Childhood anxiety is one of the many different emotional states that can be experienced as a child. Anxiety has a purpose; while it might be uncomfortable at times, it can also be functional. It can function as an internal clock to keep you focused on a required task that you might not want to do, so that it can be quite the motivator for those prone to procrastination. However, anxiety can also be debilitating and cause extreme limitations to enjoyable activities. Children are prone to worry because of the lack of control they generally have, but some kids will outgrow certain ones. However, what happens when they don’t or when it seems to get increasingly worst?
Childhood Anxiety & Genetics
I have very little anxiety, and most individuals in my family seem to operate the same way. We typically go with the flow and do not worry much about things. As a child, I can’t recall many intense fears of anything, except for heights, but that is its extent. When I became a mom, I didn’t think about the possibilities of what my children would have a genetic predisposition to anxiety, but I was wrong and did not factor in the other 50%. Children with anxiety often have a genetic predisposition to anxiety. The environment can also increase the probability of developing anxiety, especially if a parent models that anxious behavior.
Types of Common Childhood Anxiety
There are steps you can take to help children manage anxiety. An essential first step is to recognize the most common types of anxiety in children. Wendy Silverman, Ph.D. director of the Yale Medicine Child Study Center’s Anxiety & Mood Disorders Program, states that substantial research links untreated child Anxiety as the most common mental health problem in children and adults.
Early development separation anxiety serves as a form of protection because younger children cannot communicate what is happening, and adults can’t fully explain what is happening. Being left with someone at daycare or preschool is an experience that must repeatedly occur for that child to understand. A Child that has been in the routine of being dropped off consistently but is still having a hard time adjusting might be worth the time to seek additional support with a child’s therapist as a precaution to make sure that everything is okay. Excessive worrying or a child that cannot be left alone in another room can be a sign of separation anxiety.
When a child’s worries start to follow them in other environments and situations, it might be generalized. Anxiety is not just psychological, but it is also physiological.
“Some children have physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches, literally making themselves sick from worrying.”
This type of childhood anxiety may not be as prominent in younger children because it is unlikely that a child would have to stand in front of a crowd where they would feel judged, and younger children also lack social awareness that tends to develop later. Social anxiety disorder is characterized by intense fears or worries about being judged by others. Children with social anxiety disorder agonize how others perceive them.
Therapies for Anxiety Disorder
When it comes to managing childhood anxiety, it is best to educate yourself on your current situation’s most effective treatment options. Behavioral therapy and/or medication are the two most common options. Take your child to a licensed professional who can properly diagnose your child so that you can see what treatment option will work best for your family. The psychologist or therapist will take a complete history and diagnose the child with the proper anxiety disorder if present.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by changing the way an individual perceives the information. If you can change how you see it, you can change the emotions and physical responses. A principle used within CBT is exposure, a technique with gradual exposure to anxiety-provoking situations within a controlled environment until the negative association and response decreases.
Medication: Deciding to put your child on medication for the treatment of their childhood anxiety is an important decision. Talking to a child’s psychiatrist about the best medicine available that will work best with your child’s biology. Medication tends to alleviate symptoms the quickest.
About The Author
Beatrice (Bea) Moise, M.S., BCCS., is a Board-Certified Cognitive Specialist, Parenting Coach, Writer, and National Speaker. She is the creator of A Child Like Mine, LLC, a company created for educating parents of children with unique behavioral and learning needs while giving them the tools they need to be successful at home. She is a respected and trusted parenting coach and consultant in Charlotte, NC, and surrounding areas. Helping parents of children with Autism, ADHD and other behavioral challenges.
Bea is frequently featured on WCNC Charlotte Parenting Today, and has been featured on People of Charlotte, Peace & Parenting, Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting & Ballantyne Magazine providing tips for parents. She has written for PBS-Kids, AAPC-Publishing, PsychCentral, Charlotte Parent Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, Carolina Parent, and Scoop Charlotte.
Bea has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology; also, she also holds a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling with a specialty of Applied Behavior Analysis. Bea and her husband have two children, Jacob, who is awesomely autistic, and Abby, who is simply marvelous!