Finding Help for Childhood Panic Disorder
It’s normal for children to experience anxiety from time to time. Babies sense the separation from their mothers and cry for their loss and preschoolers can become distressed by the separation when they must begin school. Children often have short lived fears of the dark, animals, storms, or strangers and become distressed when they are unsure about the changes in their daily routines and others seek a lot of reassurance as they continue to grow.
Knowing how your child responds to fear, you can pretty much tell when anxiety will come and how to prevent it or comfort them when it occurs, but, with panic disorders, there may appear no logical reason for the extreme distress that the child is suffering and the panic attacks appear unexpectedly and repeatedly.
Left untreated, childhood panic disorder can lead to long term complications in the child’s psychological health and their development of positive social functioning. Finding help for childhood panic disorder early is crucial to heading off more serious and difficult problems to treat later.
We can help you find treatment for childhood panic disorder. Call toll free today.
What is a Panic Disorder?
Nearly all of us have experienced the “fight or flight” response which occurs naturally as a response to fear. Whether it’s real, anticipated, or imaginary, fear can cause an increase in heart rate and respiration, but, panic attacks are more intense and profound. They can occur unexpectedly and last for minutes or hours with physically distressing symptoms such as heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, sense of unreality, the fear of dying or losing control, and an intense desire to flee the situation.
Panic disorders can be marked by repeat panic attacks that are unexpected and cause persistent concerns over experiencing the next attack or its consequences with significant behavioral changes related to the attacks. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “The discomfort and sense of danger the attack brings is so intense that people with panic disorder often believe they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illness.” and the DSM-IV defines two types of panic disorders one with agoraphobia and one without it.
Long Term Complications
The fear of having another attack is enough to provoke an attack and the child may develop a phobia (agoraphobia) where they will do just about anything to avoid certain objects or situations to prevent it. Childhood panic disorder can range from mild social impairments to an inability to live a normal, healthy, and active life.
The child may become afraid to face the outside world, withdrawn, depressed, overly sensitive and anxious, or suffer cognitive difficulties that interfere with their academic progress. Eating and sleep disorders, personality disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations are long term complications that can pose as much physical harm as psychological and have an adverse effect on the entire family as well.
Treatment can help your child overcome panic disorder. Call to find help today.
Diagnosing a Childhood Panic Disorder
Childhood panic disorder can be difficult to diagnose and as a result, the child may be evaluated by many professionals for their condition before getting the right type of help. According to the APA, “The key symptom of panic disorder is the persistent fear of having future panic attacks”, but, it is important to know that only a licensed therapist can diagnose a childhood panic disorder.
Effective treatments includes psychotherapy to help the child and their families reduce stress and conflicts that would likely cause a panic attack, cognitive behavioral therapies to learn ways of controlling anxiety and coping with the childhood panic disorder more positively, and possibly medication assistance to keep the anxiety and panic under reasonable control while other therapy options are engaged. Treatment for co-occurring conditions and underlying causes are very important because a problem in one area of health can exacerbate conditions of another.
Where to Look
Often, the first point of contact and evaluations are with the pediatrician or physician, but, this can lead to multiple visits and testing that can be expensive, ineffective, and possible painful. Psychologists or psychiatrists who work with children and adolescents should be involved as soon as possible and can be found in:
- Private practices
- Community health centers
- Hospitals working with pediatricians and psychiatrists
- Research centers and psychiatric departments at medical schools
To find a local psychologist or psychiatrist through national organizations, visit:
- The American Psychological Association, the APA help center, or call l
- The American Psychiatric Association
- The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- The National Institute of Mental Health or call
We can help you find the treatment your child needs. Call toll free today.
Questions to Ask
You know your child better than anyone else and finding help for childhood panic disorder involves considerable concerns for them. You will want to ask questions such as:
- How long will treatment last?
- How will you know that the child is responding and getting the comprehensive care they need?
- Does the psychiatrist or psychologist have specialized knowledge and training to treat children and adolescents?
- What type of training, education, or experience do they have?
- What is their basic treatment approach and what are the types of cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy options do they use?
- Are there specific age ranges they are most experienced in or an age limit?
- Can they prescribe medications directly or will there need to be referrals elsewhere?
- Does treatment include family therapies?
- Will they coordinate treatment with your child’s pediatrician?
- What do you tell the school about your child’s disorder?
- What happens if you child does not respond well to the treatment?
- When will modifications to treatment be made and by whom?
- What to expect throughout the treatment course and future outcomes?
- What is the cost and is your insurance accepted or do they have payment plans?