Parenting a Child Who Experiences Regular Panic Attacks

Parenting is not an easy task even under perfect conditions. Children must be simultaneously raised and trained. It is a normal part of helping them become responsible adults. But sometimes the job of parenting is made harder by circumstances that are completely out of mom and dad’s control. Take panic attacks. They can be as frustrating to parents as they are to the kids who experience them.

If you are struggling to parent a child who experiences regular panic attacks, we understand completely. Panic attacks are among the many challenges we address. We invite you to consider allowing Aspire Psychological to work with you and your child. In the meantime, allow us to offer some helpful insights.

A Sudden Bout of Anxiety

Although clinicians have a more technical definition of panic attacks, the easiest way for us to explain them is to say they are sudden bouts of anxiety intense enough to cause physical symptoms. A typical panic attack comes on without warning. It hits unexpectedly and for no apparent reason.

It is not uncommon for people who suffer regular panic attacks to know they have nothing to be anxious about. But that only makes things worse. A child in the midst of a panic attack can be so anxious about it that their level of anxiety only increases.

Here are some of the common symptoms associated with panic attacks:

  • Perspiration.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Racing heart or palpitations.
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest.
  • Nausea or other abdominal discomfort.
  • A feeling of being choked or smothered.

Among parents observing the symptoms of a panic attack for the first time, a certain level of alarm is normal. The symptoms can appear life threatening. But they will subside as the child’s anxiety decreases.

What Causes Panic Attacks

Medical science has not yet determined exactly what causes panic attacks. The current thinking is that they are the result of a combination of things. Right off the bat, we think of genetics and circumstances within a patient’s environment.

Certain life events may contribute to panic attacks in children. Virtually any kind of traumatic event that a child routinely stresses over is immediately suspect in regular attacks. The attacks can be especially profound in children because their understanding of the world around them is limited.

Panic Attacks Can Be Treated

While parenting a child who experiences regular panic attacks isn’t easy, the attacks can be treated effectively. We typically recommend one of two courses of treatment, the first being therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectic-behavioral therapy (DBT) immediately come to mind.

Another avenue of treatment is medication. We tend to reserve medication for patients who experience frequent and severe attacks. Medication is not a substitute for therapy. Rather, it can be utilized to minimize attack frequency and severity.

We also try to teach patients some self-help strategies that can be especially useful when a panic attack sets in. The strategies include taking deep breaths, focusing on one’s breathing, and trying to focus the attention on something distinct and separate from the attack itself.

There is Hope

Though teaching younger children self-help skills is more difficult, we want parents to know there is hope. Panic attacks are successfully treated using the latest techniques and medications. Parents and children alike can overcome and go on to live their best lives.

If you are parenting a child who suffers from panic attacks, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. We would be happy to consult with you in our northern NJ offices – or anywhere in the nation by way of teletherapy.

Dr. Aryeh Berlin is a New Jersey licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Aspire Psychological Group. Dr. Berlin has vast clinical training experiences including a residential adolescent addiction treatment center in Israel, community mental health centers, and youth detention centers. Dr. Berlin has lectured on parenting children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, child development, helping children with school-related challenges and trauma. Audiences included attorneys, mental health professionals, parents, and educators.

Parenting a Child Who Experiences Regular Panic Attacks