Parents need workable strategies to help their youngsters deal with anxiety. Your child’s pediatrician in Palm Harbor, FL, can help you on this front through management tips that will ease this all-too-common mental health disorder.
What Is Anxiety in Children?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), anxiety is a mental health disorder affecting approximately 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 in the United States. Children with persistent anxiety frequently feel very worried and uncertain. Their feelings may escalate to include physical symptoms of panic, including sweating, racing heartbeat and dizziness. Frequent anxiety can lead to disruption in school, lead to poor sleep, and lower their quality of life.
While many people have episodes of anxiety when life circumstances drastically change, anxiety can cross the line into a mental health problem if it is left undiagnosed and uncontrolled. Anxiety disorders found in children include:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an intense focus on unusual fears and repeated rituals to alleviate anxiety.
- Separation anxiety, in which children cannot easily leave their parents or caregivers.
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), or extreme worry about future events.
- Panic attacks, an offshoot physical symptom of other anxiety disorders.
- Social anxiety, or fear of situations involving interaction with other people.
- Phobias, extreme fear of places or objects, such as spiders or the dentist.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which past traumatic events are relived in flashbacks.
If you suspect your child may have anxiety, you should bring them to their pediatrician for an examination. Sometimes, mental health problems stem from underlying acute diseases or chronic conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid issues. If this is the case for your child, the underlying cause should be addressed.
After a discussion of symptoms and a full examination, the doctor may find that there is no underlying medical cause for your child’s anxiety. In such a situation, they may refer your child for a mental health assessment and treatment with a psychologist or child psychiatrist. Medication and therapies, such as cognitive behavior therapy, often combine to relieve the most difficult of anxiety symptoms. There are also many lifestyle habits and strategies you and your child can use to alleviate stress.
How To Deal With Anxiety at Home
Besides professional mental health treatment, your child can benefit from management strategies you can employ at home. Here are just a few.
Tip #1 Be affirming of your child’s worth, and recognize that their anxious feelings are real.
Dismissing your child’s anxiety can make them feel unheard. Try to find solutions to anxiety triggers. It is not a good idea to completely avoid triggers. Your child should learn to understand their triggers and mitigate their anxiety. It is important to continually express love and support for your child no matter the situation.
Tip #2 Be a good example for your child.
Children learn a lot from their parents. Do not complain constantly about the cranky neighbor next door, the prices at the grocery store, or how heavy your workload is at work. Model positive behavior and coping skills, and your child will follow your example. When dealing with stress yourself, tackle it in a healthy way, so your child can see you as a model to follow.
Tip #3 Help your child work through episodes of anxiety or panic.
Psychologists call this the habituation curve. Be positive, and tell your child that even if the situation is worrisome, they can get through it.
For instance, if the youngster is stressed out about an exam at school, recognize that the test is important, but that preparing and doing their best can produce a good result. Encourage the child that not achieving an A doesn’t make them less loved or important in your eyes.
Tip #4 Don’t be afraid to seek help.
A lot of parents have a misconception that seeking the help of a pediatrician or mental health expert will mean their child’s future prospects will be ruined due to a mental health diagnosis or that their child will need lifelong medication to have normalcy in their life. The truth is, mental health issues are largely misunderstood. There are a variety of treatments available for anxiety, and medication is rarely the first recommendation. In addition, anxiety is an extremely common condition, and when managed properly, it doesn’t impact a person’s ability to prosper in life.
As a parent, you want the best possible life for your child. If anxiety or another mental health issue is preventing them from living their best life, seeking professional help should be a no-brainer.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment For Children in Palm Harbor, Trinity, Westchase, and Lutz, FL
At Children’s Medical Center, our team of board-certified pediatricians and friendly staff assist young patients and parents in managing anxiety and other mental health disorders, such as depression and ADHD. If you are concerned about your child’s mental well-being, please contact one of our four locations for a consultation.