Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sue Scheff: How do we recognize a Panic Attack?

Kara Tamanini is an excellent therapist and specialist with adolescents with ADD/ADHD/ODD and many other diagnoses. She has written children's books that are easy to understand and help your child to believe they are special too. Kara recently wrote an article on panic attacks. During these stressful times, whether your family is struggling with finances, job loss or other hurdles life can bring, learn more about recognizing a panic attack.

How to Recognize a Panic Attack

Anxiety is really on a continuum if you think about. All of us, kids, adolescents and adults have some level of anxiety on any given day. We move from relatively little anxiety to moderate to severe anxiety and we move up and down on this continuum. NOBODY has no anxiety every day, everyone experience some degree of anxiety on any given day. Anxiety is really a good and a bad thing, however high levels of anxiety on a continuing basis interfere with our ability to function in our daily lives. We never are truly able to eliminate anxiety completely, however the goal of psychological treatment is to reduce or manage the anxiety that we have. With that said, how do we know that we are having a panic attack or in other words a sudden and intense fear or anxiety that is absolutely overwhelming to us. Panic attacks happen to children and adults alike and panic attacks do not discriminate based on a person’s age.

In order to recognize whether you are experiencing a panic attack, you must first know the symptoms of a panic attack:

1.) you feel like your heart is racing and you have heart palpitations

2.) sweating

3.) trembling or shaking all over your body

4.) Shortness of breath

5.) fear of dying

6.) fear of losing control

7.) nausea or abdominal pain or distress

8.) chills or hot flushes

9.) chest pain or discomfort

10.) feeling of choking

11.) feeling dizzy, unsteady, faint, or lightheaded

12.) derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached or not part of oneself)

13.) paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)

To qualify for a diagnosis of Panic Disorder, at least four of the preceding 13 symptoms are needed. Experiencing these symptoms does not always mean that you are having a panic attack, they may signal a physical problem. Many symptoms of a physical ailment mimic those identified for a panic attack and a physical basis for the symptoms needs to first be ruled out. Individuals should first receive a physical examination to rule out that their is no physical basis for these symptoms. If there is not a physical reason for the preceding symptoms than panic disorder is likely the culprit and psychological intervention is needed. Most individuals that experience panic attacks are treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychological intervention is usually needed in order to treat panic attacks. Medications are also often needed in order to treat panic attacks.
Learn more at and follow Kara on Twitter at @KidTherapist

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