Thursday, April 11, 2024
HomeHealthBreaking the Cycle of Anxiety in Children

Breaking the Cycle of Anxiety in Children

Anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry, nervousness, or fear. It is normal for children to feel anxious or stressed at times, like when they start a new school, face problems with friends, or have an important test coming up. Nevertheless, some children experience severe, chronic anxiety that occurs for no clear reason, lasts for long periods of time, and interferes with their daily activities.  

When excessive anxiety persists and disrupts a child’s life, it becomes an anxiety disorder – a recognized mental health condition just as real and serious as physical illnesses. Anxiety disorders cause great distress and rob children of opportunities to develop socially, emotionally and academically. According to the good folk at Aspire Psychological though, with caring support from parents plus treatment from psychologists, or child behavioral therapists, children can overcome anxiety disorders.

Signs of Anxiety Disorders in Children

You may notice some of these common signs if your child has an anxiety disorder:

  • Avoiding school, social situations, new experiences.
  • Trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, stomachaches, headaches.
  • Constant worry about worst-case scenarios.
  • Crying, anger outbursts, throwing tantrums.
  • Muscle tension, restlessness, trouble concentrating.
  • Seeking constant reassurance about health, safety, school performance.

These anxiety symptoms are not just normal childhood fears. They are excessive, irrational, and ongoing. Left untreated, chronic anxiety takes a major toll on children’s health, relationships, and self-esteem. Fortunately, professional help in the early stages can prevent worsening symptoms and long-term damage.

Risk Factors for Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Certain factors raise a child’s risk of developing chronic anxiety issues:   

  • Genetics – Anxiety disorders often run in families. Having a close relative with severe anxiety or depression is a risk factor. 
  • Stress – Trauma, school bullying, family conflict, moving, chronic illness, and other adversities can trigger anxiety disorders in vulnerable children.
  • Personality – Shy, nervous temperaments make some children more prone to anxiety. 
  • Poor Coping Skills – Young children who lack good emotional regulation and coping strategies can develop anxiety later on. 
  • Health Issues – Chronic inflammation, gut issues, insomnia, and other medical conditions are often tied to anxiety. 
  • Environment – Chaotic, critical, and overprotective parenting can shape children’s worldviews to be anxiety-prone.

When Should a Child Get Treatment? 

Do not assume that an anxious child is just going through a phase if symptoms persist for months and keep them from normal activities with friends or at school. Severe, chronic anxiety signals it is time to seek professional treatment. Call your pediatrician and get a referral to a licensed child psychologist or behavioral therapist. The sooner anxiety treatment begins, the more positive the outcome.

Treatments That Can Help Relieve Anxiety

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a proven, effective treatment for reducing anxiety in children as young as pre-school age. CBT helps them identify and challenge the unrealistic worried thoughts and fears fueling their anxiety. 

Medications

For moderate or severe anxiety, doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or certain antidepressants, often alongside therapy. Medication can temporarily relieve symptoms, so the child feels well enough to get back to school, hobbies, friendships and a healthy routine while learning long-term CBT coping skills.

Creating a Peaceful, Supportive Home Environment

As parents, your own behavior sets the emotional tone your anxious child grows up with. Lower family stress and anxiety by: 

  • Actively listening without judgment when your child shares worries.
  • Offering comfort and reassurance. 
  • Having clear household rules and routines so the child feels safe.
  • Promoting healthy lifestyle habits – nutrition, exercise, sleep.
  • Being patient, praising small wins, and encouraging the child to face manageable fears.

Conclusion

Though anxiety disorders often run in families, CBT and early intervention can prevent symptoms from developing in younger generations. With persistence and the right help, children can overcome their anxiety struggles.

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