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What To Do If Your Child Is Having Panic Attacks

Apr 30, 2008
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorders take a much different form in children than they do in adults. In fact, children often will not have panic attacks unless there is a serious underlying cause such as if they've been traumatized. The child will not understand the cause of these emotions and physical symptoms, so it's important to keep this in mind when dealing with a child who is suffering from a panic attack

Panic attacks in a child's life can greatly impact the quality of their life - it can cause them to become overly preoccupied with when the next attack may possibly take place, and to worry about the embarrassment of going through an attack in front of their friends or in public. Children who suffer from panic disorder will begin to avoid many situations or places because of this.

It's important to keep in mind that while panic attacks are very common among adults, it only affects less than five percent of children under sixteen. Children may experience isolated panic attacks that are triggered by situational anxiety or a specific event, but most often these attacks will not recur as they do in adults.

** How does a Panic Attack look different in children? **

When children have a panic attack, they mostly focus on the physical symptoms they are having. Those symptoms will cause them to become frightened and there will be no apparent cause for it. The panic attack is so unpredictable, and the physical impact so intense, that many children will have a very difficult time expressing what they were feeling, and they will have an even more difficult time understanding it. This confusion will upset them a great deal.

Repeated panic attacks should never be left untreated in children. They can lead to more serious social and developmental limitations, and even depression, that can be a detriment to their lives later down the road.

Watch for the following symptoms in your child in order to determine if they are experiencing panic attacks:

* Unpredictable episodes of intense fear without any apparent cause.
* The child complains of difficulty breathing, dizziness, a choking sensation, trembling or nausea.
* The child may express a fear of dying or "going crazy".
* The child will try to avoid environments with crowds, and they will find it very difficult to explain why they are avoiding certain locations.
* An onset of isolation from friends and low self-esteem.
* Becoming involved with drugs and alcohol.
* Expressing feelings of depression and sometimes suicidal.

** My Child is having Panic Attacks - What do I Do? **

You are convinced that your child is suffering from panic attacks. What do you do?

The most important thing you can do is immediately bring your child to counseling. There are several forms of very effective therapy that can help your child to deal with and overcome the fears and anxiety that are causing these attacks. Counseling can take the form of individual psychotherapy, and if the panic attacks are severe enough, even Cognitive Behavior Therapy. CBT has been effective in teaching children to learn how to manage anxiety and fear, as well as the associated negative thoughts that lead to the escalation of those feelings and an eventual panic attack.

Medicine may also be recommended, however leave this up to a trained psychiatrist to decide. After a full examination, a psychiatrist can determine whether your child's symptoms are severe enough to require medication to bring it under control so that the child can have time to learn to cope with anxiety and fear throughout the course of the therapy sessions.

However the most important part of a child's recovery from panic disorder is parental support and guidance. Reassure your child along the way that what they are going through is perfectly normal, and that you believe in their ability to take control of their thoughts and their emotions. Your positive actions, words, and deeds will go a very long way toward fostering positive thoughts in the mind of your child that will lead to the ultimate cure of their panic disorder.
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