Panic Disorders are very common and can be treated very successfully. More than three million Americans will suffer from a panic disorder at some point in their lifetime. While they usually begin in adolescence, they can begin in childhood. Panic Disorders are also thought by many to have a genetic link. If the panic disorder is not recognized and treated, its effects can be devastating.
Panic disorders are worsened by the inability to predict when a panic attack will occur. If an individual’s fears are predictable, such as a child being afraid of dogs or spiders, then their fear is more likely classified as a phobia rather than a panic disorder. Children suffering from a panic disorder will suffer from repeated and unexpected periods of intense fear called panic attacks, which we discussed earlier. They will suffer from symptoms like a racing heart, scary and irrational thoughts, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks can last from several minutes to several hours. Panic attacks generally begin without warning and end on their own.
Children who suffer from panic disorders will often startle easily and their appetite may become affected, making them eat very little or become picky eaters. They may lack the ability to concentrate because of the constant worry, which could affect their performance in school. They may begin to have frequent headaches and stomachaches or other physical ailments caused by anxiety. They often begin to suffer from insomnia and have frequent nightmares or night terrors. Children who suffer from panic disorders often lose interest in activities that they’ve always enjoyed or avoid activities such as school, social gatherings, or unfamiliar places or events.
Panic disorders in children can interfere with their relationships, schoolwork, and even their development. They may begin to feel constant anxiety, and not just feel frightened when suffering from an actual panic attack. This can cause them to try and avoid situations where they might experience or fear they might experience a panic attack. The child could become reluctant to go to school, or in extreme cases, even leave the house. Children who suffer from a panic disorder are at an increased risk for depression and suicidal behavior. In an effort to reduce the anxiety, they may turn to drugs and alcohol.