Teen Panic Disorder Treatment

Panic attacks occur when someone has a very sudden and often incredibly severe onset of symptoms related to shock and anxiety. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are very different in that panic episodes tend to be shorter than general anxiety, yet are far more intense. While they are short, sometimes only lasting a few minutes, they can be very disabling.

Teen Panic Disorder can become cyclic. Teens become consumed with worry and approach every new day fearful of another attack, which triggers more anxiety and more panic.

What Does a Panic Disorder Look Like?

  • Panic attacks come at random, often with no identifiable triggers, and may happen frequently.
  • Teens struggling with this disorder are susceptible to stress and peer pressure. They may experience panic attacks in social scenarios.
  • Panic attacks are not always rational. They can occur at any time, in any place, even when teens feel happy and calm.

Signs of a Panic Disorder

Suicidal ideation, thoughts, and attempts

High heart rates and shortness of breath

Self-isolation and withdrawal

Weakness, trembling, and dizziness

Intense sweating or cold sweats

Stomach cramps and gastrointestinal pain

Nonepileptic seizures (AKA psychogenic seizures)

Moderate to severe headaches/migraines

Feeling “faint” or actually fainting

Frequent use of recreational drugs

Preoccupation with death and dying

What Causes a Panic Disorder?

There is no one specific reason for developing a Panic Disorder. However, studies have identified some of the most common triggers.

Genetics - Teens may be more susceptible to developing a Panic Disorder if a parent has struggled with mental health disorders themselves.

Major life changes - Career changes, loss (such as the death of a loved one), major moves, and other life changes can trigger Panic Disorder, as can generalized experiences of trauma.

Co-existing mental disorders - Individuals who already have other anxiety-related disorders are more likely to develop to Panic Disorder. Examples include Agoraphobia (fear of going outside), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Prescription medications - Taking a new medication, or withdrawing from medication, can trigger Panic Disorder. This is especially true for stimulant medications and when teens don’t taper down from mental health medications.

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Teen Panic Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco

1.5-4%

of Americans are diagnosed with Panic Disorder

2x

Women are two times as likely to develop Panic Disorder

20%

of people related to someone with Panic Disorder develop it themselves

How Can I Help My Teen with a Panic Disorder?

Don’t panic - Your panic will feed their anxiety and may trigger attacks. Yes, your teen’s attack may make you feel upset, scared, and unsure of what to do next, but try not to let it show. Do your best to stay calm and objective, remember to keep breathing, and try to encourage your teen to do the same. Your calm demeanor will help your teen to see you as a safe person as they try to come out of their own panic attack and look for a secure, safe person for support.

Show support - Simply being there for your teen is critical. Your teen will let you know when they need space, but try not to be too far from reach, especially right after a panic attack. Do a little bit of research to better understand what you can say to your teen during or after a panic attack or during times of general anxiety. No matter what you say, being there for them is most important.

Educate yourself  - Knowing what to say is great, but anxiety disorders can be complex. Engage in self-directed research to learn why your teen seems irrational during an attack. There are a lot of unseen symptoms related to anxiety. Believe it or not, sometimes those symptoms become so severe the pain and discomfort equals a major heart attack in severity. Your research will help you to better understand what is happening internally, making it easier for you to stay calm and support your teen during difficult times.

What Types of Teen Panic Disorder Treatment are Available?

Teens with a Panic Disorder often live in fear of their next attack. Most either already have another form of anxiety or develop a mental health condition as a result of their attacks. The good news is that Panic Disorders can be effectively treated with the right approach.

Talk Therapy

Psychotherapy is considered the most important component of any Panic Disorder treatment plan. In partnership with a therapist, teens use behavioral techniques to gain a broader understanding of why they are having attacks. Then, they learn to identify their triggers so that they can recognize when a panic attack may be coming on.

At Paradigm, our talented therapists work with teens in a calming environment and use cognitive techniques to guide teens towards a life free of panic. The goal is to put teens back in control of their emotions most of the time – and give them the tools to cope during attacks.

Relaxation Therapy

Relaxation therapy is typically used to treat lesser forms of anxiety, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), but it can be helpful for teen Panic Disorder sufferers, too. Therapists usually use it to help teens alongside talk therapy rather than as a sole approach. Relaxation techniques help teens cope with their anxieties while reducing the most severe symptoms to a more manageable level. Options that fall into this category include hypnotherapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, and art therapy.

Medication

Benzodiazepines and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders; they are also indicated as appropriate treatment for Panic Disorders. They work by targeting your teen’s natural neurotransmitters within the brain, including serotonin and dopamine. By regulating these neurotransmitters, mood becomes more stable and the severity of anxiety is often greatly reduced.

It is more common for doctors to prescribe SSRIs for anxiety than benzodiazepines. This is largely because benzodiazepines like Valium may be addictive. However, they can be an effective occasional treatment for severe attacks. Any medication is a short-term solution to the issue, and is not a cure.

Teen Panic Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

At Paradigm San Francisco, we strive to create a very calm, quiet environment inspiring healing and peace. The reality is that panic attacks can be triggered at any time, for no identifiable reason; however, environmental influences can have a big impact on the frequency of attacks and the severity of symptoms.

During your teen’s stay, he or she will work with their therapist to figure out the causes and triggers for their panic. Our goal is to provide encouragement in a calm atmosphere so that they can work towards progress together, side-by-side with their peers.

Creating a Calming Atmosphere

Paradigm San Francisco is in a quiet area, secluded from the outside world. Our property is peaceful, with plenty of relaxation zones and areas where teens can simply be themselves, even if panic attacks occur. This atmosphere will foster your teen’s ability to focus internally, enjoying a quiet environment during and outside of therapy sessions. All teens at Paradigm have access to individual and group therapy sessions where teens can learn about their conditions, work on new coping skills, and develop new social habits.

Agoraphobia, or a fear of large crowds and social situations, is not uncommon in teens with a Panic Disorder. All of our therapy groups are limited in size so that teens can get to know their peers on a more personal level. The therapists here at Paradigm San Francisco are experienced in helping teens learn to feel safe in society.

Step-by-Step Treatment Plans

Treatment methods for Panic Disorders and agoraphobia often include exposure therapy. This type of therapy is very effective, but it is critical to engage the process very slowly and incrementally. Our treatment programs are tailored to each teen on a case-by-case basis. Your teen will work at their own schedule and their own pace, with our team standing by to adjust or modify their treatment plan as necessary.

All of the therapists at Paradigm San Francisco recognize the need for teens to learn to identify their stressors and find calming coping methods. We understand the recurring symptoms associated with Panic Disorders and are equipped to anticipate hesitations, complications, and even potential setbacks. Instead of seeing resistance as “bad behavior,” we simply see it as an opportunity to learn about your teen and why they may be struggling.

I always had a lot of anxiety growing up. I can’t blame my parents or my home life because I pretty much always had everything I wanted. It was hard going from 8th grade into 9th grade and that year I ended up hanging out with people a few grades older than me because I wasn’t getting along with my other friends. I knew that I shouldn’t smoke weed but I liked it and I started smoking every day. When my parents found out I was “addicted” they sent me to Paradigm and I was pissed. I didn’t realize I had a problem until I stopped smoking. Everyone at Paradigm is understanding and it helped that I could still surf every day and eat good food. I am grateful that I had this happen to me because I could have ended up in a bad place. Paradigm helped me realize I needed help and how to accept it.
- Joey M.

Frequently Asked Questions about Teen Panic Disorder

Will my panic attacks ever stop?

 Sticking to a solid treatment plan is important. It is the best way to overcome panic attacks and Panic Disorder as a whole. Up to 85 percent of teens who actively participate in or complete a course of therapy eventually move on to live life panic-free.

Sometimes, Panic Disorders are caused by other forms of anxiety, like PTSD or Agoraphobia. If that’s the case for you, we’ll work with you to treat those disorders first.  By addressing the root cause, we can help you eliminate it, making it easier for you to go back to a normal life.

Can’t I avoid panic attacks altogether?

There are a lot of coping mechanisms and tools you can use to become more conscious of an impending attack. These skills may also teach you how to better cope with them as they are coming on. Your therapist will teach you how to relax and better manage the stress in your life so that you don’t have such strong and severe reactions when you are triggered.

Having the right emotional regulation skills (the ability to moderate how intensely you feel things) can help you avoid panic attacks. But it takes time to understand them and regain control. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Stick with it and you just might find yourself amazed at how much better you feel when you are no longer living in fear.

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