We have all been there: the anxious, worried feeling before a big change takes place or you have to speak in front of a large group of people. In children especially, it is a normal part of development and they often grow out of it with age. However, up to 1 in 5 children experience it more intensely than others, to the point where it impacts on the ability to go about their day and enjoy life. In this case, it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is not a single condition, but rather an umbrella term that is used for a group of related conditions; such as acute stress disorders, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorders. Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state and affects the emotions and behaviours of an individual; it can create feelings of fear, worry, concern and uneasiness.
In children, the three most common forms of anxiety include:
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – characterised by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for it. They expect the worst and have difficulty suppressing their worry. Often the fear and worry experienced is unrealistic or out of proportion to the situation, and are so severe that they cause them to avoid certain situations.
- Social anxiety – characterised by fear and worry when they have to interact with others. They feel as if others will criticize and judge their behaviour, have difficulty talking to others, are withdrawn, and avoid social situations.
- Separation anxiety – characterised by fear and worry about being apart from their parents. They may protest and thrown tantrums when being separated, worry about themselves or their parents being hurt in an accident, refuse to go to school or day care or complain of feeling sick when separated.
It is difficult to watch somebody that you love suffer with these challenges on their own, particularly when it’s your child. It can prevent them from living carefree and happy life, and prevent them from doing the best that they can in their education or work. You may have tried to support them, talk to them about their concerns or pushed them to try to do things even though they feel anxious about it – but often these will not work and can even worsen things.
If your child will not seek help on their own and you don’t know where to turn, the practitioners at VCPS are specialised to provide you with the support to overcome this. They can help you to better support your child, or work with your child directly in managing their anger. Some of the methods that may be used:
- Help you find ways to discuss the disorder with your child and encourage them to accept help for it
- Relaxation training
- Educating on the disorder of anxiety, common experiences of people who have it, and the methods that are most effective in reducing its effects
- Building an appropriate support system within and outside the family
- Identifying the underlying thoughts that are causing the anxiety in your child and altering these to a more positive outlook