Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that is usually diagnosed in adults. The age of onset of panic disorder usually occurs in late adolescence and early adulthood, but it can also start in early adolescence or even childhood. Adolescents with panic disorder often experience this condition in a similar way to adults.
Adolescents can be diagnosed with panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder characterized by fear of panic attacks. Although it is not common, it is possible to be diagnosed as agoraphobia without panic disorder. The following provides diagnostic information about adolescent panic disorder with agoraphobia.
Symptoms of panic disorder
Panic disorder is characterized by high levels of anxiety and panic attacks. Marked by fear and anxiety, panic attacks involve a wide range of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms.
Adolescents with panic disorder may experience these attacks through frightening physical sensations and disturbing thoughts and perceptions. Some of the most common physical symptoms of a panic attack include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling or trembling
These attacks are usually accompanied by a feeling of losing contact with oneself and the surrounding environment. These symptoms are called derealization and depersonalization, and they make teenagers feel as if they are escaping from reality. Considering the terrifying degree of these symptoms, it is not uncommon for teenagers to think that a panic attack is a life-threatening disease.
Many teenagers who experience a panic attack fear that they will lose control, go crazy, and may even die from a panic attack.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia
Since panic attacks can be a scary experience, many teenagers with panic disorder will avoid them at all costs. This usually means that teenagers will begin to avoid different places, circumstances, and situations that they believe will cause them to experience a panic attack.
About one-third of people with panic disorder will have a separate mental health condition called agoraphobia. Such barriers include the fear of having a panic attack in a place or situation that is difficult to escape and/or embarrassing.
Teenagers with agoraphobia often experience their fear in similar avoidance behaviors. For example, a teenager with agoraphobia may be afraid of crowds and stay away from large groups such as school cafeterias, shopping malls, sports events, or other social occasions. Some people may be afraid of traffic, afraid to drive on the highway or take the school bus.
Some teenagers may become so afraid of different environments that they only feel safe in a small area outside their home.
Avoidance can become so extreme that just leaving the home can cause severe anxiety, while teenagers stay at home because of agoraphobia.
Considering the level of concern among teenagers about integrating into the environment, it is not surprising that many teenagers with panic disorder feel embarrassed about their condition. However, when this feeling of shame develops into avoidance behavior and agoraphobia, the severity of this condition may become worse.
The signs and symptoms of agoraphobia usually appear within the first year of a panic attack in adolescents. If left untreated, fear and avoidance behaviors associated with agoraphobia will worsen. To control panic disorder and agoraphobia, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Girls are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety as boys, which is why experts recommend routine anxiety screening for all girls and women over 13 years of age. Screening can lead to early intervention, which helps prevent panic disorder and agoraphobia from getting worse and interferes with adolescents’ lives and functions.
Common treatment options include a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Treatment may also involve a technique called systemic desensitization, in which adolescents are gradually exposed to avoidance and fear. With the help and support of your loved ones, you can deal with these situations more easily.
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With the support of professionals, friends and family, teenagers with agoraphobia can begin to cope with their condition. By following the recommended treatment plan, it can be expected that adolescents with panic disorder and agoraphobia will experience less anxiety, panic attacks, and avoidance behaviors, and return to an active life like most adolescents.