You may be a mom or dad who is seeing some disturbing behavior in your child you cannot explain and do not understand. Could they be having panic attacks? Maybe you have felt like you were having one yourself at times. When your child is involved in self-destructive behaviors or have a mental illness, it can cause a lot of anxiety in your life not to mention a web of problems in their own life. Many factors can cause your child to develop this. Do you know what a panic attacks are? Have you ever heard of something called a Panic Disorder?
Panic Disorder is classified as a major mental illness, but if you have panic attacks it does not mean you have this disorder. Does it frighten and embarrass you to think that your child might be suffering from a mental illness?
You may be completely ignorant or in denial like I was when the early signs appeared in my teenage daughter. I did not understand it at all. I thought she was exaggerating when she would describe these episodes to me. It also frightened me. Why would this be happening? What could cause her to react to something like this?
Does this make you feel fearful, too? Uncomfortable? Wondering what this might mean? First of all, relax. It’s not such a terrible thing. The terrible thing would be to ignore that there might be a problem and do nothing about it. You have to be strong and take action. Who cares what people think. Your child needs help (maybe you do, too) and it is up to you to see that they get it if they are a minor. If they are older you can only suggest they get help and maybe offer to pay for it if you can.
What does panic disorder look like? It is defined by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI namigo.org) as: an anxiety disorder characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms including chest pain, heart palpitation, and shortness of breath, choking or smothering sensation, trembling, dizziness, abdominal distress, feelings of dying or losing control or losing one’s mind. My daughter has told me that when she has a panic attack if feels intense terror, like she is going to die. You cannot reason with her in the midst of one. It’s as if the body and emotions take control of the mind. Imagine it. To feel like you are going to die. How awful. These episodes are called panic attacks.
Panic attacks tend to run in families and may be genetic. They can happen to anyone for various reasons. More than 2 million American adults ages 18 – 54 have panic disorder in a given year. It is treatable and controllable with medication and therapy, typically cognitive behavior therapy. This can help the person overcome their fears and embrace recovery.
Not everyone needs medication, though. It may rarely happen, or may be more of a pattern. However, left unaddressed and untreated it can lead to more serious problems, such as phobias of all kinds and clinical depression. If a person has four or more panic attacks in a four-week period they are said to be experiencing panic disorder. They may not have panic attacks so frequently, but live in constant fear of one. You can imagine how debilitating this would be. If you see signs of this in your child, take them for an evaluation as soon as possible. There is help for them! And if you see yourself in these descriptions, there is help for you, too!
The most difficult step is the first one. I encourage you to take it today. Step out and ask for help. There is so much compassionate, excellent help available. The beginning is to humble ourselves and ask for it. I think you will be surprised when you do. May God show up in your situation and surprise you with his loving care for you and your child.
Click on this link to learn how to help someone who is having a panic attack. You can even watch a video of someone being helped.
I am so thankful that no matter what we go through we can turn to God. Here is a Bible verse that comforts me:
God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1)