In the face of danger, your body automatically has a response: face it head on with everything you have or quickly escape from the threat. Simply, it’s called fight-or-flight. Though this instinct is extremely helpful in saving your life in the presence of actual danger, these feelings can also come up without a current, obvious fear, which sometimes leads to panic and anxiety.
Panic attacks are a common occurrence for individuals with panic disorder or other anxiety disorders, but they also can occur independently. This is especially true for teenagers with high levels of stress.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is a sudden, seemingly unprovoked feeling of fear and dread. Panic symptoms come rapidly and often include:
- Fear of losing control
- Physical pains
Though panic attacks are typically short-lived, they can occur at any moment and have severe symptoms.
What do you do in the midst of a panic attack?
A person’s first reaction to a teen in the midst of panic is not always the best reaction. You want to help them calm down and tell them there is no reason for them to be frightened, but saying these things often does more harm than good.
According to Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, “anxiety can be like quicksand – the more you do to try to diffuse the situation immediately, the deeper you sink.” – Huffington Post
A better response to those suffering a panic attack might include the following:
- Let the person know you are here for them and not going anywhere
- Keep yourself calm
- Have compassion for what they are experiencing
- Listen to the things they need: water, food, space, a hug, etc.
Troubled youth programs can help
If you have a child suffering from panic attacks, you know how stressful it can be for both them and their family. Panic attacks often occur due to a perceived inability to handle a stressful situation with a sense of being out of control. A therapeutic environment, such as a troubled youth program, can teach teens how to cope with stressful situations and intense emotions.
Therapy + nature = the ultimate healing
Troubled youth programs, especially wilderness therapy programs, can have immense benefits for teens suffering from anxiety and panic disorders. Not only can therapists help teens overcome fears, healthily relieve stress and provide coping mechanisms to overcome panic attacks, but a wilderness environment also offers excellent natural healing. Being in a troubled youth program, away from the stresses of school work, peer pressure and home life can offers teens a time to heal.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13
Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.