by Preda A

A risk factor is something that raises your chances of getting a health problem.

You can have panic disorder with or without any of the risks listed below. But, the more you have, the greater your chances of getting it.

Panic disorder is nearly 2 times more common in women than in men. Women are also more likely to have it with agoraphobia.

It is most likely to appear in those 20 to 29 years old. But, it can start as early as the teen years or as late as 30 to 40 years old.

Other factors that make your chances higher:

  • It runs in your family—Having a close family member such as a parent, brother, or sister. Overprotection or lack of coping skills in your family may also play a role.
  • Stressful events such as:
    • Loss of a job
    • Marriage or first child
    • Prior victim of crime or abuse
  • Anxiousness—Taking something normal and worrying more than needed. The body reacts to this worry, making the risk of panic attacks higher.
  • Mental health illness—Mainly with other anxiety disorders or depression.
  • Problems with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder. These can cause a fast heartbeat or lightheadedness, which can lead to feelings of panic.
  • Smoking—Risk is higher if smoking was done during the teen years or as a young adult.


Answers to your questions about panic disorder. American Psychological Association website. Available at: Accessed February 25, 2019.

Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated July 2018. Accessed February 25, 2019.

Panic attacks and panic disorder. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: Updated July 2018. Accessed February 25, 2019.

Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated September 21, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2019.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2018
  • Update Date: 02/25/2019