Coping With Overwhelming Fear: Whole-Person Panic Disorder Treatment
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We’ve all been panicked before. Sometimes we intentionally try to be scared to get a dose of adrenaline that can be enjoyable for many people. Maybe we pay to go through a haunted house or zip line on vacation. Other times, we’re scared unintentionally, such as jumping when someone sneaks up behind us or almost getting into a car accident. But for some people, that feeling of panic that comes from being scared can be overwhelming.

Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that’s associated with intense physical reactions from fear, known as panic attacks, even without a clear trigger. The physical manifestations of fear that come with panic attacks include shortness of breath, racing heartbeat and dizziness. 

Even when a person is not having an attack, their mental and emotional health can be affected due to the impending sense of doom that a potential threat can trigger. 

Fortunately, effective treatments are available. Whole-person treatment approaches can provide teens with the help and insight they need to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. 

Why whole-person panic disorder treatment can help teens

When a teen experiences overwhelming fear during a panic attack, it feels like the distress is taking over their entire being, both mind and body. Their treatment should also be helping their entire person. 

Whole-person treatment recognizes that panic disorder is not just a collection of symptoms. It comes from various factors that contribute to its development and maintenance. These factors can include biological, psychological, social and environmental influences.

Teens have their passions, hobbies and aspirations for their future. Even if they are diagnosed with a panic disorder, it’s important that they realize they aren’t defined by their mental health disorder. That’s why process-based therapy is one of the best courses of action for panic disorder treatment. Because it treats them beyond their disorder.

Process-based therapy, or PBT, is a holistic, personalized therapeutic approach to panic disorder treatment. It incorporates different aspects of evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure techniques. It helps teens look at every aspect of their panic disorder to learn the contributing factors to their symptoms and develop the tools they need to manage them.

PBT is incorporated into all levels of care at Lightfully Teen to provide data-driven, whole-person-centered care. PBT treatment plans are designed specifically for each client and are completely customizable to each teen’s needs.

PBT works by using evidence-based integrated interventions, such as arousal reduction and somatic integration, to address the four interconnected core processing issues that are the base of panic disorders:

  • Difficulty with emotions
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Difficulty with behaviors
  • Difficulty with thoughts

How to know when it’s time for teens to seek whole-person panic disorder treatment

Since panic attacks are the main component of a panic disorder, most teens with the disorder would benefit from treatment to reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks. A teen will likely be diagnosed with a panic disorder if they experience four or more attacks.

When your teen is living with recurring panic attacks that are interfering with their quality of life, it’s time to seek whole-person panic disorder treatment. While we briefly discussed the symptoms of panic attacks, here is a more comprehensive list, including the psychological effects:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Choking sensation
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea 
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Feeling detached from reality or oneself
  • Fear of going “crazy”
  • Fear of dying

Untreated panic disorder symptoms can interfere with a teen’s overall quality of life because they’re anticipating a wave of overwhelming fear coming on at any given time without a threat. Panic disorder can cause a teen to:

  • Avoid places or situations that may cause panic attacks
  • Withdraw or isolate socially
  • Develop co-occurring mental health disorders, such as agoraphobia 

With whole-person treatment, teens with a panic disorder can develop the tools they need to reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks, alleviate the distress and disability caused by the disorder, and improve quality of life. Learning healthy coping mechanisms and stress reduction skills can help them along their mental health journey.

Prevalence and outlook for teens with a panic disorder

Let’s dive into more of the specifics of panic disorders and teenagers. It’s not uncommon for teens to develop panic disorders, and many people are diagnosed by the age of 25. It’s also twice as common in females than males. Potential risk factors of panic disorder include trauma, family history and neurotransmitter imbalances.

Anxiety disorders are common among adolescents. In fact, they are the most common mental health disorders to affect adolescents, with 31% meeting the criteria for a diagnosable anxiety disorder by the age of 18. There are many different subtypes, such as generalized anxiety disorder, but 2.3% of teenagers have a panic disorder.

Change is possible. When your teen is ready to take the first step toward reducing their panic disorder symptoms, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of them.

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