ANXIETY IN CHILDREN
Did You know that anxiety disorders affect one in eight children? Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.
Although anxiety disorders are the most common mental-health problem in children, they tend to get the least attention.
Anxiety is a normal part of childhood, and every child goes through phases. A phase is temporary and usually harmless. But children who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience fear, nervousness, and shyness, and they start to avoid places and activities.
Infants and toddlers may become anxious or apprehensive when they meet new people, toddlers may be afraid of the dark, and as their imagination grows, they may develop fears of imaginary things such as monsters in their closet.
Many children develop anxiety when they are exposed to new things or change to routine or environment, that bring a sense of uncertainty. For some, this might happen the first time they take a school bus, or during their first day at school, for others it may happen during their first trip to the dentist, their first time getting in a pool or lake, or perhaps even the first time that they see a barking dog.
Types of Anxiety in Children:
Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)
Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry.
Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomach-aches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed.
What Causing Anxiety in Kids?
Common triggers. Kids will respond differently to various triggers and events. You are the person who knows the best your child, and your gut feeling will tell you if something is out of ordinary happening with your child. To that end, it’s important to understand your child’s baseline. Most kids experience some anxiety at times.
Anxiety becomes problematic when it interferes with a child’s daily functioning.
If anxiety makes it difficult for your child to get to school each day, focus, socialize and function within the family, it might be an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety often has a genetic component, but it can also be triggered by a number of factors.
The combination of factors which result in an individual developing an anxiety disorder differ from person to person.
However, there are some major factors that have been identified, which may be common to sufferers. These factors can be effectively divided into biological and psychological causes.
Biological Factors are genetic factor that has been linked to the development of anxiety disorders. For example, in obsessive-compulsive disorder, about 20% of first-degree relatives have also suffered from the condition.
Overall, based on family studies, it has been suggested that individuals may inherit a vulnerability to developing an anxiety disorder. Having this genetic vulnerability does not imply that those individuals will develop an anxiety disorder.
Psychological Factors - A great deal depends on the lifestyle of that person, the types of life stressors they have encountered and their early learning.
For example, if we were taught to fear certain neutral situations as a child it can become difficult to extinguish these learned patterns of behaviour, like being afraid of dogs, or being afraid of unknown people.
Therefore, we may have developed certain patterns of thinking and behaving which contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder.
Genetics: Just like your child can inherit your eyes or your complexion, anxiety can also be transmitted from parent to child.
Academic/achievement pressure: Sometimes pressure is self-prescribed; sometimes kids feel pressured by the adults in their lives.
Learned anxiety: Children can learn anxious responses from the people in their homes. A perfectionist parent, for example, might unintentionally send the message that everything needs to be perfect.
Bullying/social issues: Kids who experience chronic bullying can develop symptoms of anxiety. This includes cyberbullying, which is reaching younger and younger children.
Kids who struggle with social anxiety can be triggered by large and unfamiliar social situations.
Transitions: New homes, new schools and even new teachers can trigger an anxious child.
Loss: Divorce, death of a loved one or death of a pet can result in symptoms of anxiety.
Violence or abuse: Kids who experience child abuse or witness domestic violence or other acts of violence in the home can experience anxiety disorders.
Why is your Child Anxious and Other Not
Those different factors and triggers that I just mentioned and that your child might be exposed and other child was not can be a reason that your child has anxiety and other child do not.
So, depending on genetics, parenting styles, whether or not your child has experienced a negative or traumatic life event, the environment at home or school, and your child’s specific learning experiences.
Children born to parents who have anxiety disorders or mental health concerns have a higher risk of developing anxiety issues themselves. They may also learn how to respond in an anxious way if their parents or caregiver shows anxiety.
On top of this, children can also develop anxiety in response to high stress, or situations that they interpret as being stressful; this can be common among older kids who are faced with complex school schedules, tests and lots of extracurricular activities.
How to Help Kids Cope
When children experience symptoms of anxiety that interfere with their daily life (symptoms occur more often than not during at least a two-week period), it’s important to seek professional help from your main health care provider, GP, paediatrician, or naturopath.
There are also strategies that can be implemented at home and in school to help children manage and cope with their anxious thought patterns.
If you need a support with your anxious child, get in touch for free chat.