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By Dhanashree Padhye

MA (Psychology)

06 October 2022
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Childhood Anxiety Treatment
Table of Contents

What makes children anxious?

Different things can make children anxious at different ages. Most of the things they worry about are standard parts while growing up. Children of around six months to 3 years will have separation anxiety. These children become very clingy and cry when separated from their parents or caregivers. It is considered a normal stage in a child's development and will stop at around 2 to 3 years old.

Preschool-age children will develop specific fears and phobias. They include animals, insects, storms, heights, water, blood, and dread of the dark. These fears will gradually decrease with time on their own.

There is a risk of Anxiety problems, as parental rejection is inferred to put children at heightened risk of developing Anxiety problems. When there is Parental control, it involves extra control of the child's daily routine and other activities. It encourages the child's dependence on parents and instructions about right and wrong. 
  
One model assumes that parenting is particularly significant, suggesting that parents are the primary socializing agent in early childhood. These early experiences with limited control will contribute to the development of Anxiety symptoms. (Weems, C. F., & Costa, N. M)

Signs and Symptoms

Anxiety disorders in children have been divided into various types, including generalized, separation, social, and specific phobias. (Rapee, R.M., 2015)

Even if other conditions may be evident in different ways, there are some common symptoms:

· Avoiding certain activities, situations, and people
· Constantly worrying about what can go wrong in any situation
· Fears or worries which interfere with their daily routine activities.
· Constant distress regardless of support given by an adult
· Trouble falling asleep at night or need to sleep with parents
· Headaches or stomach pain and other physical symptoms

How to Address a Kid's Anxiety?

While addressing the child's Anxiety, the first step is to acknowledge the child's condition, which can help you learn more about his problem.
According to Gilboa, "whatever struggles our kids face; we want them to develop positive coping strategies." If parents can name the problem, it becomes easier for them to help their child.

When to visit the doctor?

Parents should look for these symptoms:

  • Bedwetting
  • Mood swings, aggressiveness, crying frequently, increased clinginess, throwing temper tantrums
  • Trouble/complaints about headache, stomach pain
  • Consistently having negative thought patterns and worrying about small things
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Fear of the dark, being distant from home or interacting with other children of the same age.

It will be better to seek advice from a doctor if your child is showing the following symptoms. As some issues can't be dealt with at home and if Anxiety impacts the child's life, parents should visit a doctor or a therapist for these concerns.

What are the Treatment options? 

(CBT) is used for children with mild to moderate Anxiety symptoms. Experts recommend CBT and medication for severe Anxiety symptoms. Therapy may be helpful as it will teach different techniques to the children. It will be essential for them now and in the future. (Barrett, P.M., Dadds, M.R. and Rapee, R.M., 1996)

Talk Therapy 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and counseling are effective talk therapies for Anxiety in children. CBT helps children to understand how Anxiety works. If serious Anxiety issues are not treated on time, they may get worse as time passes. The child will sometimes avoid Anxiety symptoms, but eventually, they will understand that it will be only helpful in reducing Anxiety symptoms temporarily. The CBT therapist will teach the children to unlearn this "avoidant behavior." They will also help the child to identify the triggers and thoughts that cause fear and worry and help them to rationalize with the help of the Thought Record Sheet.

Exposure Therapy 

Exposure therapy is very different from traditional talk therapy used for childhood Anxiety. In this therapy, the patient and a therapist will explore the root causes of the Anxiety. Exposure therapy works best in changing the behavior to eliminate the fear. Exposure therapy is an acceptable form of therapy. It is used to treat different kinds of Anxieties, including separation anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and Social Anxiety.

Intensive Treatment

In intensive treatment, the therapist will take sessions that may last several hours, several days a week, for 3-6 weeks. Evidence suggests that if a timetable is made in advance, especially when parents are part of the treatment, the progress happens much faster. When intensive therapy is performed, you can briefly get a whole course of treatment and get the children in control of their lives. 

Medication 

Children who are struggling with Anxiety are commonly prescribed medication or therapy. Some children may benefit from treatment, but others will require both therapy and medications.

Antidepressant medications are common treatments for Anxiety. (SSRIs) is used to treat one of the options childhood Anxiety.

They work by increasing the chemical serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being and reduces Anxiety symptoms.

Doctors recommend benzodiazepines for a child with severe Anxiety. They may become addictive and must be prescribed on a short-term basis.

Takeaway

Parents must visit the doctor or a therapist if they show symptoms like changed appetite, mood swings, bedwetting, and other symptoms mentioned above. In severe cases, children with Anxiety may require psychological treatment and medications.

We can help our children at home by making them recognize the signs of Anxiety, including physical symptoms, by following regular routines whenever possible, and by practicing taking three deep, slow breaths together with the child. You can search for techniques like these to help your child deal with Anxiety.

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