It is heartbreaking to watch a child suffer from panic attacks. The child may scream, cry, tremble, pass out, throw up, or develop suicidal thoughts. The child, literally, thinks she is going to die. When a parent witnesses such an episode, he feels helpless and frightened. Unless he has suffered from such an attack himself, he may well think his child is dying.
What Triggers a Panic Attack?
A panic attack may be brought on by a humiliating and ongoing situation, such as being bullied by a sadistic school-mate, or by a traumatic event, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.
A sensitive, shy, self-conscious child might develop panic attacks for no apparent reason, as might a child with physical or mental challenges. Sadly, some children develop panic attacks simply because it seems to run in families.
It is very likely that adults who suffer from panic attacks also experienced them as children. The fear of being “different” may keep a child from telling anyone about them. The more often a child experiences these attacks, the more she fears the next one. This very fear brings on the next attack and the next. The panic may first appear in a classroom, then in a grocery store, then in a movie theater. Suddenly, the child fears all public buildings. This fear can become so globalized that the child soon resists leaving her home or her room. These fears and anxieties can quickly escalate and evolve into a crippling, life-threatening disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of Panic Attacks?
- Palpitations, pounding or racing heart
- Sweating, chills, or hot flashes
- Uncontrollable shaking, numbness, or tingling sensations
- Inability to take a breath or sensation of smothering
- Dry throat, resulting in choking
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal pain
- Feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
- Feelings of unreality or detachment from surroundings
- Fear of losing control, going crazy, or dying
A parent who has never experienced a panic attack, may not recognize any of these symptoms for what they are. Too often, parents are dismissive of their child’s behavior. They may think it’s just another passing phase. Unfortunately, many health professionals misdiagnose the child as having ADD or ADHD. Once diagnosed, the physician prescribes medications that have potentially dangerous side-effects. We are all too familiar with the news stories of children on Ritalin who brought weapons to school with deadly consequences. In the United States, 3 to 5 percent of school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD. This means that over 2 million children are taking prescription drugs. In a classroom of 25 to 30 children, at least one child is heavily medicated. Is it any wonder that abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise in this country?
If a child has been correctly diagnosed with a mental illness, then a combination of therapies, including medications, should be employed. But the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD is still controversial in the medical community. Aren’t children supposed to be energetic and eager? Most young children have a difficult time sitting still for a few minutes. Is there not a fine line between “normal” youthful exuberance and behavior that is uncontrollable? Do parents and teachers really want to create Stepford children who are polite, quiet little robots?
With an economy in turmoil, unemployment rates soaring, and no recovery in sight, it is natural for people to feel anxious and depressed. It is not surprising that people are turning to drugs and alcohol to escape the miseries of life. But, does it not make more sense to strengthen ourselves from within, rather than rely on mind-numbing, and dumbing, drugs?
If panic attacks are primarily emotional in nature, why not explore natural, non-lethal treatments before exposing a child’s developing brain to hazardous chemicals? Once a physiological disorder is ruled out, a prudent parent has many options from which to choose.
Hypnosis- A Natural Treatment
There are many ways to help a child master her thoughts and emotions. Exercise, in the form of athletics, dance, taekwondo, or yoga, are all great stress relievers. But life is fraught with stressful events, and children, just like adults, need to be armed with a coping tool. Self-hypnosis is a skill that will will enable your child to live a normal life. Anxiety traps a person like a spider traps a fly in its web. Once caught, it is difficult to disengage and regain freedom and control.
Although very young children cannot be hypnotized, by the time a child is eight or nine years old, and is able to concentrate for at least ten minutes, he should be hypnotizable. If the child is taking Ritalin or anti-depressants, or has a very low IQ, then hypnosis is not an option.
Hypnosis is a scientifically proven, effective method of treating anxiety and panic attacks. A certified hypnotherapist is trained to teach self-hypnosis. If she gives your child a CD, make sure you closely supervise each session. The CD will present specific instructions for the child to follow. In addition to a CD, ask the hypnotherapist to give you a script for panic attacks. It is very comforting for a child to hear her mother or father’s voice read the words in the script.
Since many people cannot afford the expense of a hypnotherapist, and do not want to subject their timid child to a stranger in an unfamiliar environment, there are hypnosis downloads, CDs, and scripts available online from reputable hypnotherapists.
Reading the Script to Your Child
By whatever means you obtain the script, I recommend that you follow these steps prior to reading it to your child.
- Allow a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.
- Make sure the room is quiet and there are no distractions or stimuli.
- Unplug all phones and dim the lights (if possible).
- Tell your child to close her eyes and take five deep cleansing breaths.
- Read the script in a slow, steady voice.
- Repeat this routine several times a day.
If you are only able to hypnotize your child once a day, do so prior to your child’s bedtime. However, do not let your child fall asleep. You should always discuss the session with him afterward. Ask him how he feels. If he has any questions. If he feels calm. Do not ask him if he was hypnotized. This will put pressure on him to please you, and he will develop anxiety about whether or not he was truly hypnotized. The label is not important. The results are. If your child seems calm and relaxed, then you know the hypnosis worked. By reading the script before bedtime, the words will enter his subconscious mind and will continue to work while he sleeps.
Emotional problems in children should not be ignored. Parents need to differentiate between developmental stages of behavior that are expected and “normal,” and those that are aberrant. Irrational fears and phobias that interfere with the child’s daily activities should be suspect. It is vitally important for parents to be proactive when the child suddenly avoids school, skips social activities, or complains of stomach aches every day before school. Seek the advice of a certified hypnotherapist, and learn how to hypnotize your child. If this doesn’t work, have a physician determine if the child is mentally ill. If that is found to be the case, the child may need a combination of treatments, including medications, family therapy, and hypnotherapy.