Panic disorder is a form of anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear. Someone with panic disorder has feelings of anxiety, stress and panic regularly and for no apparent reason. Panic disorders can arise after you have experienced a traumatic or stressful life experience (e.g. death), genetics do play a role in causing panic disorder, or if biologically you have an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Panic disorder is more commonly seen in teenagers than younger children. Experiencing this as a child or teen can be scary and distressing hence it would be helpful for parents/guardians to create a safe environment for them to voice their concerns.
Symptoms of a panic disorder:
- Feelings of unease, worry and fear and in the most severe occurrences anxiety
- Panic attacks which is a rush of physical and mental symptoms that can come on for no apparent reason. This can be frightening and distressing for the person experiencing it as it can last for a duration of 5-20 minutes. Here are some things you may feel when having a panic attack (note that these symptoms can also be symptoms of other conditions or problems):
- a racing heartbeat
- nausea/dry mouth
- shortness of breath
- chills/hot flushes
- a choking sensation
- churning stomach
- tingling in your fingers
- feeling like you’re not connected to your body.
Treatment for panic disorders will focus on reducing the number of panic attacks you have and reducing the symptoms you feel. The most effective treatment method used would be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). At times, and in the most severe cases, medication may be recommended. However, medication is a short-term solution and is used to assist with long-term therapy work.
Here are some things you can try on your own, during the next panic attack:
- Do not fight it.
- Breathe slowly and deeply.
- Remember that the attack will pass and this is not life-threatening even though it may feel that way.
- Focus on images that you feel are peaceful and relaxing.