Anxiety in children is the commonly experienced problem in psychotherapy. It is speculated that 12 to 20% of children suffer from anxiety disorder. Anxiety in children may be triggered by frustration, difficulties in school performances, repeated difficulties in social relationships and fear of being embarrassed and letting down in front of teachers, parents and peers. The early detection and treatment of anxiety in children can prevent future complication such as failure to reach academic and social potential, loss of friendships, feeling of low self esteem and clinical depression.
A first step to overcome anxiety in children is to recognize it. Anxious child may be quite, cautious, shy and withdrawn. They may be very eager to please adults. Anxious kid may act out with crying, tantrums, disobedience and avoidance. Parents may misunderstand and misinterpret the behavior as anxiety and rather describe it as attention seeking behavior, attitude or spoiled. It is important to be aware of several anxieties that can show up in the children.
Children with separation anxiety may experience excessive fear of being separated from parents, home or whomever the kid is attached to. The anticipation of separation in children can bring extreme stress. The child may refuse to go to school, become panicky, throw major tantrums and may be terrified of being apart from parents even for brief periods. Anxiety in children may lead to difficulty in sleep, nightmares, headaches, muscle discomfort and stomach aches.
Children with generalized anxiety experience unrealistic, excessive fear and worry about everyday things. The child often anticipates disaster. The stress and tension is chronic affecting multiple area of life. The anxious child may experience restlessness, edginess, unable to concentrate, irritated, fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty swallowing, unable to relax and frequent urination.
In severe cases children may develop phobia and extreme fear about specific situation and things. This anxiety in children causes avoidance of the activities, objects and situation all the time. It can cause dangerous internal distress such as heart palpitation, trembling, sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and fear of losing control. Children with social phobia fear embarrassment in social situation. They may have great difficulty reading aloud, answering questions in class, initiating conversation, attending social activities and talking with unfamiliar people.
One of the most concerning and extreme symptom of anxiety in children is panic attack. The attacks are recurring and unexpected. A child may experience a intense fear that something bad is going to happen when there is no real danger. Physical symptoms of panic attack include pounding heartbeat, nausea, and shortness of breath, chest pain, trembling, lightheadedness and fear of losing one’s mind.
Anxiety in children can be treated with early detection and intervention. Cognitive behavioral play therapy is the most effective treatment for anxiety in children. It engages the parents and the child in the process of managing anxious responses. Play therapist can lessen the negative effect and improve the child’s ability to cope and self regulate with their anxiety. Play based approaches to the anxiety treatment can give children sense of personal power and confidence.
Anxious child may not feel like talking however parents should let the child know that you are there for him, support and love him. Parents should encourage the child to share thoughts and emotions. A regular routine of bedtime, exercise and mealtime can help a lot. You should avoid over scheduling. An anxious child should be given a nutritious meal and proper sleep. Parents should limit their child’s exposure to upsetting stories and news. Regular fun sessions and playing games can help to boost mood. Most of all, anxiety in children should be treated with the proper advice and under the supervision of pediatrician or a child therapist.