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:
fearfulness (a sense that something terrible is happening)
or pounding heartbeat
of breath or a feeling of being smothered
of dying, losing control, or losing your mind
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
#50 Updated 12/00
Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving
us permission to use this article.
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.
for Families© is developed and distributed by the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
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