If your child is constantly worrying, complaining of aches and pains that have no medical cause, having difficulty concentrating at school or acting out, refusing to go to certain activities with friends, or spending a lot of time in the sick bay at school, they may be suffering from serious anxiety. Anxiety in children can also manifest as behavioural problems such as aggression, self-harm or substance misuse, so it is important to seek help if you suspect your child is suffering from an anxiety disorder.
It is normal for children to be anxious at different times in their life, but if your child’s anxiety is severe or persistent it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders in children can be difficult to diagnose, as they can look very similar to other conditions. It is important to talk to your child’s GP or children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) for an assessment and recommendation for treatment.
When children are very young, they are naturally fearful of things that could harm them, such as fires and crossing the road. This is a useful function that helps keep kids safe, but it can become out of control when kids develop anxiety disorders. This happens when the brain’s “smoke detector” is set too high, and kids react strongly to everyday things that other people might not find threatening.
In some cases, anxiety can be caused by a medical problem such as low thyroid levels or a vitamin deficiency, so it is important to get a thorough evaluation by your child’s GP. Some anxiety symptoms, such as trouble concentrating, can also be a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Parents can unintentionally make their child’s anxiety worse by giving them mixed messages. For example, if your child is afraid of dogs and you laugh at their fears or tell them to be brave, they will take your words as a signal that they should be scared. It is important to take your child’s anxiety seriously and support them in their fearful times.
Providing your child with the tools they need to manage their anxiety is an important step toward getting them the treatment they need. For many children with anxiety, talking therapy is a great option. A therapist will work with your child to understand the root causes of their anxiety and teach them techniques to control it. They will use proven treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy with exposure and response prevention, which is a form of CBT that teaches kids to face their fears.
For some kids, medication may be necessary as part of their treatment plan. It is important to talk with your child’s GP and get a referral from a psychiatrist or paediatrician. This will ensure your child gets the best possible care, which may include a combination of therapies and medications. For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders in children, check out this website.