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panic attacks. Is it possible in children?

(25 Posts)
looloo Tue 26-Aug-03 23:38:44

My 5 year old son seems to be suffering from what appear to be panic attacks, although we havent had this diagnosed so I could have it completely wrong. He won't go to the theatre or cinema, although recently a friend offered to take him with her own son to see Noddy. He said he wanted to go, so I went along with it, hopeful. He was fine up until they went to go in to the auditorium and then he started to panic: crying, shaking etc, and my friend had to call me to pick him up.
Yesterday we were heading for the Natural History Museum and he suddenly started saying he didn't want to go, and then he started crying and shouting that he did'nt want to go. He got himself in such a state he made himself sick and we had to go home. He was shaking and panicing.
I have tried to talk to him, but he finds it difficult to understand what's going on himself. I have made an appointment to see the health visitor, but has anyone experienced anything similar or have any advice. It is a very distressing situation for all of us!

misdee Tue 26-Aug-03 23:39:48

sounds very similar to my own panic attacks. poor little man. hope u find something to help him

Jimjams Wed 27-Aug-03 08:28:46

Yes we have this as well. I think it is like panic attacks- my son will start shaking, then go bright red, start crying then screaming and refuse to carry on walking. A year ago he did this every time we went near a beach or the moors. We kept trying -without any pressure and gradually (after about 8 or 9 months) he was OK again. At first he would only go on a path on the moors- but now he goes on the grass as well. He also wouldn;t walk on the grass in parks etc (same response) but now he does. One thing I found helped was to make a game by juming on and off the grass quickly.- NOt very relevant to your situation, but just to say that to try small steps can help. Pushing doesn't help at all though. Maybe say to him "kets go to the entrance and if you want to go home then - we will go straight home. First time you probably will have to go home, but try that every few weeks or so and it might get better. There are certain changing rooms he won't go in for example - so we changed swimming pools.

3GirlsMum Wed 27-Aug-03 22:39:43

Yes I have an 8 year old daughter that is going through a similar thing and has been for 8 months now. We have been in touch with the Primary Mental Health team and things started to get better only to have deteriorate in the last week or so because she is worrying about going back to school.

looloo Fri 29-Aug-03 21:43:04

Thanks for your messages, haven't responded as we have had a difficult couple of days: yesterday he didn't want to go into Kew Gardens but knowing that there was really nothing there to scare him I took him in anyway and as far as I am aware he had a great time. He was really looking forward to going, the fear began as we arrived. We are due to go to Legoland on Monday. We have been before and had a great time, and up until this evening he had been excited about going. Now he has decided he doesn't want to go: crying, shaking, etc. When we talked he said he couldn't remember what it was like last time, and that he felt scared. He also said he was scared of the big area and going far away from home on the motorway. So I dont't know whether we should go anyway, knowing that he will really have a good time, or not? It breaks my heart to see him so upset and not really know how to help him or really understand why he feels the way he does.Although he hasn't mentioned it, he is due to start a new school in a couple of weeks as he didn't get a reception place at his nursery school. He has always been a very confident, happy and adaptable little boy, but maybe this is just too much for him? Any further suggestions/advice would be most welcome.

Oakmaiden Fri 29-Aug-03 21:51:55

To be honest, I would just give him time. He has a lot going on at the moment, and it isn't really that surprising that he is a bit stressed with it all. I would be inclined to skip the Legoland thing, and tell him that if he wants to go at half term you will take him then. It could well all be a reaction to the disturbance of knowing he is going to be starting a new school, and once he settles there he may well forget about being afraid of going places. Certainly he doesn't need to be pushed into going to lots of places over the next few weeks, does he?

WideWebWitch Fri 29-Aug-03 21:55:37

Oh looloo, the poor love, I really feel for him. I'm sorry, I don't have any experience and I don't really know what I'd do in this situation. I suppose I'd keep reassuring and see if you can get to the bottom of what is really worrying him. Sometimes it can be the strangest things that set them off can't it? And sometimes it's not about whatever it appears to be about but is really about some deep down unfathomable (to us) thing that's impossible to guess. Is there anything else that has changed? If it's about school could you find out if it's one specific thing or just school in general? Or could he have overheard something and completely misinterpreted it? I know my ds once heard his pre-school teacher talking about thinking she was about to die (she'd had an operation) and I realised he was listening and looking worried so reassured him that she really *wasn't* anywhere near dying, but if I hadn't been there maybe it would have got him in a state or worried him more (I saw the look on his face, not good). Anyway, sorry, I'm rambling here, not much use, just my quick thoughts. I hope someone else can help.

tamum Fri 29-Aug-03 21:57:06

It's not quite the same thing, but my dd (also 5) a few months ago started to be scared to go into rooms on her own, and would panic if we tried to tell her to go to the loo on her own because we were in the next room and everything was fine, for example. She had been fine about going upstairs on her own and so on for the last couple of years. Now, this is very minor compared to what you're going through, but what rang a bell was the school issue. I have been saying to my dh all summer that I'm sure it's actually anxiety about school which is manifesting itself in this way( she was outwardly fine), and that once she started school she would get better. Sure enough, she started school last week (we're in Scotland) and the fear of going to rooms on her own has stopped.
So, my (long-winded) point is, maybe you're right, and your ds will start to recover once he's settled at school. I hope so, good luck!

looloo Mon 01-Sep-03 22:48:37

Thanks all for your comments. We skipped the Legoland trip today and he seemed quite happy to stay at home and play! We had an offer of a reception place at the school where he went to Nursery today. When I mentioned it to him his reaction was the opposite to what I had expected. I thought he might be pleased at the prospect of going to school with his friends from Nursery, but he just said that he didn't want to go there, but to the other school where he has a place. I guess it is just the thought of starting School which is the problem and no matter where he may have the same worries. All too much for him to think about. Now we have to make the dicision we think is best!? And hope the anxiety is related to starting to school and settles down once he is settled. Such a worry!

looloo Wed 03-Sep-03 16:51:23

Help! I'm worried sick. He won't go anywhere now. Tesco's, shopping, the park. He just becomes extremely anxious, screams, shakes etc. He won't have friends to play or go to friends houses. It's all just so out of character. I went to the doctor's yesterday and she suggested a hearing test as accute hearing can be the cause of stress in certain situations, but I can't quite believe this would be the reason for such a sudden and extreme change of behaviour. Other than that, she didn't really have any other suggestions, except the connection with starting school. Any suggestions of anything else I could try? I'm running out of ideas and getting to the stage where I can't think what to do!

beetroot Wed 03-Sep-03 17:05:02

Message withdrawn

Jimjams Wed 03-Sep-03 17:25:51

hyperaucus (spelling?)-sensitive hearing- can be stressful. normal hearing tests won't necessarily pick it up though. AIT can help some people but not all (stands for auditory integration training- if you;re in the SW I can out you in touch with someone).

I agree though that it seems unlikely it would cause such a sudden change.

In my son's case the panic attacks about the beach and walking on the grass just developed overnight. One trip he loved the beach , the next time he hated it so that he couldn't stand on it. Gradually over the next 8 or 9 months he got better (so initially he wouldn't tolerate touching grass at all- nurseyr grew some cress seeds for him and he began by touching them- then when we went for walkis he would walk on a path (at first he wouldn't even walk on the path), the gradually the edge of the path then back onto the grass. There's no sign of the panic attacks at all now.

looloo Wed 03-Sep-03 17:40:00

jimjams, how old is/was your son when he started behaving like this? Did you get any professional help? and was it linked to anything in particular?
Sorry, I'm just feeling so desperate!

maryz Wed 03-Sep-03 19:16:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Jimjams Wed 03-Sep-03 19:38:15

looloo the beach stuff was when he was 3- however he's autistic and anxiety is part and parcel of autism really.

A lot of the anxiety from autism is due to hypersensitivity of the senses- such as hearing as mentioned by your gp (I'm impressed she'd even heard of it!) So hypersensitivity could be a cause but I still think - like you- it would be unlikely to come out of nowhere.

We were in contact with quite a few professionals at the time. Their suggestions didn't work (they suggested things from an autism point of view- using picture symbols to show where we were going etc- but that wasn't the porblem- he knew where he was going he wanted to go there he just panicked as soon as he saw grass or the sea). - I found in the end he just needed to take it really slowly- and eventually he got over it. The only thing I learned was that pushing him made him 10 times worse.

See how he gets on when school starts- if it is worry about that he may well be fine once he's got into the routine.

looloo Wed 03-Sep-03 22:10:50

Maryz, thanks. I suppose that's essentially what I have been thinking. He starts school on Monday so yes we can just keep going until then. I have told him we don't have to do anything he doesn't want to do and he is quite happy to stay at home and play. It is so out of character though it is really hard to accept. And I can't stop thinking what Monday will be like!?

beetroot Mon 08-Sep-03 16:52:49

Message withdrawn

maryz Mon 08-Sep-03 21:17:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

looloo Wed 10-Sep-03 20:41:17

Thanks for asking! It is still a bit of a nightmare to be honest. He doesn't want to go, and I have had to dress him and carry him out of the door still screaming! He has managed to undress himself everytime I have dressed him; hide his clothes; baracade himself into every room possible and put everything he could find behind the door to stop me from getting in etc. On Monday I stayed with him for a while, but now he has to go in by himself and this is a problem. Today he was taken in crying and calling for me. But the teachers say he is fine once he is in. I saw the health visitor yesterday and she was very helpful and reassuring, but it is so exhausting, and never having had any problems like this before, so upsetting. He is still having difficulty with day to day things too: doesn't want friends round or to go to their house, but the health visitor has assured me that we have to get life back to normal for the whole family's sake and so I am just taking him to places and having people round anyway. He protests - alot - and then is absolutely fine and doesn't want to leave/them to leave. So we shall continue and see what happens!

looloo Tue 23-Sep-03 20:12:37

If anyone is still checking this thread, you will be pleased to know that things are starting to settle down. School has become fine and he seems to be enjoying it! This is having a knock on effect on everything else, and I think things are gradually getting back to normal. It must have all been linked with starting school. Amazing how intense the feelings can be. Thanks for all your advice and support.

looloo Tue 23-Sep-03 20:12:38

If anyone is still checking this thread, you will be pleased to know that things are starting to settle down. School has become fine and he seems to be enjoying it! This is having a knock on effect on everything else, and I think things are gradually getting back to normal. It must have all been linked with starting school. Amazing how intense the feelings can be. Thanks for all your advice and support.

Oakmaiden Tue 23-Sep-03 20:28:55

Glad things are going better.

3GirlsMum Tue 23-Sep-03 20:48:47

Looloo I am having similar problems with my daughter, and she is older than your son, so its great to see that something positive is happening for you at last. I know how upsetting it can be and the thing you want for them most of all is to return to "normal" isnt it. Good luck and I hope this continue to improve. x

looloo Wed 24-Sep-03 20:34:17

3GirlsMum, you are so right about wanting them to get back to 'normal', you would almost do anything to help them. I remember reading your earlier comments and, although you wouldn't wish this on anyone, it is reassuring to know that you are not on your own. Although things have improved dramatically for us, I still don't feel this is the end of this and I am always on edge wondering what his reaction to different situations will be. Hope things are improving for you and your daughter?

3GirlsMum Wed 24-Sep-03 20:42:45

Hi looloo

At the moment we are taking each day as it comes. Some are reasonably good days, others are very bad. I know that once my daughter is at school and has calmed down she loves it, she is thriving with her work and is very happy with her new teacher. Its almost become habit for her now to hate going into school first thing and its a hard one to break! Its always great to here of someone thats been there and improved. Take care x

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