Major disruptions in a child’s life such as divorce, relocation to a new school or peer conflicts can sometimes trigger panic attacks. You may not understand exactly what is going on when your child experiences a panic attack but someone who is going through it is indeed in extreme distress.
Basically, a panic attack is a sudden onset of extreme anxiety, fear or apprehension. Most people describe a panic attack as a feeling of chest pain and/or increased heart rate, similar to how one would describe a heart attack. The person could have trouble breathing, feel faint or dizzy and feel numbing in the hands along with an overwhelming sense of fear. As the symptoms increase in intensity, it can be hard to stop once started.
Talking to your child about their problems is a great first step to alleviating the severity of their symptoms. Showing them that you understand what they are feeling and offering ways to manage their anxiety goes a long way.
It’s important not to simply minimize a child’s panic attack because panic attacks in younger children can lead to lower grades at school, skipping school altogether, drug or alcohol abuse, retreating from parents and friends, and even depression or suicidal thoughts.
Teenagers may describe their panic attacks as feeling like nightmares while young children may not yet be able to adequately articulate their symptoms.
A licensed mental health professional can help you determine the best course of action or treatment to end your child’s suffering. If you feel something is not right, be open and discuss your concerns with your doctor or mental health professional. We are here to help.