Teen experiencing night panic attacks and doesn't remember them

Posted by terise @terise, Aug 10, 2021

So I have 15-year twins, both girls, and one of them has serious issues with sleep and panic attacks. The problem is that after the fact, she often says that she has NO memory of it happening. Even if she remembers the panic attack, she always says she has no memory of what might have triggered it. She also has been having these "attacks" for the past year where she either (supposedly) wakes up in the middle of the night or in the morning to find that she has been scratching her arms or legs or chest or even face once or twice. There are major scratches. She already has what looks like permanent scarring from it. She has gloves that she is supposed to wear to bed but often forgets or takes them off in her sleep.

For example, last night, she woke me up around 1 am. She was in hysterics, showing me texts that she had tried to send to the mental health helpline – they never responded. And she will be telling me she was scared because he was sure that she was hurting herself on purpose at night and then making herself forget it.
She has never said anything like that before. I sat up with her for about 1/2 an hour. She cried a little, wouldn't talk anymore, cuddle with the dog, and then announced she was going to bed.

This morning she says that she has absolutely no memory of any of it and was shocked to find the text messages she sent on her phone.

We have taken her several times to see a psychiatrist, and they have tried several different medications, including anti-psychotics. But since she always claims to have no memory, she can discuss it with the Dr. The Doctor is at a loss and referred her to our local sleep clinic. We did an overnight sleep study, and it was unremarkable. Sleep Doc says that if she is hurting herself in her sleep, it is called parasomnia. she also said that my daughter has several red flags for narcolepsy (which she insists isn't anything like they show on tv). She wants to do a second sleep study. We are waiting for a date.

I have never heard anything like the scratching and "memory loss" and we are at wits end as to how to help her.

Anyone every heard of any like this or have any ideas? Thanks!

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@terise, seeing a teen struggle with anxiety is so hard as a parent. I've been there too. Your daughter's situation is compounded by her not remembering her nighttime panic attacks in the morning. I'm so glad that you are seeking medical care and support from mental health and sleep professionals. But I also know the importance of hearing from other parents who have been there. I'm tagging fellow members @grandmar @sydneysmom @concernedmtnmom and @astaingegerdm to join this discussion and offer a virtual ear.

Terise, does your daughter have general anxiety during the day or only episodes of panic attacks at night? The toughest thing I found (for me) was that my daughter found it very hard to talk about her feelings. When she did, I could be supportive and she allowed me to help, but just talking was really hard for her. Is your daughter willing and able to talk to you about how she feels?

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@terise – It must be very difficult for your daughter to deal with these frightening experiences at night and not remembering anything.
It will be interesting to see what the second sleep study shows- it sounds as if it will test for narcolepsy.
I don't have any personal experience with narcolepsy, but my son was evaluated for it at age 10 after collapsing in school. He went through the sleep study for it. I don't think there was a definite diagnosis. He saw a neurologist, who thought it could be due to Fibromyalgia- poor sleep is a major problem with Fibromyalgia.
Years later sleep problems recurred in connection with PTSD. He saw a psychiatrist then because of depression. It was explained to us that the sleep center was damaged and treatment with certain antidepressants would help healing – and it did.
Obviously, there are so many causes of complicated sleep problems. The sleep doctor is a very good start, she may also refer you to a neurologist. I'll add a link I found when researching parasomnias:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12133-parasomnias–disruptive-sleep-disorders

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