Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks
An anxiety attack is a little different from a panic attack. Anxiety attacks are not officially recognised by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM-V, whereas panic attacks are. Anxiety attacks can also involve severe anxiety but the symptoms of anxiety are less intensely physical in nature. Also, panic attacks tend to come on very suddenly.
Panic disorder is defined in the DSM-V as:
What Teachers Can Do
Students with anxiety disorders may have difficulty completing classwork and homework, which can cause panic attacks and possibly lead to panic disorder.
Teachers can help ease anxiety levels by:
- keeping communications open with the student, parents or guardians, and school counselors and trying to identify triggers that may cause panic attacks
- providing a safe place and a cue system in which the student signals the teacher that a panic attack might be coming and the student needs to take a time-out
- adjusting the amount of classwork and homework
- encouraging the entire class to use relaxation techniques throughout the day
- encouraging students to exercise regularly, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety in patients with panic disorder
Students with panic attacks or panic disorder need encouragement and, sometimes, just someone to listen. A flexible and supportive environment will help improve your student’s class participation and encourage the student to develop coping skills.
Panic Attacks Explained Simply
I have experienced more panic attacks than I can count. On average, I have one panic attack per week, and that is after panic attack treatment. Before I knew what was happening to me, I was experiencing panic attacks multiple times per week. Because I am a social person, I often experience these attacks around other people. This has made me very good at explaining, in laymans terms, exactly what a panic attack is.
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Signs Your Child Is Having Panic
Panic comes on suddenly, and it can be debilitating. Its possible for a child to go about her day with anxiety, but a panic attack will stop her in her tracks. While anxiety gradually waxes and wanes, panic is like a light switch flipping on and off. The good news is that although panic attacks are intense, they dont usually last very long. If your child has a panic attack, it will most likely be over in 15 minutes.
If your child is having a panic attack, you may notice things like:
Shaking hands or full-body shivering
Tingling feelings in the fingers or hands
A sense of losing control
Intense terror, as if something bad is about to happen
Your child may or may not be worried about something in particular when a panic attack occurs. Sometimes, panic attacks seem to appear out of the blue, when a child isnt thinking about anything in particular. Over time, though, your child may start feeling worried about the panic attacks themselves. If shes already had a few, she may dread the possibility of having another one.
You Can Teach Kids Tips To Survive A Panic Attack In Public Such As:
-Look at your phone or photos as a distraction-Go to the bathroom to get space away from other people-Go talk to the school nurse or counselor-Carry mints or gum to help give you a physical distraction-Keep items in your pocket that help ground you like a worry Stone-Read a book on your phone-Text a friend-Text a parent-Go outside and get fresh air
Panic attacks are not fun. Luckily the more you build coping mechanisms to defeat them, the quicker they go away. Remember to remain calm when your child is suffering panic attacks. When you are the calm during their storm, they will get through these attacks much quicker.
If you are at a loss as to how to help your child manage anxiety, take the e-course Teach Your Kids to Crush Anxiety taught by a child therapist. Learn all the tools she teaches kids and teach them to your child. You dont have to feel powerless.
This site is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the guidance of a qualified professional. This page may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission for items purchased. I would never endorse any product I didn’t recommend. Click here for my full disclosure statement.
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Where To Get Help For Anxiety
An appointment with a GP is a good place to start.
You can talk to the GP on your own or with your child, or your child might be able to have an appointment without you.
If the GP thinks your child could have an anxiety disorder, they may refer them for an assessment with your local children and young people’s mental health services .
Specialist CYPMHS are NHS mental health services that focus on the needs of children and young people. CYPMHS workers are trained to help young people with a wide range of problems, including anxiety.
If your child does not want to see a doctor, they may be able to get help directly from a local youth counselling service. For more information, visit Youth Access.
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Help Your Child To Shift Focus Make A List Of What Helps
When a panic attack occurs, it is likely that all sorts of negative thoughts are going through the childs mind. Shifting their focus or distracting them might help to soothe and comfort them. It can be anything from watching their favourite tv show, hugging a pet or playing with their favourite toy.
Sit down with your child and make a list of items that can effectively distract them. This can include places in which they feel calm and relaxed. Having a go to list will better prepare you for when the panic attack happens. Additionally, you can also teach your child to immediately focus on a happy place when they feel anxiety coming on.
What Are Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are a physiological occurrence that can happen to children who suffer from anxiety. They can come on suddenly and without warning.
Typically panic attacks can last ten to fifteen minutes, but the fear of having another one can be more debilitating than the panic attacks themselves. Although stress and anxiety can exacerbate the likelihood of having a panic attack, panic attacks can happen at any time even during sleep.
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Panic Attacks In Children And Adolescents
Panic attacks often begin during adolescence, although they may start during childhood. Attacks can lead to severe anxiety, as well as affecting other parts of a child’s mood or functioning.
Some children begin to avoid situations where they fear a panic attack may occur. Adolescents might use alcohol or drugs to reduce their anxiety. If not recognized and treated, panic attacks can cause future complications for children such as severe depression and suicidal behaviour.
When diagnosed early on, children experiencing panic attacks usually respond well to treatment.
Care Advice For Anxiety Attack
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Treatments For Anxiety Disorders In Children
The type of treatment offered will depend on your child’s age and the cause of their anxiety.
Counselling can help your child understand what’s making them anxious and allow them to work through the situation.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a talking therapy that can help your child manage their anxiety by changing the way they think and behave. Learn more about CBT.
Anxiety medicines may be offered to your child if their anxiety is severe or does not get better with talking therapies. They’re usually only prescribed by doctors who specialise in children and young people’s mental health.
How Is A Panic Attack Diagnosed And Treated
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask what triggered the attack. Tell him or her if fear of another panic attack limits your child’s daily activities. Also tell the provider about any medications your child currently takes. Tests may be done to check for medical conditions that may be causing symptoms. If your child had only 1 panic attack, he or she may not need treatment. Treatment for more than one attack may include any of the following:
- Medicines may be given to make your child feel more relaxed or to reduce anxiety that causes a panic attack. Some medicines are taken only when your child is having a panic attack. Other medicines can be taken to prevent panic attacks. Medicines are usually used along with therapy or other treatments.
- Behavior therapy can help your child learn to control how his or her body responds to stressful situations. A therapist may also teach your child ways to relax muscles and slow breathing during a panic attack. Your child may also learn ways to know that the panic attack will not get worse.
- Exposure therapy is used to help your child change his or her reaction to triggers. Your child is exposed to triggers in small amounts. The amount of exposure is slowly increased until it no longer triggers a panic attack.
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What Causes Anxiety Disorders In Children
Some children are simply born more anxious and less able to cope with stress than others.
Children can also pick up anxious behaviour from being around anxious people.
Some children develop anxiety after stressful events, such as:
- frequently moving house or school
- parents fighting or arguing
- the death of a close relative or friend
- becoming seriously ill or getting injured in an accident
- school-related issues like exams or bullying
- being abused or neglected
The Link With Other Anxiety Disorders
If you child is anxious in many situations and has many worries, they may meet the diagnostic criteria for generalised anxiety disorder. This is sometimes known as GAD. GAD is one of the risk factors for panic attacks. If your body is often hyper-alert to dangers, it is more likely to go into overdrive and trigger panic.
Panic attacks can occur out of nowhere if your child has no history of anxiety. However, they tend to co-occur with other common anxiety disorders such as:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Selective mutism
Please note that clinical psychologists like me do not get too hung up with diagnoses of one type of anxiety disorder or another, however. One one hand diagnoses can be helpful because they help an individual to understand why they are struggling. They can also help others to understand. However, on the other hand we dont always want to pathologise that someone is having a hard time or they are having a somewhat normal reaction to traumatic events in their lives. Psychologists generally prefer to focus much more on the individual child and what is going on for them, rather than the diagnosis. We develop a collaborative formulation with the child and their family. We then create a treatment plan to help resolve the anxiety, which often involves talking therapy.
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Panic Attacks In Children: 15 Effective Tips To Help Them
Panic attacks in children are not just scary for them but also stressful for the parents and caregivers. This is especially so as the onset of panic attacks can be quite sudden. Equipping you and your child with effective skills and methods to overcome panic attacks will enable you to better manage a panic attack when it occurs.
Panic Attacks In Children: How To Help
Unfortunately, panic attacks in children are sky-rocketing right now. This is true not only among children who attend our psychology clinic, Everlief, but in the wider world too.
Panic attacks in children can be incredibly distressing for the child, but for you as a parent too.
In most cases there is nothing wrong with your childs brain or their body, its just trying to protect them.
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Helping Someone Whos Having A Panic Attack
It can be scary when someone you know is having a panic attack. But there are some simple things you can do to help them:
- Stay calm Keep your voice calm and dont talk about or focus on whats happening to them during the panic attack. Remind the person that theyre safe and that itll be over soon.
- Ask if they need anything Someone having a panic attack might not always be able to tell you what they need, but asking can help remind them theyre not alone.
- Help them to breathe Try counting out loud as you breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds.
- Support them afterwards Take them somewhere quiet to calm down and get them some water if they need it. Try to stay with them for a few minutes afterwards or for as long as they need to feel better.
The Laymans Explanation Of A Panic Attack
To explain a panic attack in laymans term isnt as easy. There is a fair amount of personal bias involved. Even if the same physical and mental sensations are involved, my subjective, personal experience will be different from another persons. That being said, there do seem to be some common themes .
Most people, including myself, describe a panic attack as a loss of mental control, rapid heartbeats, and profuse sweating. Think of how your body feels moments after a near accident or the physical sensations of a roller coaster ride. The major difference, of course, is that there isnt a normal reason for this attack. A person is minding their own business and suddenly these sensations occur. The disorder, quite literally, attacks.
A panic attack is a surprise infusion of fear into a person. Imagine your worst fear gripping you for no reason. You cant escape it because you arent quite sure why it is happening and, more than likely, the racing thoughts and clouded mental state make it impossible to make the best decision, especially quickly. Put simply, a panic attack can best be described as freaking out.
Long story short: The name, quite literally, explains it all.
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How To Help Your Anxious Child
If your child is having problems with anxiety, there’s plenty you can do to help.
Above all, it’s important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries.
Read more about how to help an anxious child, including self-help tips for parents of anxious children.
Many children at different ages may have anxieties that will go away after a while, with your reassurance.
However, it’s a good idea to seek professional help or reassurance yourself if your child is constantly anxious and:
- it’s not getting better, or is getting worse
- self-help is not working
- it’s affecting their school or family life, or their friendships
When To Seek Professional Help
In severe cases of panic attacks, the child or adolescent may be afraid to leave home. If you notice your child showing persisting symptoms of panic attacks, it is time to seek help from your healthcare provider.
Children and adolescents with symptoms of panic attacks should first be evaluated by their family doctor or pediatrician. If no other physical illness or condition is found as a cause for the symptoms, they might be referred to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for an evaluation.
With treatment, panic attacks can usually be stopped. Early treatment can help prevent serious complications.
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