A comparison of persons with early- versus late-onset panic attacks

David A. Katerndahl, Melissa Talamantes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Although some evidence suggests a bimodal age at onset of panic attacks, the literature comparing subjects with early versus late onset is limited. Previous work suggests that people with late-onset panic attacks may have fewer panic symptoms and exhibit less avoidance. This study sought to compare late-onset panic attacks and early-onset panic attacks with regard to (1) comorbidity, (2) health care utilization, and (3) illness behaviors and coping. Method: This community-based study involved interviewing randomly selected adults for the presence of DSM-III-R panic attacks. If panic attacks were confirmed, subjects were asked questions concerning panic characteristics, psychiatric comorbidity, symptom perceptions, illness attitudes, coping, and family characteristics. Subjects reporting early-onset panic (panic onset < 50 years of age) were compared with those reporting late onset (onset ≥ 50 years of age). Significant univariate analyses were controlled for differences in age, panic duration, and socioeconomic status by using analysis of covariance and logistic regression. Results: Subjects with late-onset panic attacks (N = 9) utilized the mental health sector less, but were more likely to present to family physicians for their worst panic. Patients with late-onset panic felt that choking and numbness more strongly disrupted function, but felt less strongly that either depersonalization or sweating disrupted function. Subjects with late-onset had fewer comorbid conditions and lower Symptom Checklist-90 scores. Late-onset subjects also had less hypochondriasis and thanatophobia while coping less through avoidance or wishful thinking. Conclusion: Late-onset panic attacks are associated with less mental health utilization, lower levels of comorbidity, less hypochondriasis, and a greater number of positive coping behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-427
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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