It is very common to have the blues sometimes or feel worried about upcoming events. Growing up can be very stressful for kids as they go through many changes in their physical and emotional development. Kids may be fearful of going to school or being separated from their parents, but these usually pass as they adapt to their new environments.
However, if you notice that your child is avoiding activities or regularly suffers panic attacks, then it may be a sign of a panic disorder.
What is Panic Disorder?
A child may have a panic disorder if they suffer from regular panic attacks, intense fear, and anxiety, alongside other physical symptoms. These attacks don’t often have a noticeable trigger, but they can cause a massive amount of disruption in the child’s life.
Panic attacks can come on quickly and can last up to one hour. The first time someone has a panic attack, they may feel like they are just about to die, as the body’s “fight or flight” response goes into overdrive. Other symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Racing heart or heart palpitations
- Chills or hot flashes
- Feeling like you are choking or can’t breathe
- A need to go to the bathroom more often
During these spells, a child may feel like they are going crazy or losing control. As a result, the child will usually have an intense urge to escape the place or situation they are currently in. Unfortunately, this can lead to the child avoiding certain circumstances through fear of having another panic attack.
What Should I Do if I Think My Child Has Panic Disorder?
If you think your child has a panic attack, you need to stay calm and try and get them to focus on their breathing. Slowing down the breath will help to minimize the symptoms.
You must acknowledge how they feel and not dismiss them as a “worrywart.” Ask them how they think and try to help ease their discomfort by not insisting on going into a place or doing an activity that they are scared to do.
Finally, speak to your doctor if you are worried about your child’s panic attacks. They will ask you and your child about their symptoms and maybe recommend a referral to a child therapist or mental health specialist.
When a child is diagnosed with panic disorder, the treatment will aim to minimize the symptoms and occurrence of the panic attacks by giving the child tools to help. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an excellent method that will help to identify triggers and provide opportunities to face any fears or scary situations. The CBT specialist will also offer breathing techniques to help when a panic attack comes on. This method is very useful in helping children and adults live an active life.
In some cases, the doctor or therapist may prescribe some medicine to help.