Panic Disorder Diagnosis Panic Disorder Risk Factors By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD Facebook LinkedIn Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 04, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Getty Images Numerous factors have been found to increase the risk of experiencing panic attacks and developing panic disorder and agoraphobia. Though studies have found that certain risk factors are linked to the development of panic disorder, these findings do not mean that they are the causes of panic disorder. Rather, risk factors for panic disorder describe specific characteristics that are commonly associated with developing the condition. Here are some of the frequently observed risk factors associated with panic disorder. DSM-5 Criteria for Diagnosing Panic Disorder Age The age of onset for panic disorder is frequently between late adolescence and early adulthood. Even though panic disorder typically develops between the ages of 18 and 35, it is still possible to occur any time throughout the lifespan. Although far less common, panic disorder can develop in childhood or late adulthood. It is also possible to experience panic disorder on and off across one’s life. For example, a person can have recurring and unexpected panic attacks for several months, followed by several years in which they do not experience any symptoms. Gender Women are more prone to developing anxiety disorders than men. Panic disorder, in particular, is more prevalent in women. In fact, women are more than twice the risk for panic disorder than men. Because of this, experts recommend anxiety screening during routine exams for women and girls over the age of 13. Personality Research has shown that there is some correlation between children with more fearful, anxious, or nervous personality types and later development of panic disorder. As a result, there are some ways that parents can help decrease the risk of their children developing an anxiety disorder. However, the cause of panic disorder is unknown and many mental health specialists agree that it is most likely caused by a complex combination of environmental, biological, and psychological factors. How Perfectionism Can Impact Panic and Anxiety Family Environment There are certain family traits that have shown a relationship with panic disorder. In particular, parents who model anxiety, are overly demanding, and expect perfectionism may be at some risk of having children who develop anxiety disorders later in life. However, adults with panic disorder have been raised in various types of homes and family dynamics. Genetics There is a strong link between panic disorder and familial patterns. People with a close biological family member with panic disorder are up to 8 times more likely to develop the condition themselves. These numbers can increase depending on the age of onset of the disorder. If a family member developed panic disorder before the age of 20 years old, first-degree biological relatives are up to 20 times more likely to have panic disorder. Despite these overwhelming statistics, research has indicated that up to a half or more of people with panic disorder do not have close relatives that have also developed this condition. Life Events It has been suggested that stressful life events can contribute to the onset of panic disorder. Stressful life events can include difficult life experiences, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, or divorce. Some life transitions that bring a great deal of change to our lives can also cause a lot of stress, such as getting married, moving, having a baby, or retiring. Research has also indicated that experiencing a traumatic event, such as being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, has a higher correlation with panic disorder. It is also possible to experience panic attacks during a stressful life event, but then never experience them again. For example, a person who is a victim of a crime or experiences a natural disaster may have a panic attack during that event. To be diagnosed with panic disorder, however, a person would need to have recurrent and unexpected panic attacks. Co-Occurring Conditions Many people with panic disorder also struggle with feelings of overall worry, anxiety, and sadness, and may live with another mental health condition. Other typical co-occurring conditions include: Depression Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Specific phobia Social anxiety disorder (SAD) A person with panic disorder is also at risk of developing agoraphobia, a condition involves a fear of having a panic attack in a place or situation in which escape would be potentially challenging or humiliating. Agoraphobia can occur at any time following persistent panic attacks. However, a person with panic disorder typically develops agoraphobia within the first year of repeated panic attacks. If you or a loved one are struggling with panic disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Panic Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment 8 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute of Mental Health. Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013. National Institute of Mental Health. Panic Disorder. Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-0580 National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. Lozano LM, Valor-Segura I, García-Cueto E, Pedrosa I, Llanos A, Lozano L. Relationship between child perfectionism and psychological disorders. Front Psychol. 2019;10:1855. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01855 Telman LGE, van Steensel FJA, Maric M, Bögels SM. What are the odds of anxiety disorders running in families? A family study of anxiety disorders in mothers, fathers, and siblings of children with anxiety disorders. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2018;27(5):615-624. doi:10.1007/s00787-017-1076-x National Institutes of Health. Understanding Anxiety Disorders: When Panic, Fear, and Worries Overwhelm. By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Panic Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.