Panic disorder likely has a complex genetic basis. In other words, it is likely that panic disorder has multiple genes which puts one at risk for developing panic disorder. And the development of panic disorder would then be the interaction of the biological risk (genes) combining with environmental influences (i.e. stressors) and psychology (the way you think about things). This interaction between genes, environment, and psychology would then be what would develop as panic disorder.
Currently, we are still trying to find out which genes put you at risk for panic disorder. In the meantime, if we suspect that an illness is genetic, then it runs in families. We do know that panic disorder runs in families, so taking an inventory of family members who have panic disorder would then give you an idea of your own risk for developing it.
Even if you are at genetic risk of developing panic disorder (i.e. it runs in your family), there are still risk factors you can modify to prevent the development of full-blown panic disorder. The modifiable risk factors would be your environmental influences (stressors) and your psychology (thoughts, behaviors). If you know you are at risk for developing panic disorder as it runs in your family, then you can try to minimize stressors, or handle stressors more effectively. Also, you can change the way you think about situations, and how you react to them. For more information and help on panic disorder, please click here.