Panic Disorder in Teens Can Be Manageable

It’s easy for a teen to experience anxiety. There are many demands placed upon an adolescence related to school, social expectations, family life, and possibly even work. Trying to maintain good grades, look cool, have a social life, and meeting all expectations of parents can be incredibly challenging for teens. Sometimes, it can grow to be so challenging that they get anxious, stressed, or pressure.

Over time, it’s possible that this stress can become overwhelming. In fact, it can become a psychological disorder, consisting of extreme worry even for everyday matters. One of the most common anxiety disorders among adolescents is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Teens who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months might be diagnosed with GAD. Other forms of anxiety disorders among teens include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Phobias.

Panic Disorder, specifically, includes the consistent experience of attacks as well as a persistent concern about having additional attacks. Typically, teens with this disorder are extremely anxious and fearful, primarily because of the inability to predict when the next attack will occur. Attacks are often accompanied by a feeling of being out of control and include uncomfortable physical sensations, such as a pounding heart, sweating, weakness, dizziness, and numbness. An intense worry about the next attack is a common symptom that makes Panic Disorder difficult to manage.

Panic attacks might seem unbearable for teens, but it is manageable. In fact, it might seem incredibly unbearable right in the middle of having an attack. However, even here, with enough practice, experiencing panic can be managed right in the moment. Another challenging experience of Panic Disorder is the period leading up to an attack. Again, this is actually an opportunistic time of using specific coping tools in order to prevent a full attack from coming on.  The two primary ways of managing Panic Disorder include:

  1. Have a toolbox of coping tools. The best coping tools for Panic Disorder, or any anxiety disorder, are relaxation techniques. These include meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and changing thoughts. When a teen feels an attack coming on, he or she can begin to take long, slow, and deep breaths. Inhale and exhale to the count of four seconds. This extended breathing does two things. It relaxes the body and it directs your attention on your body and instead of the thoughts in your mind that will likely only exacerbate the attack. Meditation and yoga can be used as ongoing practices so that a state of relaxation is consistent and familiar. Lastly, use a prayer, mantra, or even the alphabet to manage an attack when you feel it coming on. The point here is that you want to change your thinking. Commonly, it is a thought or a thinking pattern that began the attack in the first place.
  2. Get to know the circumstances in which the panic attacks develop. Although it might be challenging, a teen might be able to identify signs indicating when an attack is imminent. Parents can assist with this process and encourage teens to become familiar with the thoughts, circumstances, and events that are taking place when an attack feels imminent. Knowing this can prepare teens so that they can begin to use coping tools to make the attack less severe. Often, it is something in the surroundings that may be causing an anxiety attack, such as a person, a noise, or a place. Eliminate the anxiety trigger as best you can. You can do this between attacks by trying to identify what your triggers are.

It’s possible for teens to cope with panic attacks. Additionally, getting professional support can further empower a teen to face his or her life with less anxiety and more enjoyment.

Further Reading