Teenage panic attacks are terrifying and bewildering for the teen, often leaving them feeling embarrassed and at the mercy of their anxiety. Here is a conversation I had via email with a young reader where she shares about her struggle with teenage panic attacks and my suggestions to help her.
“I’m seventeen years old. I’m embarrassed because I have panic attacks and I’m only seventeen. Around my friends, I joke about every situation, and I laugh, and I try to come across as carefree and that I don’t care what anyone thinks. I don’t think any of them know what a neurotic mess I am inside.
I basically live in fear. Anxiety makes all of my decisions for me. It’s hard to explain, but I just feel completely consumed by fear all of the time. I live in dread terror of things like beiing late, or sounding stupid, or getting it wrong.
I feel like I am missing out on my youth some times. I feel like I’m too young to be feeling this awful about EVERYTHING. I have missed out on so many opportunities because of fear. I have stayed home alone by myself while my friends were out at a party.
When my friends swim or go to the beach, I sit alone and watch because I’m too terrified to jump in.
Over the summer things worsened. I felt like maybe things would have been different. But I couldn’t be alluring, charming, open, because I am too petrified to ever express my feelings.
But I don’t want to be that girl any more. I want to develop some gumption, some bravery, some lady balls. I read on your website that you’ve had panic attacks since the age of 7, and I was wondering if you had any wise words for some one like me. If you knew then what you know now, what would you say to yourself at my age?”
Thank you so much,
Teenage Panic Attacks, Help and Hope
First of all a big ((hug)), congratulations for reaching out. I see so much of my younger self in your letter. You asked me what I would say to myself at 17, knowing what I know now.
I don’t know if you’ve tried any sort of therapy or sought help of any kind. All I know was back in my day, there was no such thing as early intervention, the internet, Google, anything like that. I basically had to figure out on my own what was happening to me and then try to figure out how to manage. It really sucked.
Do NOT wait until “someday” to try to rid yourself of teenage panic attacks. That someday may never come. As hard as it is to live with anxiety, the prospect of changing behaviors can feel like too much. So a lot of anxiety sufferers get stuck- they hate the way they feel, they regret all the time lost to anxiety, and yet, they don’t really do anything about it.
They may pick up a book, or try a program, only to find it’s too much trouble. And so the anxiety wins and life continues to be a struggle.
I will use your own words… You say, “I basically live in fear. Anxiety makes all of my decisions for me.”
You may or may not know this honey, but this is a choice you are making. I don’t mean this to sound harsh, because I know you are not doing this to yourself consciously. No one would, it’s the most terrifying thing in the world.
However, somewhere in your past, you developed anxiety and panic attacks, and that is how your mind and body reacts to situations where you feel vulnerable.
The good news is you absolutely can get better. You can re-learn new coping skills and replace the anxious thoughts and feelings with more balanced ones.
Is it easy? No. You actually have to learn to put yourself into situations that you fear and learn that you won’t die, go crazy, or anything else like that.
No. it’s not easy. But listen to me, you can do it. I hope you make the right decision and realize YOU have what it takes to get better and are worth it.
Your life has only just begun, but living with anxiety does rob you of a lot of quality of living. You can stay the way you are now and continue to be in fear, with all the negativity that goes with it– including the low self esteem and embarrassment.
And your life will continue to go on. In 5 years you will have 5 more years of regrets– all because of stupid anxiety.
“But I don’t want to be that girl any more.”
Then don’t Katie. Don’t waste your youth– the absolute most precious years of your life–to this stupid FAKE feeling.
Anxiety is a beast, it is the absolute scariest thing there is. I believe it is hell on earth, and I also know that it is a big fat liar.
It tells you to be embarrassed, not to go with friends, speak up, dive in, have fun….Or else!!
And do you know what? Anything you have ever felt or thought was true about anxiety or panic attacks is just not true.
You will not die, vomit, faint in public, fall out of your chair, scream out loud, or anything else like that. This is true of teenage panic attacks and panic attacks at any age.
Katie, you (and me) are not so very different from anyone else. ALL people have experienced anxiety to some extent. It is a human emotion that is just more sensitized in you. It is NOTHING to be ashamed about.
My very best advice is be determined to get better. Read all you can. Connect with others on anxiety disorder forums who are suffering too. Learn from them, share experience, strength and hope. Stay away from naysayers and negative people who don’t believe in you. Find an anxiety treatment program that resonates with you and work it as if the quality of your life depends on it.
Because it does…
“I want to develop some gumption, some bravery, some lady balls.”
Katie, you are so very, very brave. You don’t have to “develop” any bravery. Living with teenage panic attacks takes more bravery than anything I know. So direct all your wonderful bravery and energy towards your recovery and anxiety self help methods and you surely will get better.
Anxiety responds very well to treatment, but you have to be determined.
I know you can do it. Good luck and many blessings!!
I wish you peace,
ps.- Struggling with teenage panic attacks and don’t know where to start? Visit the Anxiety Tips & Help resource page.