PANIC DISORDER IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS
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  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
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  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
PANIC DISORDER IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Panic disorder is a common and treatable disorder. Children and adolescents with panic disorder have unexpected and repeated periods of intense fear or discomfort, along with other symptoms such as a racing heartbeat or feeling short of breath. These periods are called "panic attacks" and last minutes to hours. Panic attacks frequently develop without warning. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Intense fearfulness (a sense that something terrible is happening)
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath or a feeling of being smothered
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sense of unreality
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or losing your mind

More than 3 million Americans will experience panic disorder during their lifetime. Panic disorder often begins during adolescence, although it may start during childhood, and sometimes runs in families.

If not recognized and treated, panic disorder and its complications can be devastating. Panic attacks can interfere with a child's or adolescent's relationships, schoolwork, and normal development. Children and adolescents with panic disorder may begin to feel anxious most of the time, even when they are not having panic attacks. Some begin to avoid situations where they fear a panic attack may occur, or situations where help may not be available. For example, a child may be reluctant to go to school or be separated from his or her parents. In severe cases, the child or adolescent may be afraid to leave home. This pattern of avoiding certain places or situations is called "agoraphobia." Some children and adolescents with panic disorder can develop severe depression and may be at risk of suicidal behavior. As an attempt to decrease anxiety, some adolescents with panic disorder will use alcohol or drugs.

Panic disorder in children can be difficult to diagnose. This can lead to many visits to physicians and multiple medical tests which are expensive and potentially painful. When properly evaluated and diagnosed, panic disorder usually responds well to treatment. Children and adolescents with symptoms of panic attacks should first be evaluated by their family physician or pediatrician. If no other physical illness or condition is found as a cause for the symptoms, a comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist should be obtained.

Several types of treatment are effective. Specific medications may stop panic attacks. Psychotherapy may also help the child and family learn ways to reduce stress or conflict that could otherwise cause a panic attack. With techniques taught in "cognitive behavioral therapy," the child may also learn new ways to control anxiety or panic attacks when they occur. Many children and adolescents with panic disorder respond well to the combination of medication and psychotherapy. With treatment, the panic attacks can usually be stopped. Early treatment can prevent the complications of panic disorder such as agoraphobia, depression and substance abuse.

For more information about panic disorder, contact the National Institute of Mental Health Panic Campaign, Room 7C-05, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD, 20857, or call, 1-800-64-PANIC.
See also:
The Freedom from Fear website at (FFF) www.freedomfromfear.com,
or Facts for Families:
#4 The Depressed Child
#7 Children Who Won't Go to School
#47 The Anxious Child
#60 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
#66 Helping Teenagers with Stress
#70 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and
Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).

Article #50 Updated 12/00

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
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