Panic Disorder in Teens

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If you've never suffered from an anxiety or panic disorder, you might feel helpless if your teen begins showing signs of one. Even if you've had the same problem yourself, your teen might exhibit different symptoms or cope differently than you. One of the best steps you can take for your child is to find out all you can about panic disorder, and never minimize her feelings or tell her to just "get over it." Panic disorder requires sensitivity and patience.

Panic Attack

  • When a person feels that he is in danger, his body goes into the flight or fight response. The body floods with adrenaline and other hormones, according to TeenMentalHealth.org. When there actually is a danger, this is a handy response. But in some people, it happens for no reason and comes out of nowhere. This is a panic attack. A panic attack is scary enough, but it often causes other problems because once it happens, your teen will probably fear it happening again. For instance, if the panic attack occurred while she was driving, she might fear driving because of the terror that another panic attack will occur. This intense fear can actually trigger another attack, and a vicious cycle begins.

Symptoms

  • Everyone experiences different symptoms of panic disorder, but your teen will likely experience some combination of the following symptoms. Some people have heart pounding or palpitations, become sweaty or shake, experience either chills or hot flashes, feel as though they can't breath or is choking, or have chest pain. Your teen might also become fearful of dying or of losing control and going crazy. If you notice any of these symptoms or your teen describes what's happening this way, take her to her doctor to rule out a medical cause and get a diagnosis.

Helping Your Teen at Home

  • Work with your teen at home on learning how to manage stress. For instance, encourage her to practice yoga and meditation, and keep a journal. It's also important that your teen get as much rest as possible and have a balanced, nutritious diet. For some people, caffeine can make panic disorder worse, so if your teen is a coffee or soft drink fan, help her switch over to water, milk or juice. Work with your teen to reduce stress. In some cases, drugs can trigger a panic attack, so council your teen about the risks of drug use.

Treatment of Panic Disorder

  • Take your teen to talk to her doctor about the problem, who can take into account family history, and your teen's makeup and lifestyle when advising treatment. Find out whether your town has a support group for teens with anxiety or panic disorder. According to KidsHealth, treatment for panic disorder can involve counseling, behavior modification and medications.

References

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