Anxiety in Children and Adolescents

Research on the impact of stress, anxiety, depression and emotive response clearly in children and adolescents, shows that each and every individual responds differently to each and every situation they are subjected too. The impact of the particular situation is proportional to the knowledge they hold, previous experience with this specific issue or a very similar issue and the individual characteristics of the individual. Lets see how this all relates to Child and Adolescent Anxiety by looking at anxiety in children and adolescents, is my child anxious and recognizing the symptoms. We will then follow through on the impact of not getting treatment and do we seek assistance.

Anxiety in Children and Adolescents

Anxiety is a problem that can and does affect people across all ages from young infants, through children, teenagers, adolescents, adults of all ages and the elderly. The most common effects seen in children and adolescents is unfortunately  Anxiety, which, would appear to impact on 1 in 10 individuals. Left untreated the impact can interfere with the individuals life skills and personal development.

The more common types of anxiety found in these groups are;

  1. Separate Fears
  2. Social Fears
  3. Generalized Anxiety
  4. Obsessive Disorder
  5. Post Traumatic Stress
  6. Panic disorder and Agoraphobia
  7. Depression

Is My Child Anxious

Surprisingly anxious children are often seen as the model child who are very well behaved and create little or no fuss. Because they do little to stand out in the crowd, they are very often overlooked and the child and adolescent anxiety condition becomes un-noticed, it remains untreated and can in some, lead to full chronic depression and anxiety panic attacks in later life.

The first signs of child and adolescent anxiety is visible fear, in their actions, their attempt to avoid doing certain things or becoming very emotional at just the mention of certain activities. Should you notice any of these issues take time out to talk the matters through. The child or adolescent who is suffering from anxiety will usually be prepared to talk through the issue from their perspective, giving vent to their fear or concern.

Armed with this information it is easy for the parent to take intervention and to either stop the activity or to build knowledge and understanding in the child or adolescent who is suffering from anxiety to help overcome the initial concern. We are all familiar with the reactions of a child standing at the pool edge trying to build the courage to take the big plunge and to dive into the water.

We can add all the encouragement we like, but they themselves must take up that final decision. It’s this loads of encouragement and your taking the time to actually watch them, that is usually all they need. They gain their strength from past experiences, where they have had imprinted into their minds, that we would never let them do anything dangerous. That and someone standing in the water or a little pear pressure usually gets the desired result.

So look for the signs and step up to the mark. Do not force issues that make them uncomfortable. If there is some fear, start building their knowledge about the issue and create a comfort zone for there change of belief. As an example lets look at starting school. Children and adolescents get very concerned at beginning school or moving to high school.

What can we do? we can drive past the school as often as possible, point out their classroom to be if possible go and see the room and have the child look around, point out the play equipment and retell of your experiences on such equipment and all the fun you had etc. All of this repartition imprints into the child and adolescents view of the school and forms a safety device. Dad or Mum have been here, my brothers been here they had a good time so I’ll have a good time.

Recognizing The Symptoms

Given that children and adolescents suffering from anxiety can be difficult to identify the following list of points is a good starting point for any parent with concerns.

An Anxious child or adolescent may;

  • Get upset when a mistake is made or if there is some change to the normal routine they have been following over the past months. Issue such as substitute teacher, unexpected visitors or trip to an unfamiliar place are common trigger points for those with anxiety issues.
  • Being exceptionally well behaved at school, while with out with others that may be up to no good or asking to do thing for you to gain attention or praise are very common signs. This issue may become clouded with the child being an angel at home which might be a reflection of the fear they hold within.
  • The individual has a tendency to ask a lot of unnecessary questions or seek constant reassurance. This is a very common trait in newly separated families following a divorce.
  • Become a loner or restrict themselves to a very small group of people whom they will have contact with or in some cases the advent of imaginary friends not previously spoken about.
  • Develop fake illnesses when they have to perform some activity at school or in a sport that is outside of normal routine. They may even go as far as to absent themselves from the activity without your knowledge.
  • Become clingy with a parent or loved one in situations outside the home.
  • Have difficulty being away from parents. This is particularly visible with pre school children.
  • Express concern about bad things happening or imagining spiders and insects in their room etc when nothing is there.
  • May become stress and anxious if a particular friend is not present at school.
  • Tend to ask question with the premise of “What if”
  • Develop tendencies towards being perfectionists. Spending excessive time to ensure everything is perfect, everything absolutely right.
  • Have limited or poor levels of social skills with a high tendency not to participate in social activities outside of their own family.
  • May have developed poor sleeping habits either taking a long time to get to sleep, waking during the night and requiring parent participation in getting back to sleep or seeking to sleep with a or both parents.
  • Become argumentative particularly in relation to feared activities.
  • Hold a pessimistic attitude identifying what can go wrong with any activity.

The difficulty facing parents is working out if their child has higher anxiety issues that are more restrictive than normal for that age of the child or adolescent. Coupled with this is the fact that young people are not usually aware of their fears as being excessive or may have difficulty in describing what their concerns or worries are.

The only advice that can be provided here is for the parents to watch for the above issues and where they appear, take some time to discuss the child’s actions with the child to confirm any issue. Once you know about a problem it is so much easier to deal with.  One point of caution, do not push an issue  with a child or adolescent. Ask questions at the time, but be prepared to back away, then ask again at a different time when the child or adolescent is more relaxed and in a comfort zone.

If They Do not Get Help, What Happens?

In all reality there is a very high probability that nothing will happen. Anxiety in a lot of children and adolescents just disappears as they grow older and experience more life events. Positive events, seeing that the event did not produce the feared outcome, being able to talk issues through with parents and friends, helps them overcome there difficulties.

However there are some children and adolescents who will continue to have anxiety issues that will limit there ability to move forward in life. The impact of the disorder is to make them want to blend in, not wanting to be notice. This limits there opportunities right throughout their lifetime. It is often reflected in them, having limited numbers of friends, having limited social activities and tending to be what is termed “Home Bodies”. In a very limited number the anxiety can lead to depression.

Do We Need To Seek Help?

If following reading this article and reviewing your child’s “Behavior Patten” against at least five others of the same age  you believe they may have difficulties there are several options.

  1. These are,
  2. Talk to the schools counselor
  3. Discuss your concerns with your GP and or Pediatrician (it could be a food related issue)
    Talk to your local health center
  4. Seek professional advice from available resources in your area.

Above all take any of the following statement very seriously, but try not to show excessive concern.

  1. I want to commit suicide
  2. I wish I was dead
  3. Life’s not worth living

They are key warning signs of discontent  and given the high rates of adolescent suicide are likely to be the only warning sign of possible future action. They all express deep depression as a feeling, they reflect low self-worth in the individual mind. Don’t go over the top sending them off to an immediate psychiatry session straight away. But do watch more closely, their actions and their speech, try to engage them in conversation, try to talk through any issues they raise no matter how small they appear to you and above all try to bring some fun activities into there life style.

Child and adolescent anxiety is a real concern and needs to be of concern to all parents as well. Watch for symptoms and signs at all time and spend time with them. With adolescents, if you think they are troubled about something don’t accept its all right to your approach, try again and a again. Let them see your concern and willingness to sit and talk it through.

With children take the time to build a relationship that will stand the test of time. Take interest in what they do. This point is of particular importance to fathers who tend to be the authoritarian and a little unapproachable.

The Junior Version was developed for young people aged 8 to 15 to use alone. Children under 8 also use the program under adult supervision. The Junior Version contains everything the adult version contains plus some extra material and CDs for children to use alone. Simply choose the Junior Version option during the order process.

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