Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in both adults and children. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 18% of children and teens between the ages of 3 and 17 experience an anxiety disorder in a given year. Despite their prevalence, many adults are unaware of how to recognize and address childhood anxiety disorders, leaving a generation of young people struggling in silence.
Causes of Childhood Anxiety Disorders
It is not entirely understood why some children develop anxiety disorders while others do not, but certain risk factors can increase the chance of a child developing an anxiety disorder. These risk factors include a family history of anxiety, early life stressors (such as a traumatic event), biological factors like brain chemistry and hormones, as well as personality traits. It is important to note that anxiety due to these causes is not a sign of weakness or an inability to manage challenging situations, but rather an unfortunate consequence of particular genetic predispositions and environmental conditions.
Symptoms of Childhood Anxiety Disorders
Because children express themselves differently than adults, the symptoms of childhood anxiety disorders can sometimes be misinterpreted as “normal” behavior. Common symptoms of anxiety in children include: behavioural difficulties in school or at home, physical ailments such as headaches and stomachaches, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, persistent worrying, negative or prolonged moods, and difficulty concentrating or focusing.
Managing Childhood Anxiety Disorders
The good news is that there are a number of strategies that can be used to help manage childhood anxiety. The first step is to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional, who will be able to determine the best course of action. Various treatments are available to children who are suffering from anxiety disorders, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and medication when appropriate. Other strategies that can be employed include parent education, lifestyle changes, exercise and nutrition, and relaxation activities. With the right approach, children with anxiety disorders can go on to lead healthy and productive lives.