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Wendy M
Wendy M, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 123
Experience:  Over 16 years in chemical dependency and the mental health field.
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My nine year old daughter on a few occasions has started breathing

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My nine year old daughter on a few occasions has started breathing erratically, sweating and crying uncontrollable. She tells me her vision is blurring and she feel like she is going to die. I ask her if she had been thinking or feeling anything in particular that brought on , what she calls "the attack" and she always says no. I have seen anxiety attacks before, and though each response has been different depending on the individual, i am wondering if this is the problem. Each time this has happened, it was after her bed time routine was finished. I try to soothe her and it only makes it worse. Everything I say she cries in response to. We have a two parent family with three kids altogether and she being the oldest? We have a very consistent routine because my kids function best in that kind of environment. I really need to know how to help her?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Wendy M replied 6 years ago.

Welcome to Just Answer.

I am sorry to hear about what is currently happening with your daughter. It does sound like however, you have read up on anxiety attacks, as it does sound like she may be suffering from panic attacks at night.

I actually had a few questions for you.

When did she start having these panic attacks?

How long do they last for?

Are there any relatives that suffer from panic attacks?

I read that your daughter has these attacks, right after her bedtime routine. Do you have any thought on what brings it on, like monsters or afraid of being alone, or the dark?

I thank you in advance for your replies.

Take care,
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

I would say it started happening about two years ago.


They can last about 30min-1hr


My mother gets anxiety, but certain life stresses trigger it.


When i was about 14 yr old i can remember having a similar situation, but not shortness of breathe or nausea, just crying and blurred vision.


I thought maybe fear of something, as she always needs the closet shut tight and she complains of shadows moving in her room. We keep two night lights on for her and most night she falls asleep fine, although she does get insomnia at times.

Expert:  Wendy M replied 6 years ago.

Thank you for that additional information. It does sound like your daughter is suffering from panic attacks. Panic attacks in children are a little bit different than adults, as children usually have panic attacks at certain times of the day, which your daughter is experiencing. This within itself, can cause her to have anxiety when she goes to her nighttime routine, as she may be fearful of having another panic attack, which then may actually cause a panic attack.

Panic attacks in children are usually really intense and sudden fear. These attacks can last from a few minutes to a few hours. If the panic attacks happen often, it can lead to generalized anxiety disorder in her later life.

The one thing that I like to always rule out as well, is any medical issues, that may look like a panic disorder. So, if your daughter has not had a physical exam lately, it would be good to take her in, to get a full physical. Things like endocrine disorders, neurological disease, infection, lung disease may also lead to panic attacks in children.

The treatments that they usually use, to treat panic disorders in children are cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes a low dose of a tranquilizer, like xanax and sometimes even antidepressants. But, the xanax can have some physical dependency issues and I know that parents are not that keen, especially in a child as young as your child is, in taking antidepressants. Finally, they use confrontation, where they make the child confront their fears, but in a safe way. Your daughter is having these attacks mostly at night, so things like confronting her fears, in helping her to open her closet door and looking under the bed, may be of help to her.

So, I would definitely start with ruling out anything medical, with a physical exam with her doctor and if all if OK medically, I would see if you can find a good child CBT therapist in your area. The counseling alone may be of help.

Some of the things that you can also do at home are: reassuring your daughter that she is not crazy, (which it sounds like you are doing right now), let her know that her panic attacks are not her fault. That the panic attacks will leave and she will not always feel that way.

The other things that you are doing right now are great! Like talking to her calmly and not forcing her to talk about it, if she is not ready to talk.

I do hope that this helps some.

If you need me to clarify anything, please let me know.

Edited by Wendy M on 4/1/2010 at 7:43 PM EST
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