For Children, Adolescents, & Young Adults
With the right support, young people can learn skills, gain confidence, and discover that they are stronger than they think.
What is an anxiety disorder?
Feeling anxious from time to time is a natural human emotion. Anxiety is a normal response that can protect us from harm in dangerous situations, such as keeping us vigilant when crossing a busy road. It can motivate us and prepare us for difficult or stressful circumstances. For example, a certain level of anxiety can help one perform better in an athletic event or on an exam. Some childhood fears are also developmentally appropriate, such as being scared of the dark, or for teens, worrying about fitting in with their peers.
However, people with anxiety disorders can be overwhelmed with excessive fear that makes it hard to engage in everyday activities. They anticipate the worst and may have a “fight-or-flight” response even in non-threatening situations. Persistent anxiety can impact an individual’s quality of life and prevent the achievement of goals.
Anxiety presents in many ways, and here are some common signs of an anxiety disorder:
- Worrying or racing thoughts that make it hard to focus
- Physical complaints (such as a headache or stomach ache)
- Avoiding situations that cause distress
- Asking for constant reassurance
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Tantrums or disruptive behaviors
- Refusing to go to school (such as when anxious about being separated from a parent or about an anticipated social or performance situation)
When anxiety makes it hard for individuals to engage in everyday activities, it is likely they do not have the coping skills to manage in uncomfortable situations, which in today’s climate is a regular occurrence. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in children and adults. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect approximately 1 in 5 adults and approximately 1 in 4 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18.
Some common types of anxiety that Positive Development Psychology can address:
- Generalized Anxiety: Excessive worry across a variety of everyday activities, such as performing well in school or at work. This anxiety may be associated with difficulty concentrating, irritability, or sleep disturbance, among other symptoms.
- Phobias and Fears: Anxiety about a specific object or situation, such as a fear of heights, animals, vomiting, or going to the doctor.
- Social Anxiety (Social Phobia): Fear about being embarrassed, rejected, or judged in social situations. Individuals with social anxiety feel self-conscious and panicky during social activities, such as going to parties or public speaking, or they may try to avoid these activities altogether.
- Separation Anxiety: An excessive fear when separated or anticipating being separated from parents or caregivers. Children may worry about their parents being harmed or getting sick and may refuse to leave home or go to school. Anxiety can also be expressed throughout adulthood.
It can be life-changing for both a child and their family to address anxiety disorders early on, with the key being learning and using consistent strategies that yield long-term results. Anxiety disorders tend to persist, and if not appropriately addressed, rarely go away and fears can actually get worse over time.
Thankfully, with the support of an online psychologist, there are strategies – both thinking and behavioral – that can help minimize or manage anxiety. Anxiety treatments that have been shown to be effective include Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for anxiety used with children, adolescents and adults. It is based on the idea that changing negative patterns of thinking and reducing unhelpful or problematic behavior can help people feel better. CBT for anxiety often includes:
- Understanding anxiety and how it persists
- Challenging worrying thoughts and engaging in more helpful ways of thinking
- Problem solving
- Relaxation and mindfulness techniques
- Engaging in exposure, which entails practicing skills and gradually facing feared situations in a supportive environment until anxiety diminishes
- Developing an action plan to strengthen skills between sessions
Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) is a parent-based anxiety treatment program that helps children and adolescents with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Research shows that SPACE can help children and adolescents feel less anxious and function better. With the support of an online psychologist at Positive Development Psychology, parents can learn to:
- Support their anxious child
- Reduce their own participation in their child’s anxiety-driven behavior
- Reduce changes to family routines that have been made to lessen the child’s anxiety
- Utilize other tools to address their child or adolescent’s anxiety
How Therapy for Anxiety Works
Before anxiety treatment can begin, a thorough intake occurs for assessment and treatment planning purposes. This involves gathering detailed background information, identifying areas of strength, and exploring challenges that led you to seek therapy. For child and adolescent clients, parents or caregivers typically attend the first meeting alone. A second appointment will be set up where the therapist will meet the child or adolescent.
Information gathered during these initial meetings is used to collaboratively identify beginning therapy goals. Your therapist will work with you to provide an understanding of factors contributing to current concerns and how anxiety treatment will address these areas. Ongoing sessions incorporate evidence-based strategies from various treatment modalities depending on individual needs.
Child, adolescent, or young adult anxiety therapy commonly involves weekly 45-minute sessions. However, the frequency and duration of sessions can vary. Parent involvement may also vary depending on the child’s age and other factors. SPACE treatment, a parent-based intervention for child and adolescent anxiety, involves weekly sessions attended by the parents.
Our Expertise in Anxiety Treatment
Effective Strategies: Our practice utilizes anxiety treatments that are supported by research. Evidence-based treatments include Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Exposure Therapy, and Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions, among others.
Training & Experience: You will work with a licensed therapist who specializes in child, adolescent, and young adult anxiety. Through a combination of training, experience, and continuing education, your therapist is equipped to provide you with effective and up-to-date treatments.
Compassionate and Collaborative Approach: We understand that it can feel overwhelming to face anxiety. Great care is taken to provide an empathic and team-like atmosphere where you feel supported and empowered to manage anxiety and overcome challenges.
Supporting an Anxious Child or Teen
If you made it to our website, you have already taken an important step toward supporting your anxious child or adolescent. When it comes to childhood anxiety, many parents think that their child will just outgrow their anxiety-driven thoughts and behavior. While some worries may go away, others can persist or even get worse without treatment. In fact, even the most well-intentioned parents may inadvertently say or do things that can strengthen their child’s anxiety over time. It is important to consult with a child and adolescent anxiety specialist regarding the best approach to support your child.
- Pay attention to and validate your child’s feelings
- Try to stay calm when your child is anxious
- Express confidence in your child’s ability to cope
- Recognize progress and praise your child for facing challenges
- Model healthy ways of dealing with anxiety
- Seek support from a therapist for specific anxiety treatment strategies
How can I find a mental health provider who specializes in treating anxiety and what qualifications should I look for?
Finding a therapist that is a good fit to work with you is key. It is critical that you and/or your child feel comfortable with your clinician in order to build a trusting and collaborative therapeutic relationship. Before starting anxiety treatment, you should also inquire about the therapist’s experience, qualifications, and treatment methods. Your clinician should utilize psychotherapies, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, that are known to be highly effective at treating anxiety.
Asking the following questions during the initial consultation is a good place to start:
- Are you licensed? If yes, in what discipline?
- What is your professional training and experience?
- Do you utilize evidence-based anxiety treatments?
Can anxiety be cured in children and teens or is it something that they will have to manage throughout their lives?
Experiencing anxiety from time to time is a normal part of growing up, as well as a normal part of life. However, if anxiety starts to impact your child’s ability to be successful at school, home, or in social situations, there are effective anxiety treatments available. Rather than “curing” or completely eliminating anxiety, therapy provides strategies to cope with anxiety. Once empowered with the right tools, which should also be practiced outside of sessions, most children and adolescents experience a reduction in symptoms of anxiety. They will also likely be better equipped to apply strategies learned to other situations that trigger anxiety in the future.
Child psychology is a specialized field that focuses on the mental, social, and emotional development of children. Seeking...
Anxiety is a common issue that many children face, and it can have a serious impact on their daily lives. One effective...
Cognitive Behavior Therapy, also known as CBT, is the recommended treatment for children and adolescents with anxiety....
Beginning Anxiety Treatment
Anxiety does not have to hold you back. Therapy can provide the skills you or your child need to cope in anxiety-producing situations and participate in life fully. Get the support you deserve from a caring professional with expertise in anxiety treatment. Take the first step by scheduling your free phone consultation today.