There are actually some more subtle signs associated with anxiety that may go unnoticed, especially in children and adolescents, in whom it may be difficult to know what to look for. Irritability, anger, shyness, behavior problems, stomach upset, and sleep disturbance are just a few of the ways that anxiety may show up.
For children and adolescents who are experiencing anxiety, it can be disrupting to their family life, self-esteem, school engagement and performance, and social interactions with peers. One of the first things that can be useful to understand for anyone experiencing anxiety, is how the body and brain are operating when anxiety is present. As a shortened explanation, the body and brain perceive the stressor as a life or death threat and release the chemicals necessary to survive in the situation, chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol prepare our bodies to fight or flee a situation that can be harmful. However, sometimes we do not need quite as drastic a response when a stressor arises. A more thorough explanation can be found in the book, The Whole-Brain Child, by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson.
There are practical everyday practices that can be useful in managing anxiety, and teaching the body and brain that such a drastic response is not always needed under stressful circumstances. Some of the most common practices include breathing and relaxation techniques, especially at the start and end of the day, or going into a stressful scenario. Parents can approach a child’s anxiety with validation and concern to address their children’s physiological response to a stressor. Identifying how your child’s anxiety is manifesting in the body and then guiding them to use calming strategies that they can count on to regulate their system can be beneficial.
Sometimes there are deeper roots to our anxiety that need to be addressed. There are research-proven methods to help those suffering from anxiety that actually rewire the brain to respond in a more adaptive way. Anxiety counseling is needed in these cases, and the earlier in life the anxiety is treated, the better the outcome. Children of all ages can begin to experience anxiety for a variety of reasons. Having the tools to overcome anxiety can make all the difference for a developing mind and body. If you think your child or adolescent may be struggling with anxiety, or if you have questions about if treatment would be helpful, reaching out to a therapist who can help sort out the problem is a great next step.
If you feel your child is struggling with anxiety, please contact Regina Collins. You can reach her by email at Regina@pathways2wellness.com or by calling 714-432-9857 ext. 8.