Panic Disorder is a cross-generational disease that runs in families. Patients with Panic Disorder describe, both in research and in clinical settings, the attitudes of their parents as significantly more restricting, in comparison to people who do not experience panic attacks. Moreover, they painfully and regretfully remember the emotional climate in their childhood home as constantly lacking the expression of loving care and attention both between the parents and from the parents to the children. Almost 70% of patients with Panic Disorder report that their childhood years were characterized by continuous discord between the parents and between the parents and the children, physical violence in the family, sexual abuse and separation from the parents. However, the psychological mechanism through which those early traumatic events and experiences made possible the appearance, development and, sometimes, chronic course of Panic Disorder is far more complex than the simplistic explanation that childhood trauma had remained in the patients’ psychological life, until it was abruptly and uncontrollably expressed through panic attacks.
But patients with Panic Disorder will not live life in isolation because of the adversity of their early familial circumstances. They will move on, as best as they can, try to make sense of their past, form families of their own and have children. However, despite the patients’ best intentions to avoid a repetition of the past in their new families, research suggests that children of patients with Panic Disorder are at an increased risk for developing Panic Disorder or experiencing substantial and persistent psychosocial impairment. Therefore, the psychological mechanism that mediates the cross-generational reappearance of Panic Disorder remains chronically active and leads a large number of affected individuals in each generation into the psychopathology of anxiety. Contemporary psychological research suggests that subscribing to a developmental view of the diagnosis of Panic Disorder promises a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of panic. More importantly, it invites the application of a global therapeutic intervention that aspires beyond symptom-reduction to minimizing the cross-generational propensity of Panic Disorder.