Puberty-Linked Anxieties May Lead to Panic Disorder

Raised sensitivity to body changes can make teens more prone to worry, study suggests

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FRIDAY, March 9, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The more an adolescent reacts with anxiety to physical changes during puberty, the more likely they may be to develop panic disorder as they mature, a new U.S. study says.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas and the University of Vermont studied 123 adolescents who were put through a carefully-controlled breathing challenge in the laboratory. Adolescents who were further along in puberty and were rated as being high in anxiety sensitivity were more afraid of the bodily sensations triggered by the three-minute breathing challenge, the researchers found.

Among the adolescents rated as being low in anxiety sensitivity, there was little relationship between their maturity and anxiety response to the breathing challenge.

These, along with the results of previous studies, "suggest that elevations in anxiety sensitivity may potentiate panic-relevant learning that occurs during the course of puberty," the researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

Adolescents who respond anxiously to bodily sensations may "perceive the bodily events that occur during puberty as personally threatening" and "learn to fear bodily sensations, thereby setting the stage for panic development," the researchers noted.

They added that this process of learning to fear bodily sensations may be even more likely to occur when puberty-related bodily experiences happen unexpectedly.

More information

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has more about children and teens.

SOURCE: University of Arkansas, news release, March 5, 2007

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