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The experience of panic attacks in adolescents: an interpretative phenomenological analysis study

Hewitt, O., Tomlin, A. and Waite, P. ORCID: (2021) The experience of panic attacks in adolescents: an interpretative phenomenological analysis study. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 26 (3). pp. 240-253. ISSN 1363-2752

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/13632752.2021.1948742


Panic attacks are common in adolescents and are experienced in several mental health difficulties. In adults, cognitions during panic attacks comprise mental images as well as thoughts. No qualitative research into panic attacks has been conducted with adolescents. Better understanding of the experience of panic attacks, including the presence and nature of mental images, may improve treatments. Nine adolescents (15 – 18 years) completed a semi-structured interview exploring experiences of panic attacks. Data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Six superordinate themes reflected the intense nature of having a panic attack, being unable to think and fearing losing control of one’s mind, a disconnect in feeling the panic attack would never end versus knowing from experience that it would, feeling completely out of control during the attack, feeling embarrassment and shame, feeling cut-off and isolated from others, and trying to find ways to cope through distraction, avoidance and learning to understand the thoughts. Mental images enhanced the intensity of panic. Several aspects of the findings were consistent with the cognitive model of panic disorder in adults. The impact of panic on normative adolescent developmental tasks is discussed. Interventions should be adapted for adolescents’ developmental stage and consider any mental images.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY)
ID Code:98830
Publisher:Taylor and Francis


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