What is panic disorder? The symptoms are almost the same for kids as they are for adults. Children and adolescents with panic disorder have repeated periods of intense fear and panic that appear to come from nowhere and for no good reason. Other symptoms include a racing heartbeat, a feeling of shortness of breath and sometimes a fear of going crazy. These symptom episodes are called panic attacks and can last from a few minutes to several hours.
They usually occur without warning. Additional symptoms can include:
An episode of intense fear that something terrible is happening or is about to happen,
Racing heartbeat; intense palpitations, sometimes wrongly labeled as a heart attack,
Dizziness or lightheadedness,
shortness of breath or smothering sensations,
Trembling, shaking, panicky sensations,
Feeling of being outside of reality, a foreboding eeriness and feeling of danger,
A fear of dropping dead, losing control, or going crazy.
More than 3 million Americans will suffer from the symptoms of panic disorder at some point in their life. It frequently has its onset during adolescence, although occasionally it begins during childhood. Genetics might play a role because there are times it seems to run in families.
Panic disorder and its very troubling symptoms can devastate ones sense of well-being and quality of life. These predatory-like attacks can interfere with your child or teenagers relationships, ability to focus and concentrate and ability to be mobile and go places with their friends. Kids with untreated panic disorder may begin to feel nervous or fearful much of the time, even during those times when they do not experience symptoms.
Often, sufferers start to avoid situations where they fear an attack may occur and do not want to go places where help may be inaccessible. For example, your child may be hesitant to attend school, go on normal social outings or be separated from you.
As symptoms worsen, he or she may even be afraid to leave home. Agoraphobia is the diagnosis used when a panic disorder sufferer feels so terrified of having an anxiety attack in public, that he or she does not want to leave the safety of home.
This is a very hard way to live: Kids with panic disorder can also develop severe depression and may be at risk for suicidal behavior. Even more worrisome, is that in order to decrease anxiety, some teens with this disorder will resort to medicating themselves with alcohol or drugs.
Your kid will be starting life way behind his or her peers if the panic disorder is not recognized and treated. However, it can be difficult to diagnose in children. Unfortunately, this may lead to excessive visits to doctors and multiple orders for tests which are expensive and sometimes, painful.
The good news is, however, that when properly diagnosed, panic disorder usually responds well to treatment. If any of your kids have symptoms of panic attacks he or she should first be evaluated by your family physician or pediatrician. If no physical illness or condition is found, then you should obtain a comprehensive evaluation by a clinical psychologist or other mental health professional.
There are various treatments that can be utilized effectively. For example, specific medications may stop or reduce the intensity or frequency of panic attacks. Psychotherapy may also help your child; you and other members of your family learn ways to reduce the stress or tension that might otherwise trigger an attack.
Through cognitive behavioral counseling, your child can also be taught new ways to control the anxiety or panic attack symptoms when they occur. Kids and teens often respond well to a combination of medication and counseling.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to see that your child is evaluated, properly diagnosed and treated appropriately. Remember that panic attacks can be effectively treated and their early treatment can prevent more severe complications, such as agoraphobia, depression, plummeting self-esteem and substance abuse.