By Gary Thomas
As they grow up and get a taste of the ups and downs of life, children begin to worry about things. The older they get the more concerns they have, which, of course, is perfectly normal and shows that they are becoming more aware of the world around them. It’s just another important part of the maturing process.
But what if your child’s concern and worry seems far greater than you would expect? What if the simple act of attending school seems to cause panic in her? What if a short car journey seems to fill her with fear and make her feel sick? What if she seems depressed or extremely shy when there is no obvious reason for it?
Your child could be suffering from a Child Anxiety Disorder.
The word “anxiety” does not immediately force parents to be as concerned as they should be. After all, the word anxious simply means apprehensive, worried, or uncertain. Child Anxiety Disorder is much more than her simply being worried about something. It is a condition that is has an extremely negative impact on the key aspects of your child’s life. It is a deeply rooted mental condition that can have many symptoms and produce serious side-effects, and parents need to be sure that statements like, “She’s just a worrier”, are not glossing over a potentially very dangerous bigger issue.
We all have moments of anxiousness, moments where our bodies automatically react to something in a way that makes us feel uncertain, troubled, fearful, or nervous. As children we experienced anxiety when faced with a new challenge, or a new situation, or a trauma of some sort, but for some children this normal anxiousness has become something that their minds have somehow mistranslated. Maybe they weren’t able subconsciously to attach a logical reason to a moment of anxiousness and their brain linked the worrying feeling to the wrong cause. The next time the child faces a similar situation her brain immediately sends a message that says, “This is something bad”, and her body again reacts in a negative way. Nervousness, sweating, worrying, trembling, and a seemingly irrational fear of something that should not be anywhere near as troubling. The more anxious she feels the more her brain tells her body to react to it, and the mistranslating continues.
This cycle of anxiety continues, festering and growing until it begins to affect other aspects of her life. She might start to perform less adequately at school, she might refuse to leave the house, and her health may suffer greatly. It’s vital not to underestimate the heavy burden that an over-anxious mind can have on a child’s physical health. Thinking that your child will simply grow out of it could lead to her anxieties being carried into her adult life and having a hugely negative impact on her future.
It’s very important for parents to learn what the signs of child anxiety are and intervene as soon as possible to prevent a deterioration in a child’s health and overall well-being. Some signs of a child’s anxiety disorder:
- Unusually nervous or fretful
- Compulsive behavior like biting nails
- Excessive bad moods or anger issues
- Avoids social situations
- Trouble concentrating
- Seems overly eager to please
- Headaches, stomach cramps, or other unexplained physical symptoms
- Problems with sleep
- Excessively self-critical
- Needs constant reassurance
- Self-harming behavior
- Academic performance issues
- Excessively tense and uptight
- Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
- Extremely fearful of failure
The importance of knowing what to look for, staying aware, and being able to act if needed has to be stressed. You have to break the cycle in order to stop the anxiety. If you think that your child may be suffering from an anxiety disorder then carefully and sensitively talk it through with her. If you are still concerned then seek professional help as soon as possible. Therapy methods have proved to be very effective indeed, and early intervention is highly recommended. Modern treatment works very well in most cases, so you and your child can get through the problem together and end the pain if you can break the cycle.
About the Author: Gary Thomas is a researcher and advice article author, but most importantly he is an always-learning father of five wonderful children aged four to seventeen.