27, 2017.
Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115030/Panic-disorder. Updated April 17, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2017.
Last reviewed June 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 6/27/2017
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