Panic disorder is a common mental disorder that affects up to 5% of the population at some point in life. It is often disabling, especially when complicated by agoraphobia, and is associated with substantial functional morbidity and reduced quality of life. The disorder is also costly for individuals and society, as shown by increased use of health care, absenteeism, and reduced workplace productivity. Some physical illnesses (eg, asthma) commonly occur with panic disorder, and certain lifestyle factors (eg, smoking) increase the risk for the disorder, but causal pathways are still unclear. Genetic and early experiential susceptibility factors also exist, but their exact nature and pathophysiological mechanisms remain unknown. Despite an imprecise, although increased, understanding of cause, strong evidence supports the use of several effective treatments (eg, pharmacological, cognitive-behavioural). The adaptation and dissemination of these treatments to the frontlines of medical-care delivery should be urgent goals for the public-health community.