Children Get Panic Attacks Too: How to Help an Anxiety Disorder Child
It is a common misconception that stress, anxiety and panic attacks only happen to adults, when things like work, family security and monthly bills give them reason to be tense and to worry. Kids, though, also have ample reason to be stressed. Exams, puberty, as well as the yearning to be liked and to be accepted in school can all contribute to a child's anxiety and tension. Most of the time, like the rest of the adult world, children can cope with different stressful situations and rarely do these instances develop into full-blown panic attacks. But there are times though, when we do encounter an anxiety disorder child and the attacks he experiences may even be more damaging than those experienced by adults.
The years before children and adolescents reach their teen years can be a very challenging period. Besides the different physical changes they are undergoing, children are just beginning to learn about the real world and are also wrestling with different new emotions such as jealousy, love and the need to be accepted by their peers. Often, kids are able to handle these emotions well and grow up into confident, successful adults. Sometimes, though, since children still don't have enough experience to properly deal with different stressors, anxiety disorders can develop and they can turn into an anxiety disorder child. If not treated right away the child may grow up bearing more serious disorders and phobias (fears).
An anxiety disorder child also exhibits the same symptoms as adults who experience anxiety attacks. He may have palpitations, feel flushed, have cold sweats and hyperventilate. His attacks may prevent him from enjoying the company of his friends, can interrupt his schoolwork and even make him moody and unpredictable. Early detection of an anxiety disorder child is the best way to help him fight anxiety attacks and prevent them from becoming more frequent or more serious. The following are some signs you can refer to, to see if your kid is developing an anxiety disorder.
• Separation anxiety. Most kids are scared of going to school for the first time and being separated from their parents, but these fears soon vanish when they meet other children and become comfortable in the school setting. Some children, though, still remain clingy and won't allow their parents to leave them in school by crying or by throwing a tantrum. This behavior, called separation anxiety, also occurs whenever the parents leave the child at home or any other place. Crying, tantrums, yelling and screaming are some ways by which a child tries to make his parents stay. A lot of events may cause separation anxiety such as a divorce, changes in routine or the fear of being alone.
• Social phobia. An anxiety disorder child with social phobia is extremely shy to a point that even speaking in front of the class causes him great distress. Sometimes, children with social phobia beg parents to let them stay at home just so they miss school presentations and other events that require them to be in front of a group of people. The symptoms of a panic attack often set in when the child with social phobia is with a group of people or if he is at the center of attention: he starts to shake, his heart races and he feels nauseous or dizzy.
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Because children have a different perspective of the world, they often do not realize that they worry excessively about simple things. An anxiety disorder child with GAD might stay up all night stressing over a first date or he may fret too much over an exam that is still a month away.
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Certain unfortunate events may set a harmful cycle for children. An ugly divorce, for example, may cause kids to avoid and be scared of certain places that they used to go to as a family. A traumatic car accident may cause children to be extremely fearful of riding any kind of vehicle. Still others who were abused as children may experience recurring nightmares and might be unresponsive to and fearful of adults.
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is a common disorder in both children and adults characterized by recurrent fears or thoughts that in turn, cause them to do a particular behavior pattern or action repeatedly. An anxiety disorder child who is fearful of germs, bacteria and of getting sick, for instance, may insist on washing his hands every hour. Children with OCD develop certain rituals, believing that these rituals can keep something bad from happening.
Just because children face seemingly less stressful situations than adults, doesn't mean that they don't have panic attacks. Anxiety and stress can cause as much harm in a child as in an adult. But with enough love, care, respect and proper treatment, even an anxiety disorder child can grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted adult.