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Wednesday, 14 February 2018 09:05

Anxious Children Featured

Anxious Children

Childhood anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health issues in young people and can often continue in some form into their adult life. There are many helpful psychological strategies they can learn at any age to help manage their anxiety so that it becomes less of an issue. 

A degree of anxiety can be a good thing in all of us by giving motivation to change and adapt to new requirements in the environment. However, if the level of anxiety is not appropriate to the situation or causes a person to avoid doing things that are in their best interest, it can become a problem.

The level of anxiety a child may feel, to some extent, is a reflection of their temperament, which is influenced by their genetics. We all lie on an anxiety spectrum with some of us prone to feeling more anxiety for a given situation than others.  The tendency to anxiety can also be influenced by childhood experiences and learning styles. The environment at home and school can also feed in to a child’s susceptibility to anxiety. For instance, a child brought up in an overly protective household may learn perceive the world as frightening through a parent’s attempt to protect them from all kinds of minor risk.

So, the development of anxiety in a child is complicated and often due to a range of influences unique to that child.

Anxiety in children manifests in many ways. It may be on display as a generalised anxiety over all issues in their life including worry about members of the family, school attendance, performance at school and often an endless search for approval and reassurance from parents.

Some children may have panic attacks in certain situations. Others may develop separation anxiety around school attendance, sleepovers and school camps. Some may show social anxiety with trying to talk to classmates or during presentations at school.

They may develop phobias of certain places or things or display obsessional thoughts or checking rituals and other compulsions. School refusal and sleep problems can be a sign of anxiety. Physical symptoms such as headaches and abdominal pains are a common display of anxiety.

How anxiety is managed in a child will depend upon their age, the intensity of the anxiety and its influence on their life. Avoiding things because of anxiety is an especially concerning feature as it reinforces the emotions and behaviour.

Psychological techniques, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), are the most useful methods to manage anxiety in all ages. Occasionally medications are required but very rarely in children.

Your GP is a useful first resource to help your child.  Apart from a full assessment they can formulate a plan to help your child and arrange for appropriate help to be provided. At Busselton Medical Practice, all of our experienced doctors are confident to deal with this problem. It is one of the more common childhood issues we see.

There are many excellent on line resources that can help both you and your child understand their anxiety. A good starting point is at:

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/mental-health-matters/mental-health-difficulties/anxiety

In addition to this there are online counselling resources for milder cases such as The Brave Program:

https://brave4you.psy.uq.edu.au/child-program