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
For more information about anxiety treatment and to learn how Positive Development Psychology can help you, contact us to speak with a psychologist.