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Keywords:

  • panic;
  • youth;
  • epidemiology;
  • comorbidity;
  • psychopathology

Objective:  To determine the association between panic attacks and mental disorders among youth in the community.

Method:  Data were drawn from the Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders study (n = 1285), a community-based sample of youth aged 9–17. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to determine the association between panic attacks and the range of mental disorders, diagnosed with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children 2.3.

Results:  Panic attacks were prevalent among 3.3% of the sample. Panic attacks were associated with an increased likelihood of any anxiety disorders [OR = 4.6 (2.5, 8.5)] and any affective disorder [OR = 5.8 (2.8, 11.7)], as well as social phobia [OR = 2.3 (1.0, 5.4)], specific phobia [OR = 3.4 (1.1, 10.1)], agoraphobia [OR = 2.9 (1.1, 7.6)], generalized anxiety disorder [OR = 4.8 (1.9, 12.1)], separation anxiety disorder [OR = 3.1 (1.3, 7.7)], major depression [OR = 3.6 (1.6, 8.3)], dysthymia [OR = 6.7 (2.9, 15.5)], and hypomania [OR = 26.1 (5.5, 124.1)].

Conclusion:  These data are consistent with, and extend, previous clinical findings by showing that panic attacks are associated with increased likelihood of a range of affective and anxiety disorders, but not substance use disorders, among youth in the community. The use of longitudinal study designs in future investigations may be useful in increasing our understanding of the mechanisms underlying these associations.