Recognizing Panic Attacks in Toddlers
Parents of young children must be full-time decoders and detectives. Children lack the ability to communicate abstract thoughts and ideas, leaving parents to fill in the gaps to figure out what their child wants or needs.
That’s why it’s so important for parents to know that children can have panic attacks. At first, it might seem like panic attacks in children are really just tantrums or bouts of shyness; but panic attacks can be overwhelming and distressing for a child. Knowing what happens during panic attacks in children can help parents calm their children faster and teach their children how to use self-soothing tools as they grow.
Symptoms of Panic Attacks in Children
Children may not have the vocabulary to describe how they are feeling, so parents and other caregivers need to watch out for signs of panic attacks. Symptoms that can be recognized by an onlooker include:
- Looking dazed
- Difficulty breathing
- Flushed skin
- Trying to run away from a place or situation
Using their limited vocabulary, a child might complain of symptoms like:
- Stomach ache
- Feeling dizzy
- Feeling like they are walking in a dream
- Chest pain
- Feeling like they are choking
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing heartbeat
- Feeling hot or cold
Why Panic Attacks in Children Should Be Taken Seriously
A toddler may not be able to express a fear of dying, but that fear is undeniably real and is just one symptom of panic attacks in children and adults alike. Children may also find that the panic attack itself is a frightening experience; and it’s possible for them to associate the fear with other factors, like the place where it happened. If a child becomes reluctant to go to certain places or to leave the house without a certain person accompanying them, it can be difficult to help him or her properly socialize and enjoy other aspects of life.
When fear interferes with life to such a high degree, it’s wise to seek behavioral health assistance. Fortunately, children are fast learners and are quite resilient; a therapeutic modality (like cognitive behavioral therapy) is often quite successful in teaching children to identify and change damaging thought patterns. This type of therapy is also used to assist adults with panic disorders so the skills a child learns early in therapy will likely be beneficial throughout life, if panic attacks reoccur.
“Panic Disorder” – Child Anxiety Network
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