Two Essential Tasks to Recover from Teen Panic Disorder

In this article, you’ll find information that will empower you to heal from Panic Disorders. Traditional mental health treatment methods will also be shared and they are not mutually exclusive. If you’re a teen with Panic Disorder, you’ll find ways that you can help yourself, while also seeing a therapist, and if necessary, taking medication.

If you’re a teen with Panic Disorder, it’s likely getting in the way of your life! Often, teens have persistent fears about having additional attacks, especially in public settings, such as with your friends! Typically, those with this disorder are extremely anxious and fearful, primarily because of the inability to predict when the next attack will occur. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2.3% of 13 to 18 year olds have been diagnosed with teen Panic Disorder. Adolescents who suffer from this disorder are more likely to also suffer from depression, suicidal thoughts, and addiction.

What is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences sudden and repeated attacks of fear, which are often accompanied by a feeling of being out of control. Uncomfortable physical sensations, such as a pounding heart, sweating, weakness, dizziness, and numbness makes up the experience a panic attack. An intense worry about the next attack is a common symptom.

Fortunately, teens that suffer from Panic Disorder can be treated. Traditionally, if you were to go to a mental health professional, that treatment might include both medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. And this treatment method has been used successfully to reduce the intensity of anxiety as well as the frequency of panic attacks. However, if you wanted to take some of your treatment into your own hands, you might try the following two things:

Step 1: Education

Learn as much as you can about teen Panic Disorder and anxiety. When you do this, you’ll begin to understand what’s going on inside of you and you’ll also likely experience insights and what you need to do to heal. This is incredibly empowering. When we go to a mental health professional, we essentially put our lives in their hands. However, when you learn about what’s going on, you’ll start to get a sense of what your unique needs are to grow and heal.

One thing you might learn, for example, is that panic is also known as “fight or flight”. It’s physiological response for survival. A good analogy for the panic response is a fire alarm. It’s meant to let you know that you’re in danger.  However, what’s essential to know is that even though it’s loud and unpleasant, but the fire alarm itself is never dangerous.

Fear of panic is at the root of panic disorder.  As you really begin to learn that no part of the panic response is ever harmful or dangerous, the fear of panic begins to subside.  And then, you’ll be less and less bound by the panic experience.

Many books include excellent explanations of the nature of panic and panic disorder.  Among them are:

  • Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic: Workbook  by David Barlow and Michelle Craske (see especially chapters 1, 3 and 4)
  • Overcoming Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia by Elke Zuercher-White (see especially chapters 1 and 5)
  • Panic Attacks Workbook (2004) by David Carbonell

The next essential task to taking your healing of Panic Disorder into your own hands.

Step 2: Practice

There are two practices that can facilitate healing – meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Both of these practices you can do with a therapist. However, once you learn them, you can do them on your own as well.

Meditation – Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation can create a psychological state that can invite solutions you might not have otherwise thought of. When the mind and body are relaxed, your inner resources are more easily accessible. In this state, you might see your situation differently. An answer to your problem might come forward or an insight might arise that allows you to see a stressful situation differently.

One way to relax the mind is through meditation. Now, there are many forms of meditation and you might need to find the method that is best for you. You can use guided imagery which takes you to various imagined peaceful places or you can meditate using a point of focus. Both can have healing and relaxing effects.

Finally, deep breathing can be an essential tool, particularly right in those intense moments that might otherwise lead to cutting or self-harm. Helping your child develop the habit of breathing instead of cutting can be the practice that eliminates self-harm altogether.

Learn more about Mindfulness Exercises and Relaxation Activities for Teens.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy essentially aims to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. This successful form of therapy emphasizes the link between thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and more importantly, it attempts to identify the way that certain thoughts contribute to the unique problems of an adolescent’s life. By changing the thought pattern, both feelings and behavior change, which can result in a transformed life. It is common for a CBT therapist to use a tool called a Thought Diary, which is a way to document anxious thoughts and the result of those thoughts.

If you’re a teen ready to participate in your own healing, you’ll find that a therapist will dramatically facilitate your use of CBT. In fact, you may want to learn about CBT with a therapist first, and then take it home with you. There, you can use a Thought Diary to document your thoughts and learn which ones are triggering your attacks and which ones are keeping them going.

At the same time, while you’re in therapy, you might want to get on medication, even if it’s for a brief period of time so that you can return to normal functioning. Medication for treating anxiety disorders often includes anti-anxiety medication and even anti-depressants. Although antidepressants are incredibly effective, they do come with risks. For teens in particular, it is essential to know that anti-depressants can cause suicidal thoughts and even attempts at suicide. Of course, anyone taking psychotropic medication should be closely monitored, especially at the beginning of treatment.

As already mentioned, psychotherapy, sometimes known as “talk therapy”, might include CBT.  This form of therapy can be particularly effective because it will invite you to closely examine thoughts and related behaviors, as well as reactions to certain situations. This can help unravel the anxiety inside by untangling the mess of thoughts and feelings.

With both your participation and working with a therapist, perhaps your level of anxiety might return to a level that is not just manageable, but absent.

Further Reading