Jun 21, 2023 - Health + Traits

23andMe Releases a Panic Attacks Report

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This week, we released a new Panic Attacks report powered by 23andMe research and available for 23andMe+ members. 

The new report adds to our collection of reports focusing on mental health conditions, including depression, and anxiety. As with many mood and anxiety disorders, panic attacks and panic disorder are sometimes misdiagnosed or simply difficult to diagnose. Understanding one’s genetic risk for these conditions, and sharing that information with your healthcare provider may help in reaching the right diagnosis and treatment. 

The size and scale of 23andMe, also offers a unique opportunity to estimate risks using polygenic risk models with unmatched power. This gives consumers insights into their genetic risk for mental health conditions, panic attacks, depression, or anxiety, as well as other health conditions like high blood pressure, or coronary artery disease. Currently 23andMe offers more than 30 reports based on polygenic scores. You can learn more about our methods for creating these polygenic scores here.

These reports offer customers added benefits for their health and aids in removing the stigma around mental health. A person’s mental and physical health is often interconnected to one’s overall well-being.

What are panic attacks?

Panic attacks happen when fear and anxiety overwhelm a person and lead to physical symptoms such as racing heart, stomach aches, and shortness of breath. These attacks are often so intense with chest pain and shortness of breath that they may be mistaken for a heart attack. This can also compound fears about their health.


If you are dealing with panic attacks, talk to a professional and get help. There are also some additional resources for you to find help or inform yourself about this common condition. Remember, you are not alone; there are people who can help you provide you with support. 

National Alliance on Mental Illness — The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an organization that provides education, support, and advocacy. Their helpline is available Monday through Friday, 10 am to 8 pm ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). They also have a wealth of resources on their website, including information on panic attacks.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) — Provides vast information and resources related to anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. (https://adaa.org/) This includes tips on managing stress and anxiety.

Therapy — Talking to a therapist can help if you’re struggling. An experienced therapist can help you navigate and find the best approaches to treating panic attacks. 

Remember, it’s okay to reach out for help. You don’t have to go through this alone. There are people who care about you and want to help you get through this.

Many people have panic attacks. Up to 1 in 3 people will experience panic attacks in their lifetime, according to researchers at Harvard. But some people who suffer frequent and unexpected attacks over time may develop panic disorder. This is a type of anxiety disorder where panic attacks happen frequently, even when there isn’t a clear danger or a clear trigger. As a result, people with panic disorder often feel as if they have little control, compounding their anxiety. 

Beyond a racing heart and shortness of breath, several other physical and mental symptoms of panic attacks exist. Those include:

  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety or fear
  • A feeling of being out of control
  • Fear of death or impending doom
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Trembling
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or stomach ache
What is the cause?

Our bodies are built for survival. Along with our immune response, we each have a fight-or-flight response to danger that has helped humans thrive over millennia. But a panic attack is caused when that fight-or-flight response kicks in, even when there is no clear, immediate danger.

There are many reasons why this happens in some people and not in others. Genetics can play a role, but so do other factors. Panic attacks often occur during stressful periods, so family or relationship issues or financial stress might trigger an attack. In addition, panic attacks may occur as a symptom of other anxiety disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues.

Panic attacks are more common in younger adults. Still, they can happen to anyone, according to the NIH. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to problems at work or school, or interpersonal relationships, impacting a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, they are treatable.

The Genetic Influences on Panic Attacks

Like other mental health conditions, genetics is one of many factors contributing to whether someone is more prone to panic attacks. Understanding those genetic factors could help those trying to better understand their conditions or risk and the steps they may take to address them.

Researchers have identified several genes associated with panic attacks. Some of these genes play a role in how the body responds to stress and how the brain regulates mood and the body’s fight-or-flight response. In addition, researchers have also found that some of the same genes associated with depression are also associated with panic disorder. Some of these genes are genes involved in regulating anxiety.

About 23andMe’s Panic Attacks Report

Panic attacks are a common form of anxiety that affects millions of people worldwide.

23andMe’s new Panic Attacks report is powered by data from people who have consented to participate in 23andMe research. The report uses machine learning techniques to estimate an individual’s likelihood of being diagnosed with panic attacks.

The estimate is made using a statistical model that includes thousands of genetic markers and information on an individual’s ethnicity and sex assigned at birth. You can learn more about the science and methodology behind our new report in this white paper.

Note that 23andMe’s genetic report on panic attacks can provide users with helpful information on their estimated genetic likelihood of being diagnosed with the condition. Still, it is not a substitute for clinical diagnosis and treatment.

Find Out More

23andMe+ members can learn more here about the Panic Attack Report.

Current 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service customers on the current genotyping chip can receive this report and 35+ other reports by joining 23andMe+ from within their accounts.

Not a 23andMe+ customer yet? Learn more about what 23andMe has to offer here.

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