She has described the experience before. Your daughter feels a sense of terror with chest pains, sweaty palms, a quickening heartbeat, and trouble breathing. She describes her panic attacks as an experience of feeling out of control and not being able to feel her hands or fingers. You’re not sure how to help her other than listen when she talks about it, and perhaps, if she’s willing, help her talk about anything that might have prompted the attacks in the first place. But it has been difficult to have her share anything about her personal life lately.
The consistent experience of panic attacks is a qualifying criterion for teen Panic Disorder treatment . An adolescent who experiences panic attacks repeatedly and who has a persistent concern about having additional attacks can likely be diagnosed with Panic Disorder. Typically, those with this disorder are extremely anxious and fearful, primarily because of the inability to predict when the next attack will occur. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have been diagnosed with Panic Disorder. Adolescents who suffer from this disorder are more likely to also suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts, and addiction. Panic attacks could be re-immerging thoughts of a traumatic event. Often teen trauma treatment can be a helpful exercise to diminish panic attacks.
Fortunately, those teens who suffer from Panic Disorder can be treated. Both medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of the two, have been used successfully to reduce the intensity of anxiety as well as the frequency of panic attacks.
If your child suffers from Panic Disorder, or from panic attacks, you can help him or her with the following:
1. Begin to identify when a panic attack is about to occur. Although it might be challenging, you might be able to identify signs that an attack is imminent. If you’re able to identify an oncoming attack, you can take steps to make it less severe.
2. At the onset of an attack, change the environment you’re in. Often, it is something in your surroundings that is causing an anxiety attack – a person, a noise, or a place. Eliminate the anxiety trigger as best you can.
3. Focus on your breathing. Take long, slow, and deep breaths. Inhale and exhale to the count of four seconds. This extended breathing does two things. It relaxes the body and it directs your attention on your body and instead of the thoughts in your mind that will likely only exacerbate the attack.
4. Recite a prayer, mantra, or even the alphabet in your mind. The point here is that you want to change your thinking. Commonly, it is a thought or a thinking pattern that began the attack in the first place.
Assisting your teen in the ways listed above can be a great help. However, keep in mind that if your child is experiencing panic attacks frequently, the greatest service you can provide is to take him or her in for a mental health assessment.
About the author – Robert Hunt is a recovering addict of 20 years. He has devoted his life to helping others suffering from chemical addictions as well as mental health challenges. Robert maintains many blogs on drug addiction, eating disorders and depression. He is a sober coach and wellness advocate and a prominent figure in the recovery community. Follow him on Twitter @RecoveryRobert.