Parenting a Teen with Panic Disorder
The life of a teenager is filled with challenges and pressures – which can be complicated even more if they have panic disorder. And as a parent, it can be difficult to know how to help your child deal with this anxiety disorder.
Panic attacks can happen to anyone, and they are the main symptom of panic disorder. These sudden and repeated events, which last for several minutes or longer, are characterized by an overwhelming fear of disaster or of losing control – even when there is no real danger. Your teen may experience a range of physical sensations during a panic attack, like heart palpitations, shaking, sweating, and shortness of breath. A teen with panic disorder may also feel like they are going crazy or losing touch with reality.
Panic disorder often begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Young children can also have panic disorder, but it may not be diagnosed until they are older. Because panic attacks are unpredictable and can happen at any time, many teens come to dread the possibility of having another one. This can lead them to avoid situations, locations, or activities they fear might trigger a fresh attack. It’s important to understand that this is all a part of your child’s condition, and to focus on being as patient and supportive as possible.
That said, panic attacks are extremely stressful for the person having them and for those watching. If you are with your teen during an attack, try to stay calm and talk to them in a gentle and soothing voice. Distraction is extremely helpful – ask questions about their favorite topic or talk about something funny. Reassure them that even though it feels dangerous, nothing harmful will happen. And remind them that the panic attack WILL end. Afterwards, it's important to give them some space and time to recover. They may want to lay down, watch TV, or sit quietly.
Fortunately, panic disorder can be treated successfully with psychotherapy, medication, or both. First, make sure your child is physically okay by checking with your doctor to rule out any problem that may be causing symptoms. Therapeutic treatment centers on helping patients cope with panic attacks and may include meditation, yoga, journaling, and breathing exercises. We have found that a type of therapy called CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be especially helpful. CBT teaches your teen different ways of thinking and reacting to the feelings that accompany a panic attack. The attacks often begin to disappear once they learn to react differently to the physical sensations of anxiety and fear.
One treatment I recommend to all of my patients is to go with the panic attack as it’s happening. When you try to resist, it persists. So, just like when a huge wave is coming towards you, it’s best to simply relax and not fight it.
At Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we offer day, evening and weekend sessions via FaceTime, Zoom, and phone. Please call 908-322-0112 to schedule an appointment. Please follow us on Facebook!