Tips for Parents
Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder
When intense fear strikes without warning, someone may be experiencing a panic attack. Have you ever witnessed this in your student?
• Shortness of breath
• Chest pain
• Heart palpitations
• Feelings of unreality
• A fear of dying
• Abdominal distress
Panic attacks start abruptly and often last about 10 minutes. They are almost always completely unrelated to the current situation the person is experiencing, and seem to come out of nowhere. Certain trigger points, however, can stimulate them.
Who Gets Them?
Panic attacks are extremely frightening, and plague about 1 in 75 adults. Usually, they first occur between the ages of 20 and 30. Though many people who experience a panic attack will not have another one, some will develop what is known as Panic Disorder, which causes frequent attacks and, in some cases, an unwillingness to do activities or go to places the person associates with them. Panic Disorder sufferers are more likely to be clinically depressed, have suicidal thoughts, and abuse alcohol or drugs. This is why, when someone begins to notice a pattern of attacks, they should get professional help as soon as possible. Those diagnosed with the disorder may be prescribed an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety medication.
What Can Be Done?
Students should seek medical advice if their panic attacks are frequent, especially if they cause consistent apprehension (they think about them constantly and worry when their next one will be) or if they begin to interfere with regular behaviors. Also helpful and often recommended by doctors are regular psychiatric visits. With help from a psychologist or psychiatrist, sufferers will learn how to deal with their attacks — often through breathing and relaxation techniques — and also what triggers them, so they can have a better understanding of their condition. These methods have very high success rates.
Sources: www.mayoclinic.com/health/panic-attacks/DS00338; www.anxietypanic.com/; www.apa.org/topics/anxietyqanda.html; www.panicattacks.com.au/anxdis/sa.html; www.nimh.gov
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