A Panic Attack is a period of discomfort and fear accompanied by a number of symptoms. Having Panic Attacks does not necessarily mean you have Panic Disorder. Panic Disorder is a more serious condition where a person has multiple Panic Attacks that are not expected.

There are research studies providing estimates of how many people have had Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder during their lifetime. A 2006 study published in “Archives of General Psychiatry” found that among 9,282 English-speaking adults in the United State, Panic Attacks are relatively common. In fact, nearly one out of three people (28.3%) in the United States has had one at some point in their lives (see Reference 2).  While the experience of having a Panic Attack is common, having the more severe condition, Panic Disorder, is much less likely. In fact, 4.7% of people are diagnosed with it during their lifetime (see References 1 and 2).

While people from all walks of life can experience panic, there are some people who are more likely to have Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. The likelihood differs depending on several factors, including a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, race, and marital/partnership status.


Panic Disorder typically starts in early adulthood. Certain age groups are more likely to have Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder during their life. People between the ages of 30 and 44 years are most likely to report experiencing Panic Disorder during their lifetime. In contrast, other age groups are less likely to experience it. In fact, older adults (people age 60 years or older) are the least likely age group to experience Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder during their lifetime. 


The likelihood of having Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder also differs by whether a person is male or female. Women are more likely to experience both conditions during their lifetime. This finding is similar to other types of disorders, like Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia.

Ethnicity and Race

A person’s ethnic and racial background can also play a role in whether they are likely to experience Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. People of Hispanic ethnicity or African-American race are less likely to experience Panic Attacks during their lifetime compared to people of White and “other” race. African-Americans are less likely to experience Panic Disorder than people of other races or Hispanic ethnicity.

Marital or Partner Status

A person’s relationship status and history can also be linked to whether he or she experiences Panic Disorder. Compared to those who are married or living with a partner, people who are separated, divorced, or widowed are more likely to have Panic Disorder during their lifetime.

If you have experienced a Panic Attack, you are not alone.  It is a common experience.  All different types of people have Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder. Some people are less likely to get Panic Disorder, like older adults and African-Americans.  If you are experiencing anxiety and Panic Attacks, contact your health care provider or mental health specialist who can determine a treatment plan that meets your needs. Remember, anxiety and panic are treatable conditions.


Kessler RC, Berglund PA, Demler O, Jin R, Walters EE. Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry. 2005;62:593-602.

Kessler, RC, Chiu, WT, Jin R, Ruscio AM, Shear K, Walters EE.   The Epidemiology of Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder, and Agoraphobia in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2006;63:415-424

National Institute of Mental Health.  How to Find Help.  Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/getting-help-locate-services/index.shtml.  Accessed January 27, 2011.