Experiencing anxiety is a normal part of life, and most children will be able to work through the emotions of fear and anxiety. When those emotions and concern become too difficult for a child to manage, then they may need additional help. The following should be considered:
When the fear or worry are more than temporary
When the anxiety does not go away
When the anxiety gets worse over time
When a child is unable to function doing tasks that are age-appropriate
When the anxiety affects eating and sleeping
Don’t minimize a child’s feelings of anxiety. If a child is anxious, their worry is real to them. Minimizing it could create more problems as teaches them not to trust you with what they are feeling.
Be aware that your behavior may be influencing your child’s anxiety. You may need to change things if you feel they are contributing to the problem.
It’s essential to be aware that your child may use their symptoms to manipulate situations. It’s your role to know your child so not be manipulated.
The causes of anxiety aren’t fully understood. Inherited traits could be a factor. Someone who is already prone to anxiety, life experiences or traumatic experiences appear to trigger it.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more than not for at least 6 months, concerning a number of events
The individual finds it difficult to control the worry
The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following six symptoms (only one item required in children):
Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge
Being easily fatigued
The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning
The disturbance is not due to the physiological effects of a substance or medical condition
The disturbance is not better explained by another medical disorder
Other medical conditions may include low blood sugar, current medications, thyroid problems, etc. Consult a doctor about problems before seeking out a mental health professional so they can rule out other conditions.
An anxiety diagnosis is made by a doctor, psychologist, or a mental health professional. It can involve a physiological evaluation and comparing symptoms to the DSM criteria. Because anxiety often occurs along with other mental health problems, it can be difficult to diagnosis.
There are various anxiety disorders, including General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Phobias, and Social Anxiety Disorder. Here we cover anxiety in general. Parents should know that anxiety can coexist with other psychiatric disorders, including, but not limited to major depression, bipolar disorder or substance abuse problems. There are similarities between anxiety and depression. If anxiety exists with other disorders there is a heightened risk of suicidal tendencies and impairment.
Treatment for anxiety includes medication, therapy, and skills and behavioral training. Become familiar with the treatment approaches and understand their strengths and weaknesses to know what is best for your child. Learning skills and behavioral training will allow them to respond to their anxiety more appropriately.
Visit Smarter Parenting for games and activities to help a child deal with anxiety.