Types of panic attacks and their association with psychiatric disorder and physical illness

Gregory Bovasso, William Eaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The differentiation of three types of panic attacks is proposed to be significant for understanding the course and etiology of panic and other psychiatric disorders and physical illnesses. The present investigation is based on longitudinal data from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) Study of 1980 to 1981 and its 1994 to 1996 follow-up. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) of panic symptoms identified three types of panic which were consistent over time and for which reliable scales were constructed to measure derealization, cardiac panic, and respiratory panic. Unlike panic disorder, none of the three types of panic attacks predicted the incidence of depression. Derealization was associated with a broader variety of psychiatric disorders than the other two types of panic, including simple phobias, but was not associated with physical diseases. Cardiac panic attacks were associated with a history of heart disease and predicted the incidence of agoraphobia but were not comorbid with depression, unlike the other two forms of panic. Respiratory panic attacks were consistently symptomatic of dysthymia and predicted a higher risk of hospitalization for breast cancer and myocardial infarction (MI).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-477
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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