How to recognize and treat child’s anxiety disorder

What is child’s anxiety disorder?

Child’s anxiety is usually a normal phase all children go through. It is caused by exposure to some traumatic event or combination of increased vulnerability and some kind of stressor.

In its acute phase, anxiety is a normal human response to real danger, a survival mechanism which prepares our bodies for “fight-flight-freeze” action. It creates physical symptoms such as elevated heart rate, faster breathing, and tension of muscles, all with the purpose of enabling us to fight the danger or run from it.

Child’s anxiety  is diagnosed as a disorder when it appears and remains present without any exposure to real dangers.

How to recognize if my child suffers from child’s anxiety disorder?

Most parents usually don’t recognize anxiety in children immediately. As a result, children develop many other problems as they grow – depression, poor carriers, and problematic relationships, often abuse drugs, and generally experience a lower quality of life.

Symptoms of child’s anxiety disorder vary, however we can say it is manifested physically (tension, rapid heart rate, shaking and trembling, dizziness, sore tummy, sweating, or headaches), mentally (overwhelming fear, disturbing thoughts, excessive worrying) and behaviorally (avoidance of people, places, or activities). Children suffering from anxiety worry too much, even about insignificant things. They might ask strange questions unusual for their age (“What if my parents die?”, “What if I get lost and my parents never find me?”, “What if I am allergic to that cat/dog and I die?” etc). They tend to dwell upon past events or conversations without being able to move on. They are reluctant to separate from parents when they go to kindergarten or school and they burst into panicky screaming and crying. They refuse to eat anywhere else but inside their homes. They are afraid of being alone in their room. The are afraid of other children (“They will not like me.”), swimming (“I will drown.”), speaking in front of class (“They will laugh at me”). They experience nausea and upset stomachs before each school test. They will probably ask you to reassure them again and again that simple, everyday things will not go terribly wrong. EX: that you will pick them up from school, that bee won’t sting them, they will not die if they get the flu. This kind of children’s behavior leaves many parents confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed about what to do. Often, they will describe their children as “too sensitive” or “stubborn”, when, in fact, those children are suffering from child’s anxiety disorder and need to be properly treated in order to avoid developing more serious emotional and behavioral problems later in life.

How to treat child’s anxiety disorder?

If you suspect your child is suffering from anxiety, seek help from a child’s therapist. A trained professional will talk to your child and to you, evaluate the symptoms, diagnose, and create a treatment plan. Child’s anxiety disorders are mostly treated with cognitive-behavior therapy. Through this therapy, a therapist will guide your child to new ways of dealing with stressful situations that cause anxiety. The child will be encouraged to try new breathing techniques and relaxation techniques, and to create more positive self-image. Very few cases of child’s anxiety disorder need to be treated with prescribed medication.

What can I do to help my child overcome child’s anxiety disorder?

Supportive and involved parents are a key factor in successful treatment of child’s anxiety disorder. Be patient and non judgmental, understand that your child is having a difficult time dealing with fears. Avoid saying nonsupporting things like “you are just being silly” and make sure your child trusts you and feels safe with you. Try to reduce stressful situations like arguing or yelling as it increases anxiety in children. Establish healthy daily routine for your child. Set up times for meals, homework, playing, bedtime, or relaxing talk with your child. Well structured daily routines help children manage anxiety. Have realistic expectations of your child. Understand your child will have some difficulties doing things and don’t push her/him too hard, but also avoid giving excessive reassurance and encourage independence. Children need to learn how to cope with life even if they are fearful and prefer avoidance. The best approach is to consistently guide and support them so they can develop accomplishments, a sense of belonging, pride, and self-confidence.

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