Thursday, November 05, 2020

Signs Of Anxiety In Children

It's very difficult for children to get through their developmental years unscathed. There are so many physical and mental issues that can affect the way they transition into adolescents and eventually adults. One of the most significant emotional/mental issues that negatively impact children is anxiety.

When anxiety issues start in children, they have usually occurred because of some form of trauma. As if the trauma itself wasn't bad enough for the child to experience, they then get left with residual issues related to both anxiety and depression. It's easy to understand why anxiety has such a profound effect on how children end up as adults if the anxiety goes untreated.

In the sections below, the focus of the discussion will center on what causes anxiety in children. From there, the discussion will shift towards the symptoms of anxiety in children and how treatment gives children a fighting chance as adults.

The Causes of Anxiety in Children
Places like the Child Anxiety Center in Cincinnati, deal with children who have significant anxiety issues. Most of them have experienced some type of trauma or loss that one would hope no child would ever have to experience. Unfortunately, life happens to children, and they are left having to play the hands with which they are dealt.

In case you didn't notice, we stated most children with anxiety issues have been exposed to trauma. In fact, there are other factors that can play a role in the development of anxiety issues in children. Let's get more specific.

Family Factors

In some cases, anxiety is a learned behavior. From a very young age, kids can get used to seeing family members, usually parents, exhibit behaviors brought on by the family member's own anxieties. If a child is exposed to those behaviors over time, they can adopt those same behaviors, believing those behaviors and the underlying anxieties are normal.

As an example, some people develop compulsions out of anxiety. If a parent washes their hands every 10 minutes, the child might end up following suit. In the process, they develop the same anxieties that led their parents to their compulsive behaviors.

Biological Factors
Chemical imbalances in the brain is an inheritable trait. If a parent's chemical imbalances cause problems with the way their brain's neurotransmitters function, it can lead to anxiety and depression issues. Specifically, serotonin and dopamine deficiencies are known to create all kinds of physical and mental health issues like anxiety.

Environmental Factors

This is the area where the aforementioned traumas come into play. A perfectly normal child might get exposed to some form of trauma that takes away their sense of security. When that happens, children tend to become anxious about any number of different things. Here are a few things that can traumatize a child and result in high levels of anxiety:

  • The death of a close family member
  • Physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Personal experience with a natural disaster (fire, flood, tornado, etc.)
  • Divorce between parents
  • Getting lost in public
  • Witnessing a murder or injury accident

Clearly, any of these things could adversely affect a child's perception of their own sense of security. That's the way most children fall victim to anxiety disorders.

The Symptoms Of Anxiety In Children

Children actually benefit from the fact they have less control over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When a child is suffering from some type of anxiety disorder, it becomes apparent very quickly. It's the parent's job to know their children well enough to notice when something changes. Early detection of a child's anxiety issues can be really helpful in the treatment process.

To help with early detection, here are some of the physical and behavioral signs of anxiety in children.

Physical Signs:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Talking too fast
  • Chronic body aches (especially stomach and headaches)

Behavioral Signs:

  • Inability to focus on specific tasks at home or school
  • Crying and temper tantrums
  • Agitated behavior
  • Inability to sit still
  • Sleeping and eating difficulties
  • Constant worrying about irrational things
  • Irrational fears
  • Reluctance or refusal to go to school
  • Difficulty getting along with other children
  • Lack of interest in outside activities like sports or playing on the playground

In some cases, a child's symptoms might seem rather severe. It's really a matter of time. The longer a child experiences anxiety, the more profound their symptoms can get.

Types Of Anxiety And Treatment Options

Much like adults, children can form any number of specific anxiety disorders. The most common anxiety disorders include:

  • Separation Anxiety: fear of not being in close proximity to a trusted family member
  • Phobias: heights, water, dogs, foods, clowns, closed spaces, etc.
  • Social Anxiety: fear of dealing with others in a social setting like school or the playground
  • General Anxiety: irrational fears about life and the welfare of family members and themselves
  • Panic Disorder: experiencing intense fear that brings on physical symptoms like breathing issues and elevated heart rate, crying

With adults, doctors and psychiatrists have a lot of ways they can offer treatment for an anxiety disorder. Most prominent among those options is a leaning towards medications.

With children, medicinal intervention is not always the best treatment option. Children are susceptible to medications that can cause physical problems and other mental issues, including addiction. In the worst cases, prescription medications are almost always a part of the treatment program. Just the same, a lot of doctors prefer steering kids away from drugs. That leaves behavioral modification techniques.

The process really needs to start with the child seeing a healthcare provider. When necessary, the doctor will recommend treatment from a psychologist/psychiatrist. The goal is to figure out the source of the child's anxiety. The identification of root causes sets the table for creating a treatment plan.

Many top therapists like to use a Cognitive Behavioral approach to treatment. By helping children to understand how their irrational thoughts are prompting inappropriate behaviors, it empowers the children to change their behaviors.

For parents, there are some things they can do to help their children cope with anxiety. First, parents can help by addressing their own issues, especially if those issues are having a negative impact on their children. Beyond that, they can help their kids by promoting a healthy lifestyle (sleeping, eating, exercise) while showing a willingness to actively participate in alleviating the issues that are causing anxiety.

With the proper treatment, a majority of children diagnosed with an anxiety disorder have a good chance of eliminating their anxiety within months. That's very good news for all concerned parties.  If your child is exhibiting some of the symptoms of anxiety, you, as a parent, should not hesitate. You need to get your child help as soon as possible at a facility such as the Child Anxiety Center.

This is a guest blog entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome.