Panic is a "fight or flight" reaction. It is a sudden surge of fear. When panic attacks happen repeatedly, without warning, it is called panic disorder. These attacks can happen many times every week.
Panic disorder (PD) may last for a short time or may continue for many years. With treatment, most people improve in less than a year.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known.
Many people with PD also have agoraphobia, which means they avoid going places or doing things because they are afraid they will panic and have no help. It is common to have depression along with panic disorder.
Panic disorder usually starts in the teen or young adult years. Children who were often scared when separated from their parents are more likely to develop PD later.
Panic attacks tend to come on suddenly. Children or teens with PD may:
Along with these main symptoms, children or teens may:
These feelings start suddenly and get very strong, usually within 10 minutes. Symptoms usually last from 20 to 30 minutes. The attacks happen without warning.
If your child has a panic disorder, these symptoms come repeatedly. Panic attacks may happen at certain times of day, such as bedtime, or with daily events, for example, going to school. When this is the case, the child often worries as these times approach. The child feels helpless to prevent the attacks.
Your child's healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about the child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines the child is taking. He or she will make sure that your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms.
A mental health therapist who specializes in working with children and teens may be best qualified to diagnose PD.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps children learn what causes them to feel panic and how to control it. CBT teaches skills for managing the fear and the worrisome thoughts about whether an attack is coming.
Family therapy may also be helpful. Family therapy treats the whole family rather than just the child. Children often feel very supported when parents and siblings attend therapy with them and work as a group.
Several types of medicines can help treat panic disorder. Medicines used to treat PD in adults may not work best for children and young teens. Your child’s healthcare provider will work with you to select the best medicine. Your child may need to take more than one type of medicine.
Stay in touch with teachers, babysitters, and other people who care for your child to share information about symptoms your child may be having.
Get emergency care if your child or teen has ideas of suicide, harming himself, or harming others.
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