Identifying and treating panic attacks in teens


More children are experiencing clinical anxiety symptoms. Extra vigilance is in order. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends routinely screening kids for mental health issues at their regular doctor visits.


Seeing more anxiety and panic attacks

Globally, 1 in 5 children are experiencing clinically elevated anxiety symptoms, a rate double that of pre-pandemic estimates.


I’ve seen the increase in my own practice. A teenage girl whose shortness of breath was diagnosed as a panic attack. Another teen who refused to go to school for weeks because of anxiety.


Frequent panic attacks can lead to severe anxiety that persists even when kids aren’t experiencing an attack. Adolescents sometimes turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. So what should we as caregivers—personal and professional—be watching for?


Panic attack symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Intense fear, including fear of dying or losing control
  • A sense of unreality


Intervene now for a brighter future

Untreated or undertreated panic disorder, anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses can impact children’s development, relationships, schoolwork and more. I wrote a book to provide families a “mental health toolbox” to help prevent mental health issues, recognize illness, and seek help.


Newer resources like telemedicine appointments and digital therapeutic treatments at home can also bring care to young people when, where and how works best for them.


Understanding that kids’ mental wellbeing may be increasingly at stake and knowing the signs and symptoms of these conditions will help us identify them—and appropriate treatments—earlier.


Hansa Bhargava, MD, is a pediatrician, author, and executive member of the Council for Communications at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Bhargava has extensive experience in digital health, healthcare innovation, and mental health. She is a member of Freespira’s Advisory Council.


With Freespira, 86% of users were panic attack-free at the end of their 28-day program (Kaplan et al., 2020). And 88% said they would recommend Freespira (Tolin et al., 2017).

To learn more about Freespira treatment for ages 13 and older, please call +1 800.735.8995. Patients, please visit our self-referral page. Healthcare providers, please see the provider referral page.


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