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Gender Differences in Panic Disorder

CITATION:  Leskin, G.A., Sheikh, J.I., (2004) Gender Differences in Panic Disorder.  January 2004, Vol. XXI, Issue 1 of Psychiatric Times.

ABSTRACT:  According to the DSM-IV, panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder consisting of repeated and unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are defined as discrete events characterized by the sudden onset of cardiorespiratory symptoms and physiological arousal, accompanied by catastrophic fears and the urge to flee. Typically, these symptoms include shortness of breath, tachycardia, nausea, sweating, and fears that the individual is losing control or going crazy. Such spontaneous panic attacks typically reach an apex of intensity within 10 minutes.

Data from large scale epidemiological surveys suggest that panic disorder is more common in women than in men (Joyce et al., 1989; Katerndahl and Realini, 1993; Reed and Witchen, 1998). The National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) examined the presence of psychiatric morbidity, including depression, panic disorder and general anxiety, in a large national sample (Kessler et al., 1994). 

Based on NCS data, Eaton et al. (1994) found that panic disorder is 2.5 times more prevalent among women than men. In addition, the gender difference appears to increase according to age. For example, the prevalence rate of panic disorder for women ages 15 to 24 was 2.5%, compared to 1.3% of same-age men. For older women and men, the overall rates drop, but the difference between genders appears to grow. Among women ages 35 to 44, the rate of panic disorder was 2.1%, compared to the 0.6% rate among same-age men. 

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