Potential triggers for teen panic attacksBefore we move on to helpful tips for your teen, let's discuss what could potentially trigger your teen. As we all remember, the teen years can be fraught with a rollercoaster of emotions. Any of them is enough to cause most adults a significant amount of stress. For a teen who hasn't yet learned critical coping skills, it can be challenging. Some of the concerns that could be contributing to your teen's panic attacks could include:
- Fluctuations in hormones. Hormones are all over the place during the teen years; that's no secret. Teens can feel anger, sadness, and anxiety for almost no reason. This isn't very clear to them as it is to those around them.
- Pressure from peers. Peer pressure gets a lot of attention, but it doesn't always take the form of pressure to do drugs, drink alcohol, or become sexually active before they're ready.
- High levels of stress. Teens can be under a significant amount of stress, much of which could stem from their need to get good grades and go to university while participating in sport, volunteering, and maintaining a social life.
- Stress during testing. Even a teen who studies a topic inside and out may feel anxiety when taking tests.
- Stress in the home. If there are problems in the home, whether problems between parents, siblings, or even financial concerns, your teen may be very sensitive to them.
Tip One: Getting the professional help they needIt's tempting to think that you can help your teen through panic attacks without getting outside help. Certainly, you will have a strong role in your teen's healing process, but the benefit of professional intervention cannot be denied. There are a range of treatment options. Your teen may not respond to some treatment options, so it's important to work with professionals who can help them find the right solutions. Some of the options to treat panic attacks in teens include:
- Medications. The type of medication that works for your teen may be different from medications that work for you. This is why it's so important to work with a team of professionals to help your teen.
- Group therapy. There are several reasons group therapy can be beneficial, particularly when under the guidance of a professional. Teens can get the social support they need and reinforce healthy coping strategies and behaviors.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy approach can help teens be aware of and learn to manage the thoughts they experience before a panic attack.
Tip Two: Getting the school involvedIf your teen is struggling with anxiety and panic attacks at school, you should consider getting school officials involved in the treatment for your teen. If there is a professional diagnosis and a treatment plan, the school may be able to offer several solutions to help your teen with the things he struggles with at school.
- He may be able to get extra time to complete tests. Test-taking can make any of us feel anxious. For a teen already feeling the pressure, it can be a clear trigger to a panic attack.
- The school may offer him the ability to take the tests in a more private setting. This can help a teen who is also struggling with social anxiety.
- The school counselor can be made aware of what your teen is struggling with and can also routinely check-in and monitor his progress.
Tip Three: Evaluating your home situationIs there something about your home life that could be potentially causing additional anxiety for your teen? If you and your parenting partner are constantly at odds with one another, you may need to address your relationship and how it is taking a toll on everyone in the family. It could be that you both need counseling. Or it could be that it's time to consider no longer living together as partners, for the benefit of everyone in the family. Many parents do tend to stay together for the sake of the children in the home. The truth is that there are some situations where staying together is not helping anyone. Take careful stock of your home life and figure out if there is room for making things better for every member of the family. Another part of considering your home situation should be to consider health and wellness improvements. It may seem trite to suggest that improving physical wellness and enjoying a healthy diet and lifestyle can cure anxiety and panic attacks. While they may not be a cure, there are definite mental wellness benefits to working towards a healthier lifestyle for the family as a whole.
- Make sure everyone in the family is eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Going for family walks, bike rides, or hikes can be good for both the body and mind. Mainly because it allows everyone to disconnect from devices and distractions, so you can all reconnect with one another.
- Planning family game nights or movie nights. Any opportunity to disconnect together is an opportunity for your family to reconnect with one another.
Tip Four: Working through panic attacksIf your teen is at school and starts to feel panic setting in, they will need to have the right coping skills on hand to help them through it. Our other tips will help to fortify them to learn some of the all-important coping skills that they will need. There are several approaches to help with a panic attack if your teen is with you at home:
- Stay with your teen and remain calm. If you do struggle with anxiety, it can be triggered by seeing someone else struggling.
- If your teen has been prescribed medication to help with panic attacks, offer the medication if they typically take it before it during a panic attack.
- Ask what they need from you. Sometimes your teen will want to hold your hand. Sometimes they may need something more.
- Avoid being surprised or trying to make them laugh when they are in the midst of a panic attack. Rather stay predictable, calm, show them you are there and remind them that they are safe.
- Work on your breathing with your teen. Slow breaths, in and out. In and hold for a count of five. Out for a count of five. Focusing on breathing can be a helpful and welcome distraction.
- Remind them of mindfulness practices. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present, feeling what you feel, and seeing what you see right at this moment—hearing, touching, and smelling, right at this moment. For someone in the middle of a panic attack, feeling the fear that can accompany panic, focusing on what is here and what is real can be incredibly helpful.
- Stress straws are a great tool to have. There are plenty of options to be found and purchased online. They allow for focused breathing exercises. If your teen's therapist has recommended one, then he'll be in good shape as he learns how to use it. You can also find lots of videos online to offer guidance.