Understanding Anxiety in Children

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Understanding Anxiety in Children

Both anxiety and stress are internalised emotions which we all experience due to difficult situations, which normally passes after the difficult situation has passed. However, on the other hand anxiety disorder is more serve and acute form of fear and distress about potential harm or misfortune.

There are different types of anxiety such as:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – a constant worry and feeling anxious over a long period. In most cases generalised anxiety disorder often is accompanied by other conditions, such as psychosomatic disorder (physical illness as a result of mental or emotional disposition) ,depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and substance abuse.

Social Anxiety Disorder – an intense fear of being criticised, embarrassed or humiliated, even in everyday situations, such as speaking publicly, eating in public, being assertive at work or making small talk.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterised by obsessive repetitive behavior or thought over a specific objects or image. OCD usually manifests in children or young adults and is associated with significant disability in many life areas. Many OCD patients report low self-esteem and have high rates of major depression during their lifetime. People with severe OCD may have serious impairments in social functioning and may be financially dependent on others

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Persons who experience life-threatening trauma (e.g., sexual abuse, combat, natural disasters) may be affected by recurrent intrusive thoughts and dreams of the traumatic event, abnormally increased alertness and anxiety, and emotional numbing as well as avoidance of situations that remind them of their trauma. These symptoms are the characteristic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a very common condition that tends to run a chronic course. It often is associated with other anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse. Patients may be irritable and angry, which can lead to difficulty in interpersonal relationships.

Panic disorder – uncontrollable feelings of anxiety combined with a range of physical symptoms. Someone having a panic attack may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and excessive perspiration. Sometimes, people experiencing a panic attack think they are having a heart attack or are about to die. If a person has recurrent panic attacks or persistently fears having one for more than a month, they’re said to have panic disorder.

Specific Phobias – Overwhelming fear about a particular object or situation and may go to great lengths to avoid it, for example, having an injection or fear of snakes.

What can I do to make a difference if my child has anxiety ?

Each type of anxiety is normally treated with different approaches, not all treatments are generically compatible to meet the needs of each individual, so Seek help if you or someone close to you may be suffering from anxiety disorder from a professional. Early intervention has proved to be more successful in treatment of anxiety. Therefore, reach out if the above mentioned descriptions have been displayed chronically over a long period (3-4 weeks). After sourcing out help, acknowledge progress is a process, be patient and when supporting some with anxiety remain calm especially in cases dealing with a child who has anxiety, keep in mind your role is one of support not authority. Any amount of progress is a step closer to wellbeing so celebrate little achievement. Remain constant in treatment and create a team of support when you feel vulnerable.

Holistic approaches such mediation, yoga and breathing techniques have also been proven successful in reducing anxiety. Hobbies ( soccer, netball, swimming, horse riding), exercising or even just going for a walk can also aid in reducing anxiety.

Fatima Abdullah
Primary School Counsellor
Sunmarke School

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