anxious kids & teens

1 in 14:  4 - 17 years old experience anxiety

1 in 14:  4 - 17 years old experience anxiety

What if dad forgets to pick me up?  What if I don’t know the answers?   What if there are germs?  What if mum dies?  What if… What if… What if…?

If you have an anxious child or teenager, you know what it is like to be held hostage.  So does your child. And it is heartbreaking.  Kids and teens who worry too much are held captive by their fears.  They go to great lengths to avoid situations that frighten them and ask the same anxiety-ridden questions over and over and over again.  Yet, despite all the reassurance, despite all the logic, despite telling them to “Stop Worrying”, they get little relief.  Parents find themselves spending a lot of time reassuring, coaxing, accommodating, bribing, getting cross and doing whatever else they can think of to lessen their child’s distress.  But it doesn’t work.  The fears remain.  The torment continues. 

Anxiety is a normal part of life and most learn to cope with a range of normal worries.  In fact, having certain fears is perfectly normal.  A child who sees a scary movie and then has trouble falling asleep, can be reassured and comforted and this is normal. However, if a 12-year-old girl refuses to go to school because she fears something terrible will happen to her healthy mother, this may be evidence of something wrong. When children become anxious more easily, more often and more intensely than others, they may be experiencing an anxiety disorder.   

Anxiety disorders affect about one in eight people and there are different types of disorders.  Some more common problems include

Separation Anxiety - fear and distress at being away from the family or fear that something bad will happen to a loved one while they are separated.

Phobiaparticular objects, situations or events such as injections or spiders bring about intense fear and avoidance even though realistically the threat of harm is small.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - excessive and unrealistic worries about a broad range of possibilities and things

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - persistent unwanted thoughts, often about germs, with a ritual to get rid of the fearful thought, such as washing hands repeatedly.

What supports are available?   Psychology support for anxiety is extremely effective and beneficial and typically involves teaching  kids and teens to reduce  avoidance, use better coping  skills and  learning  how to replace  unhelpful thoughts with helpful self-talk. Medications can also be helpful, but only if the anxiety is severe.  With treatment and support, anxiety symptoms can be managed, so kids and teens can live a more worry-free life.

If your child or teen is having problems with anxiety or other concerns, please speak with your GP or Contact Us .  

article by Lydia Rigano