Panic Attacks in Teens (A Guide for Parents)

January 15, 2024

Unlock effective strategies for teens with panic attacks. Discover breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, and more to support your teen's well-being.

Understanding Panic Attacks in Teens

Panic attacks can be a distressing experience for anyone, especially teenagers who may be navigating the challenges of adolescence. Understanding panic attacks and their signs and symptoms is crucial in providing support to teens who may be experiencing these episodes.

What are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are intense episodes of overwhelming fear or anxiety that occur suddenly and without warning. They can be accompanied by a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, leading to a sense of impending doom. Panic attacks typically reach their peak within minutes and can last for several minutes or, in some cases, longer.

During a panic attack, teens may feel a combination of physical and emotional sensations. These can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat or pounding heart
  • Shortness of breath or feeling smothered
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating
  • Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying

It's important to note that panic attacks are more than just feeling anxious or stressed. They are intense episodes that can be debilitating and disrupt a teen's daily life. If your teen is experiencing panic attacks, it's crucial to seek professional help for a proper diagnosis and guidance on treatment options.

Signs and Symptoms of Panic Attacks in Teens

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of panic attacks in teens is essential for early intervention and support. While the experience may vary from person to person, common signs and symptoms of panic attacks in teens include:

  • Sudden and intense fear or discomfort
  • Feeling out of control or detached from reality
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Sweating or chills
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fear of dying or losing control

As a parent or guardian, it's important to maintain open communication with your teen and create a safe space for them to express their feelings. Encourage them to share their experiences, especially if they have been experiencing symptoms associated with panic attacks. Understanding their struggles and offering support can make a significant difference in their well-being.

Teens experiencing panic attacks may also benefit from learning coping mechanisms and seeking professional help.

Factors Contributing to Panic Attacks in Teens

Panic attacks in teens can be triggered by a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Understanding these factors is crucial for effectively managing panic attacks and providing support to teenagers experiencing them.

Biological Factors

Biological factors play a significant role in the occurrence of panic attacks in teens. It is believed that imbalances in brain chemicals, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, can contribute to the development of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. Additionally, genetic predisposition may make some teens more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks. Research has shown that individuals with a family history of panic attacks or other anxiety disorders are more likely to experience panic attacks themselves.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can also contribute to the onset of panic attacks in teens. Stressful life events, such as academic pressure, family conflicts, or major life changes, can trigger or exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Additionally, exposure to traumatic events, such as accidents or natural disasters, can increase the risk of panic attacks. The influence of the social environment, including peer relationships and social expectations, may also contribute to anxiety symptoms in teens.

Psychological Factors

Psychological factors play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of panic attacks in teens. Teens who have a tendency to catastrophize or have negative thinking patterns are more susceptible to experiencing panic attacks. Perfectionism, low self-esteem, and an excessive need for control can also contribute to anxiety symptoms. Additionally, teens with a history of childhood adversity or trauma may be more vulnerable to developing panic attacks.

It's important to note that these factors can interact with each other, creating a complex interplay that contributes to panic attacks in teens. Understanding the underlying factors can help parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals provide appropriate support and intervention for teens experiencing panic attacks.

Effective Strategies for Managing Panic Attacks in Teens

When it comes to managing panic attacks in teens, there are several effective strategies that can help provide relief and build resilience. These strategies focus on empowering teens to better cope with their panic attacks and regain control over their thoughts and emotions. Here are three key strategies that can make a significant difference:

Breathing Techniques

Teaching teens proper breathing techniques can be invaluable in managing panic attacks. Encourage them to practice deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. This technique involves taking slow, deep breaths, filling the abdomen with air, and then exhaling slowly. Deep breathing helps activate the body's relaxation response, reducing feelings of anxiety and panic.

To guide your teen through this process, you can suggest the following steps:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  2. Close their eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose, counting to four.
  3. Hold the breath for a few seconds.
  4. Exhale slowly through the mouth, counting to four.
  5. Repeat the process several times until they feel more calm and centered.

By practicing deep breathing regularly, teens can develop a valuable tool for managing panic attacks and reducing their intensity.

Relaxation Exercises

In addition to deep breathing techniques, relaxation exercises can help teens alleviate the symptoms of panic attacks. Encourage them to explore different relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and releasing different muscle groups to promote physical and mental relaxation. Guided imagery uses visualization techniques to create a calming and peaceful mental image.

To facilitate these exercises, you can suggest the following steps:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Start by tensing a specific muscle group, such as the hands or shoulders, for a few seconds.
  3. Release the tension and focus on the sensation of relaxation in that muscle group.
  4. Move on to the next muscle group, repeating the process.
  5. Alternatively, guide them through a visualization exercise where they imagine a peaceful and serene environment.

By practicing relaxation exercises regularly, teens can develop a sense of calmness and improve their ability to manage panic attacks effectively.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective therapeutic approach for managing panic attacks in teens. CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to anxiety and panic. Through CBT, teens can learn to reframe their thoughts and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

CBT for panic attacks often involves the following components:

  1. Psychoeducation: Helping teens understand the nature of panic attacks, their triggers, and the physical and psychological symptoms they experience.
  2. Identifying and challenging negative thoughts: Assisting teens in recognizing and challenging automatic negative thoughts that contribute to panic attacks.
  3. Relaxation techniques: Teaching teens various relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to manage anxiety symptoms.
  4. Gradual exposure: Guiding teens in gradually confronting their fears and triggers in a controlled and supportive manner.
  5. Developing coping strategies: Assisting teens in developing effective coping mechanisms to manage panic attacks, such as positive self-talk, problem-solving, and distraction techniques.

CBT is often conducted by a licensed mental health professional who specializes in treating anxiety disorders in adolescents. It can be highly beneficial in helping teens gain control over their panic attacks and improve their overall well-being.

By implementing these strategies, parents and caregivers can provide vital support to their teens as they navigate and manage panic attacks. However, it's important to remember that each individual is unique, and what works for one teen may not work for another. It's recommended to seek professional help, such as panic attack treatment for teens, to develop a personalized approach that addresses the specific needs of your teen and their panic attacks.

Creating a Supportive Environment

When helping teens navigate through panic attacks, creating a supportive environment is essential. By fostering open communication, encouraging self-care, and being proactive in seeking professional help, parents and caregivers can provide the necessary support for teens experiencing panic attacks.

Open Communication

Maintaining open communication with teens is crucial in understanding their experiences and emotions. Encourage them to express their feelings without judgment or criticism. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable discussing their panic attacks and any concerns they may have. By actively listening and validating their experiences, you can help them feel understood and supported.

It's important to educate yourself about panic attacks and related conditions, such as teenage panic disorder and anxiety disorders in adolescents. This knowledge will enable you to provide accurate information and dispel any misconceptions your teen may have.

Encouraging Self-Care

Promoting self-care practices is vital in helping teens manage their panic attacks. Encourage them to prioritize their well-being by engaging in activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress. Some self-care strategies may include:

  • Regular exercise to release tension and boost mood.
  • Adequate sleep to support overall mental health.
  • Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, to promote relaxation.
  • Engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and serve as healthy outlets for stress.

By emphasizing the importance of self-care, you can help teens develop coping mechanisms and build resilience to manage their panic attacks more effectively.

Seeking Professional Help

While providing a supportive environment is important, it is equally crucial to recognize when professional help is needed. If your teen's panic attacks persist or significantly impact their daily life, it's essential to seek the help of a mental health professional. They can provide an accurate diagnosis, offer appropriate panic attack treatment for teens, and guide your teen towards effective coping strategies.

When seeking professional help, it's important to involve your teen in the decision-making process. Encourage their active participation and empower them to take ownership of their mental health. Together with a mental health professional, you can develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your teen's specific needs.

Remember, supporting your teen through panic attacks requires a multi-faceted approach that includes open communication, encouraging self-care, and seeking professional help as needed. By creating a supportive environment, you can play a crucial role in their journey towards managing and overcoming panic attacks.

Helping Teens Build Resilience

As parents, it's important to support and empower teens who experience panic attacks. Building resilience can play a significant role in helping them navigate through their challenges. Here are three key strategies to help teens build resilience: identifying triggers, developing coping mechanisms, and promoting healthy lifestyle habits.

Identifying Triggers

One crucial step in managing panic attacks is identifying triggers that may contribute to their occurrence. Triggers can vary from person to person and may include certain situations, environments, or thoughts. Encourage your teen to reflect on their experiences and emotions surrounding panic attacks to identify potential triggers.

Assisting your teen in keeping a panic attack journal can be beneficial. This journal can help them track patterns and identify common triggers that precede their panic attacks. By recognizing these triggers, your teen can become more proactive in managing and preventing future panic attacks.

Developing Coping Mechanisms

Teaching your teen effective coping mechanisms is crucial in managing panic attacks. Encourage them to explore various coping strategies and find what works best for them. Some common coping mechanisms for panic attacks include deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, and visualization exercises.

Deep breathing exercises can help regulate your teen's breathing during a panic attack, promoting a sense of calm. Encourage them to practice diaphragmatic breathing, inhaling deeply through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Grounding techniques, such as focusing on the senses or engaging in a distracting activity, can help shift their attention away from panic-inducing thoughts.

Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a valuable resource for developing coping mechanisms. CBT aims to change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with panic attacks. Seeking professional help, such as panic attack treatment for teens, can provide specialized guidance in developing effective coping strategies.

Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Promoting healthy lifestyle habits is another essential aspect of building resilience in teens. Encourage your teen to prioritize self-care, including getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in regular physical activity.

Adequate sleep is crucial for overall well-being and can help manage stress and anxiety. Encourage your teen to establish a consistent sleep routine and create a relaxing environment in their bedroom. A balanced diet, rich in nutritious foods, can provide the necessary nutrients to support mental and emotional well-being.

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote a positive mood. Encourage your teen to engage in activities they enjoy, such as sports, yoga, or dancing. Physical activity also releases endorphins, which can contribute to a sense of well-being.

By supporting your teen in identifying triggers, developing coping mechanisms, and promoting healthy lifestyle habits, you can assist them in building resilience and managing panic attacks effectively. Remember, seeking professional help, when necessary, is important in providing the specialized guidance your teen may need.

Supporting Teens with Panic Attacks at School

Teens experiencing panic attacks may face additional challenges when dealing with these episodes at school. It is important for schools to provide a supportive environment and implement strategies to assist these students. Here are some effective ways to support teens with panic attacks at school.

Educating School Staff

One crucial step in supporting teens with panic attacks is to educate school staff about panic attacks and their impact on students. School administrators, teachers, counselors, and other staff members should receive training on recognizing the signs and symptoms of panic attacks. This knowledge will enable them to respond appropriately when a student experiences a panic attack. It is also important for staff to be aware of any specific triggers or accommodations that individual students may require. By understanding panic attacks, school staff can provide the necessary support and create a safe environment for affected students.

Developing a Safety Plan

Creating a safety plan is an effective strategy for managing panic attacks at school. This plan should be developed in collaboration with the student, their parents or guardians, and the school staff. The safety plan should outline specific steps to be taken when a student experiences a panic attack. It may include strategies such as finding a quiet space for the student to calm down, implementing breathing exercises or relaxation techniques, or seeking assistance from a trusted staff member. By having a well-defined safety plan in place, students can have a sense of security and know what to expect during a panic attack at school.

Encouraging Peer Support

Peer support can play a significant role in helping teens cope with panic attacks at school. Encourage students to develop empathy and understanding towards their peers who experience panic attacks. Foster an inclusive and supportive school environment where students feel comfortable discussing their experiences. Educate students about panic attacks and provide resources for them to learn more. By promoting peer support, you can create a network of understanding and compassion within the school community.

It is important to remember that each student's experience with panic attacks is unique. Schools should work closely with students, their families, and mental health professionals to develop individualized support plans that address the specific needs of each student. By providing education, implementing safety plans, and fostering peer support, schools can create an environment where teens with panic attacks feel supported and empowered to manage their condition effectively.


In conclusion, supporting teens with panic attacks requires a multifaceted approach that includes creating a supportive environment, helping them build resilience, and providing assistance at school. By fostering open communication, promoting self-care practices, and seeking professional help as needed, parents and caregivers can empower their teens to manage their panic attacks effectively. Encouraging the development of coping mechanisms, healthy lifestyle habits, and peer support can also play a crucial role in building resilience.

Additionally, it's essential for schools to provide education and resources for staff and students to create an inclusive environment where affected teens feel supported. With these strategies in place, we can help teens navigate through panic attacks and improve their overall well-being.


Similar articles

Join the Sedona Sky
Family and feel at home.

Discover achievement within reach.

Get in Touch Now