A panic attack is a brief period of extreme distress, anxiety, or fear that begins suddenly and is accompanied by physical and/or emotional symptoms.
- Panic disorder is diagnosed when children have panic attacks frequently enough to cause significant impairment or suffering.
- Panic disorder is usually treated with a combination of drugs and behavioural therapy.
Panic disorder is much more common among adolescents than among younger children.
Sometimes children have separation anxiety or generalised anxiety when they are younger and then develop panic disorder as they go through puberty.
Panic attacks can occur in any anxiety disorder, usually in response to the focus of that disorder.
For example, children with separation anxiety may have a panic attack when a parent leaves.
Children who fear being trapped in places with no way to escape easily (agoraphobia) may have a panic attack when they are seated in the middle of a row in a crowded auditorium.
Many children who have panic disorder also have agoraphobia.
Physical disorders, such as asthma, can also trigger panic attacks, and panic attacks can trigger asthma.