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Panic Disorder

     Panic disorder is a common and treatable disorder. Children and adolescents with panic disorder have unexpected and repeated periods of intense fear or discomfort, along with other symptoms such as a racing heartbeat or feeling short of breath. These periods are called "panic attacks" and last minutes to hours. Panic attacks frequently develop without warning. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

* Intense fearfulness (a sense that something terrible is happening)
* Racing or pounding heartbeat
* Dizziness or lightheadedness
* Shortness of breath or a feeling of being smothered
* Trembling or shaking
* Sense of unreality
* Fear of dying, losing control, or losing your mind

     More than 3 million Americans will experience panic disorder during their lifetime. Panic disorder often begins during adolescence, although it may start during childhood, and sometimes runs in families.

     If not recognized and treated, panic disorder and its complications can be devastating. Panic attacks can interfere with a child's or adolescent's relationships, schoolwork, and normal development. Children and adolescents with panic disorder may begin to feel anxious most of the time, even when they are not having panic attacks. Some begin to avoid situations where they fear a panic attack may occur, or situations where help may not be available. Panic disorder in children can be difficult to diagnose. This can lead to many visits to physicians and multiple medical tests which are expensive and potentially painful. When properly evaluated and diagnosed, panic disorder usually responds well to treatment.

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