"Mommy, I don't want to go to school, because I feel bad, my hands perspire, my heart is very strong, I lack the air, I'm afraid of dying."
Start of Panic Disorder in Children
Panic disorder often begins in adolescence, although it can also begin in childhood.. The physical and cognitive symptoms of the disorder are the same as in adults.
Childhood panic attack may occur unexpectedly and isolated to environmental situations or be associated with other diagnoses, separation anxiety (not wanting to separate from a family member), school phobia (not wanting to go to school), generalized anxiety (excessive worry about a range of events), specific phobias (fears determined outside the evolutionary period), social anxiety (fear of social situations), agoraphobia (anxiety when being in places where it is difficult to escape), or in situations of posttraumatic stress (reactive anxiety after some traumatic event).
Diagnosis of panic disorder in children
Panic in children is very difficult to diagnose, because the family generally ignores the disorder and goes to the pediatrician. The comments of the parents realize that other professionals consider the symptoms as an anxiety reaction, but that being a child they think that with evolutionary maturity they will overcome it; And that is the main mistake. Although there are normal evolutionary fears, it is not part of the maturational development to feel fear with physical and cognitive symptoms (emotions and thoughts) to the point of avoiding certain situations.
If the significant adults (parents and teachers) of the child see that he avoids certain situations for fear of physical and psychological symptoms; you are highly likely to have an anxiety disorder, and It is essential to consult with a child psychologist or psychiatrist.
The treatment of childhood panic can be psychological and / or pharmacological, it will depend on the characteristics of the case and the degree of involvement of the disorder in daily life.
Psychological treatment can help the child and family learn ways to reduce stress or conflicts that can cause a panic attack. The child is taught breathing techniques, relaxation and distorted thought management, by giving him information about what happens in his body when he is panicking and that nothing he fears can pass biologically, fainting, dying or going crazy ; The child begins to be confident that nothing serious will happen to him and work with distracting and play techniques to focus attention away from bodily symptoms. The family is instructed about the disorder and its consequences and are given tools to know how to act in the face of childhood panic, family dynamics situations that can lead to the appearance of panicose symptoms in the child are also worked on. For severe cases, there are specific medications that can stop childhood panic attacks.
Timely treatment of childhood panic can prevent future development of other complications in adolescencesuch as adult panic disorder, substance abuse, agoraphobia, social phobia or depression.