Has your child had panic attacks? Are you worried they could be experiencing a panic disorder? We diagnose and treat panic disorders in children.
Panic Disorder in Children
Panic disorder is a mental health condition that can affect children and adults. It is characterised by regular panic attacks. These are attacks of fear and anxiety that manifest in physical symptoms. When children experience panic, it is because their fight or flight response is being triggered. Their brain senses danger and tells their body to get ready to respond. The fight-or-flight response is something all humans experience. As we’ve evolved, it’s been an important way to protect ourselves from physical danger. But the fight or flight response can also be triggered by social and emotional threats. This can become problematic if it happens too often. Children with panic disorder experience the fight or flight response frequently and disproportionately, in the absence of physical threat. This can be very confusing. Children haven’t yet learned how to interpret bodily signals. As their heart rate increases or they become dizzy, they may think they’re seriously unwell.
Panic disorder symptoms
Symptoms of panic can often be confused with heightened anxiety.
Both can show up in children as:
Panic attack symptoms in children can include:
A choking sensation
Numbness or tingling in the limbs
During a panic attack, your child may say they feel very unwell. They may try to run away from you or escape the room they are in. Panic attacks create a sense something bad is going to happen, but your child isn’t actually in any physical danger.
Diagnosing panic disorder
If your child experiences panic attack symptoms regularly, they need to see a child psychologist to get a diagnosis. A proper diagnosis is the first step in helping your child overcome their panic disorder. Once a child receives a diagnosis, a therapist can recommend the right treatment plan to help them manage their symptoms. To reach a diagnosis, we will interview your child and you as a parent. We will observe your child’s behaviour and symptoms to learn more. Then, we will use a range of standardised assessment tools to reach a diagnosis.
Treatments for panic disorder
Once your child has received a diagnosis, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan.
There is a substantial body of research and evidence that supports cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as the first line of treatment for panic disorder. As such, our treatment plans for panic disorder in children focus on CBT as the main treatment method. CBT sessions for children may also involve you as a parent. CBT aims to teach children and young people: The causes of panic, What keeps it going, Strategies to overcome the difficult feelings, Your child’s CBT therapist will help your child to externalise their difficulties. This means helping the young person and their family to see that the problem isn’t just located in them. But rather, it’s a shared difficulty that we’re all working on together.
Join us now to discuss how to enhance your relationship with your children and effectively manage their behavioral difficulties with less stress. Let’s work together towards a happier and healthier family dynamic.
If you are concerned about your child’s anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. As trusted anxiety specialists based in London, we are here to help. Let’s work together to address your child’s concerns and find effective solutions. Contact us today.