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. 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. Approximately 80% of severe agoraphobics are women.
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
The initial appearance of panic attacks often follows a highly stressful event, such as being the victim of a crime, or the loss of a job, loved one, or important relationship.
Having Another Mental Disorder
If you have another mental disorder, such as depression or substance abuse ( alcoholism or drug abuse ), your risk of developing panic disorder is increased.
Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life. 11th ed. Allyn and Bacon; 2000.
Panic disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
. Updated January 23, 2009. Accessed March 25, 2009.
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