Child and Adolescent Anxiety
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear or unease. It is a natural and normal response. It informs us when there is a threat or danger and prepares the body for fight, flight or to freeze. All of us experience anxiety at different moments and at times it can be helpful, informing us about a possible danger, or enhancing our ability to perform. Anxiety can become a problem when it disrupts the ability to function in everyday tasks, relationships and social or community events. Anxiety is the number one most prevalent mental health concern in children and adolescents.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety
- Panic Disorder
- Social Anxiety
- Specific Phobia
- Separation Anxiety
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What Causes Anxiety Disorders
There can be many reasons why an anxiety disorder develops. Some of these reasons include; biology, heredity, medical conditions, family upbringing, conditioning, parenting style, life stressors, a traumatic event, personal belief systems, how you talk to yourself and how you express emotions.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety in Children and Adolescents
Children and adolescents often lack the skills or awareness to say to their parents they are experiencing anxiety. Therefore they will express their anxiety through many different symptoms as an attempt to communicate, with behavioural symptoms being the most common and easiest to identify.
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or dizziness
- "Butterflies" in the stomach
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating at school
- Easily distracted
- Obsessive or reoccurring thoughts
- Sense of impending doom
- Depressive symptoms such as hopelessness, lethargy and poor appetite
- Bed wetting
- School refusal
- Decline in grades at school
- Social isolation
- Avoidance behaviours (avoiding specific places, avoiding specific foods or social situations)
- Reassurance seeking (through excessive questions or need for hugs/close physical proximity with caregiver)
- Excessive worry or fear
- Irritability or anger
- Overwhelming sense of dread
- Become upset if there is an unexpected change in routine
- Feelings of panic
Therapeutic Approaches for Child and Adolescent Anxiety
Effective approaches to working with anxiety disorders are; Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness practice, and Exposure Therapy. Other important skills based interventions include; assertiveness training, problem-solving skills, relaxation techniques, stress management and social skills training. Group therapy has been found to be effective with children and adolescents.
A Psychotherapist or Counsellor can provide a safe place for your child or adolescent to help them identify their fears and concerns and work with them to replace irrational or negative beliefs. This may also include involving the parents when necessary to work with the child in the family context in order to create sustainable, positive change.
If your child or adolescent is experiencing anxiety one way to seek support is through a Psychologist or Counsellor. If you would like support for your child contact Diane McGeachy.
Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist
Accredited Gestalt Psychotherapist
Hobart Counselling Centre
181 Elizabeth Street
Hobart TAS 7000