Panic Disorder


Children and adolescents with anxiety often experience panic attacks.  During a panic attack children experience intense anxiety and a range of physical symptoms:

– Increased heart rate
– Sweating
– Trembling or shaking
– Shortness of breath
– Chest pain
– Dizziness
– Nausea
– Chills or hot flushes

Children and adolescents with panic disorder worry about having future panic attacks or about what their panic attacks mean.  For example, some children worry that their panic attacks mean they have cancer or another life-threatening illness.

Children with panic disorder often seek reassurance from their parents or ask to be taken to the doctor for tests.  Unfortunately, visiting a doctor doesn’t alleviate anxiety in the long-term as children worry that the doctor may have
missed something.

Children with panic disorder might develop other worry behaviour as well, including: avoiding being alone, always carrying a mobile phone in case of a health emergency, or checking their heart beat throughout the day.

Specific Phobia

Most children are afraid of the dark, scared of thunderstorms, or fearful of needles at some point, but overtime these fears fade.  Phobias only receive a formal diagnosis if they:

– Continue for more than 6 months
– Cause significant anxiety (which may include physical symptoms)
– Interfere with a child’s normal routines

Common phobias in children and adolescents include:

– Animal phobias
– Fears relating to specific situations (e.g. flying, bridges, elevators)
– Natural environmental phobias (e.g. fear of storms, heights, water)
– Phobia’s related to being injured or seeing blood
– A fear of loud noises
– Fear of costumed characters

Children and adolescents with specific phobias go out of their way to avoid the object or situation they fear, or endure the feared object or situation with extreme distress.  Younger children may express their anxiety through tantrums, clinginess, or tearfulness.