Anxiety is not an abnormal behavior. It is the body's normal response to stress and usually manifest in different ways. Individuals have different stress tolerance levels and children usually tend to have less ability in coping with stress. Children may respond differently to various conditions and one child may tend to worry more than the others under a similar condition. Anxiety in children is usually temporary and harmless
One out of eight children, however, may be prone to anxiety attacks. While this may be a normal reaction to certain situations, when anxiety becomes frequent, inappropriate under certain conditions and left untreated, it can develop into a more serious form of depression and other psychological disorders like eating disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Once anxiety begins to affect your child's emotional state, interfere with their development, and affect their performance at school and their ability to interact socially with others, parents should immediately get help.
The symptoms of anxiety in children
Anxiety is a normal reaction of the body to unpleasant conditions and may manifest the symptoms of shortness of breath or breathing abnormally fast, feeling sick, abdominal upset, feeling shaky, faintness and dizziness. Some will experience tensed muscles and palpitations. These are normal body reactions to warn us about a possible danger and allow us to respond more promptly.
Anxiety as an abnormal behavior may manifest symptoms that are can affect the child's perception, behavior and thoughts. It can produce the following symptoms:
- Loss of self confidence to accomplish tasks
- Feeling panicky most of the time
- Overly ashamed and easily embarrassed
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Manifests angry outbursts
- Difficulty in controlling emotions
- Sleeping or eating problems
- Unnecessary worries
- Overly sensitive and preoccupied with negative thoughts
Parents should learn where to draw the line between a normal and abnormal anxiety response. Anxiety is a common mental health condition affecting both children and adults alike. Diagnosing it in children is often difficult as parents usually take their abnormal behavior as normally occurring among children during tantrums and a separation anxiety situation.
Various forms of anxiety in children
Anxiety in children takes different forms. Among the common forms of anxiety disorder in the younger population are the following:
Children tend to manifest the symptoms of anxiety under specific conditions or things. Their level of fear is higher than any normal person will respond under the given situation. Common phobias in children that can result in anxiety include the fear of heights, flying in an airplane or fear of specific animals or insects. The child shows extraordinary fear under ordinary circumstances.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
In this form of anxiety disorder, the child compensates his anxiety in the form of obsessive compulsion in preoccupying thoughts on specific activities or doing repetitive actions in order to relieve their anxiety.
- Social anxiety
The child experiences anxiety attacks when triggered by social situations. The child is likely to be overly ashamed of talking in public and for being around with people.
- Panic attacks
A panic attack usually occurs with no reason at all. The symptoms of anxiety manifest suddenly and the most common of which are palpitation, dizziness, shortness of breath and numbness.
- Generalized anxiety
The child is overly concerned and anxious about anything, like school, safety, health and worrying for family members. Alongside their worrying are physical symptoms like a stomach upset, tiredness, muscle tension and headaches. Being confronted with a stressful condition subject the child to emotional state and uncontrolled inappropriate behavior.
How to recognize anxiety in children
Parents and the child's caregivers are the best persons to recognize anxiety in children. Most of the time, the condition goes unnoticed because the child may have the inability to express their feelings with the lack of language skills to communicate. Other manifestations of child anxiety can also be similar to a child's tantrum that parents usually find to be normal.
To recognize anxiety in children, parents should observe the behavioral changes, as well as the physical symptoms they manifest. A child with unresolved anxiety issue may become ill and can affect their appetite and sleep and may manifest physical signs like trembling or shaking and shortness of breath.
Treatment for anxiety in children
A mental health professional can help your child overcome their anxiety attack. Most treatment approach is dependent upon the symptoms and the coping ability of the child. A talk therapy is usually indicated to help children confront their fears and learn the proper way of expressing their feelings. Also called as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), the treatment approach is one of directing the child to learn how to cope with stress and their anxiety. Relaxation techniques are taught together with breathing exercises.
Medication is rarely prescribed in children with anxiety unless their condition demands pharmaceutical intervention. Drug treatment for anxiety in children is often used as a conjunction treatment with CBT. Antidepressant drugs are prescribed and may be given either as a long or short term treatment. The FDA warned, however, that long term treatment using antidepressant drugs can increase suicidal tendencies. This is the reason why doctors shun from prescribing drugs unless necessary.
It is also necessary for parents to build a supportive environment for their children to help them learn how to cope and overcome their anxiety. Taking care of your child without a judgmental behavior is very helpful. Reinforce positive attitude, beliefs and behavior in your child to improve their coping abilities.