The Disabling Effects of Panic Attacks in Teens
A panic attack can happen at any time to anyone, regardless of where they are at any given moment and can make you feel terrified and as though you’re in great danger. Panic attacks can make you feel as though you are having a heart attack and are about to pass out or even die, but in reality, there is no true danger. If your teen suffers from teen anxiety, it’s important to know all about this condition and how to help them cope.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
When your teen experiences a panic attack, there is a strong sensation of fear and a number of other symptoms to go along with it. Those symptoms include the following:
- Extremely fast heartbeat
- Trembling or shaking
- Shortness of breath and a feeling of being unable to breathe
- Choking feeling
- Chest pain
- Stomach pains that are occasionally accompanied by nausea
- Feeling of dizziness or feeling faint
- Hot flashes or chills
- Tingling or numbness in the body
- A feeling of detachment
- Fear of losing control or going crazy
- Fear of dying
Although panic attacks in teens can subside in five to 10 minutes, it can also linger for several hours. If your teen experiences this type of extreme anxiety, don’t be surprised if they express feeling as though they are having a heart attack or stroke. Many people who experience a panic attack end up making a trip to the emergency room to be evaluated. It’s important for teen anxiety to be treated because it can easily lead to agoraphobia, an intense fear of being outside.
Causes of Panic Attack
Unfortunately, doctors don’t know the exact cause of panic disorder or attacks. Research has shown that it can run in families, but it’s uncertain whether that has to do with genetics or environmental factors.
What Should You Do if Your Teen Experiences a Panic Attack?
There are a number of things you can do to ease your teen’s anxiety if he or she experiences a panic attack. Recognize the symptoms and do the following to calm them down:
- Tell your teen a panic attack may be scary but that it’s harmless. Explain that the symptoms they are experiencing are completely normal with a sudden attack and that they are not in danger.
- Show your teen that you are calm during their panic attack. Even though teens are experiencing growing independence during these formative years, they often look to their parents for ways to react. If you show considerable concern, it sends your child a message that their panic attack is serious. On the other hand, if you remain calm and try to calm them down, they will eventually begin to feel more at ease. Talk to your teen and tell them that they will feel better after a while.
- Introduce your teen to breathing exercises and a mantra that can calm them down when they feel a panic attack coming on. Show them how to breathe deeply through the nose and calmly exhale through the mouth while repeating a line in their head, such as “You are not in danger” or “you will be OK.” There are also good apps for breathing exercises that your teen can download to their smartphone to use whenever necessary.
- It’s normal to associate places and things with a panic attack. Your teen may want to avoid a certain place because they experienced an attack there. It’s important to explain that the best way to move on from a scary situation is to face it head-on. If your teen has too difficult a time decreasing avoidance altogether, encourage them to take smaller steps, such as to bring them close to a specific place or to only have them in that place for a few minutes at a time. Eventually, your teen will be able to endure it for a longer period of time as they see there is no imminent danger.
Treatments for Your Teen’s Anxiety
If your teen has especially bad anxiety or has actually been diagnosed with panic disorder, their doctor may refer them to inpatient therapy and a psychotherapist. With this combination of treatments, your child can receive cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of therapy that is very effective for panic disorder. It helps your teen to learn how to change their thoughts and behaviors that bring on an attack.
It’s important to get your teen help if they suffer from panic disorder. Hillcrest is a good place to turn to for treatment.