Does My Child Have Anxiety?
Anxiety In Children
Anxiety in children is a normal part of living and generally simply acknowledging their fears and giving a little encouragement is enough to make it go away. But, when the anxiety interferes with your child’s daily life you may need to seek a professional opinion.
Anxiety Is Normal
Anxieties Often Develop at different stages of life
- Babies and toddlers generally fear heights, strangers, loud noises and separation
- Around preschool age it is common to be afraid of the dark and being alone
- Older children tend to fear supernatural things, any type of test (a math test at school or a parent seeing how well they can catch a cricket ball), criticism, failure, social situations and physical harm or threatening behavior.
- Babies and very young children don’t usually worry about things that may happen in the future as they do not fully understand the concept of a future; these types of anxieties tend to occur in children above the age of eight.
- As a child grows their fears tend to change – early in childhood kids may worry about things like being sick or getting injured. In adolescence the focus of concern tends to be more imaginative and usually involves political and economic fears or family relationships and war, just to name a few.
The Difference Between Fear And Worry
Fear is an anxiety which usually concerns situations in the present
Worry is an anxiety which generally concerns past or future situations
For example, a child may have a fear of dogs and be frightened every time a dog approaches. The same child may also be worried about visiting a friend who has a dog.
- Nobody knows your child like you do, if you have any concerns about anxiety in general, or the affects it is having on your child’s daily life, have a chat to your doctor.
The Following Might Help You Decide If You Need Professional Help:
- Is your child’s anxiety preventing him/her from doing things that they want to do?
- Is your child’s anxiety interfering with family life, friendships or school work?
- Compare your child’s behavior to other children the same age – Is your child’s behavior very different? Do they seem more anxious than the other children?
- Does your child become extremely distressed to certain situations? For example if you leave her
If you answered yes to any of the above you may want to get a professional opinion
Supporting Your Child With Anxiety
Some Proven Methods To Support Normal Childhood Anxiety Are:
- Always acknowledge your child’s fear, never ignore or dismiss it
- Encourage your child to face situations that make him/her anxious but do not force them if they do not want to face them. Your guidance, help and understanding are integral in this situation
- Be certain that your child is actually anxious before you give assistance
- Don’t criticize your child for being afraid and always praise them when they do something that they are anxious about
- Don’t label your child – do not refer to them as anxious or shy
Types of anxiety in children
There are several types of anxiety experienced by children, they may experience just one type or show signs of several.
Social anxiety is when your child is scared or worried in situations where they must interact with other people or be the focus of attention.
Children With Social Anxiety Tend To:
- Believe other people will laugh at them or think badly of them
- Are withdrawn or shy
- Have difficulty joining groups, making friends and meeting people in general
- Will have a very limited number of friends
- Try to avoid any situation which will make them stand out or be the focus of attention, like answering a question in class
Separation anxiety is experienced when a child is separated from their parent or guardian
Children With Separation Anxiety Tend To:
- Cry, struggle and protest when being separated from a parent or guardian
- Complain of illness when being separated
- Worry about themselves or their parent/guardian being injured or having an accident
- Refuse to attend or stay at school, preschool or day care by themselves
- Refuse to do things without the parent/guardian being present, like sleeping at other people’s homes
Generalized anxiety is just as it sounds, kids can worry about anything and everything from things at play group or school to world events.
Children With Generalized Anxiety Tend To:
- Worry about things like schoolwork, health, money, safety, and sporting achievements just to name a few
- Are perfectionists (everything they do must be perfect)
- Feel nervous about answering or asking questions in class
- Find it difficult to perform well in tests
- Are scared in unfamiliar or new situations
- Seek reassurance constantly
- Complain about being worried, concerned and/or sick
Causes of anxiety in children
- Anxiety can run in the family, if you have any family members with serious anxiety then you are at a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders
- People can be taught to be anxious, they can think and behave in anxious ways by watching others or by experiencing a scary situation
- The child’s environment can play a part, for example an overprotective parent may do things which help a shy child in the short term, but can increase the child’s anxiety overall
Anxiety in children is normal, if you are concerned in any way, shape or form about the level of anxiety that your child experiences see your doctor, they will be able to professionally assess your child and if necessary prescribe the most appropriate treatment plan.
This may include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and if necessary anti-anxiety medication.
With CBT the patient is gradually exposed to things that make them anxious so they can learn to manage their feelings and develop personal skills, changing the way they think in anxious situations.
For severe anxiety the combination of CBT and medications, especially those which target the serotonin neurotransmitter, can be very successful in treating anxiety in children.