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  • Writer's pictureDonna Mirus

Anxiety in Children

Updated: Nov 1, 2019

Upwards of 20 % of children are affected by anxiety in their lifespan, making it one of the most common mental health concerns. But so many parents and caregivers may miss some of the early signs. Often anxious kids may be quiet and rule abiding and thus parents, teachers and coaches don't often see they may be experiencing anxiety. On the other hand some of the kids labelled "bad" or have outward displays of poor behavior may be deemed as "defiant" or in some cases become missed diagnosed with Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder known as ADHD. Both situations often lead to kids failing to receive the supports needed. If left untreated children and adolescents can begin experiencing depression, disrupted relationships, increased substance use and over all a decrease in their quality of life. Isn't anxiety good? Well in fact anxiety is part of our survival mode within our brain. It sends the body into motion into a fight, flight or freeze motion. Now if faced with a threat we do want this system fully functioning and our life may depend on it. In some cases worrying about a test persay may actually "motivate" the child to study, again sometimes helpful. But, what if there is no REAL threat? No tiger, no grizzly bear but instead a simple call to the pizza delivery man? or asking the teacher a question when your unsure? these are known as "false alarms", the key here is that the brain is wired to go into the fight,flight or freeze response regardless if it's an actual threat or a "perceived threat"!! That is when it becomes a problem for the person experiencing anxiety. So what does that look like for a child you ask? Well if their "worry" stops them from enjoying life then its likely beginning to be an Anxiety Disorder. Social Impairment: This may look like avoiding going to sleepovers, requesting it occur at your home instead. Or withdrawing from wanting to play previous enjoyed sports. They may withdraw from attending the high school parties and prefer to be at home. Some teens may also have trouble talking to adults in their life whether a teacher or a sales clerk. School Impairment: This may look like the youth refusing to go to school or suffering from physical ailments such as stomach and headaches prior to attending functions that their brain percieves as a "threat" (remembering false alarms). They may act out of character in anger towards a teacher/coach or shut down and perform poorly in class. Home Impairment: Children and adolescents may find it harder to fall asleep related to overthinking, they may argue or be quiter than usual in response to minor demands, they may also fear staying home alone, the dark or sleeping in their own bed. If you feel your child is struggling in any or all areas of their life, it is important to have a conversation with them and seek professional help if needed. There are more than 10 anxiety disorders that can be found in children and adolescents.

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