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March 20, 2019
KIDS IN THE KITCHEN
March 20, 2019

KIDS & ANXIETY…

WORDS:  Manatee County School Social Workers and Psychologists

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S affecting nearly one third of both adolescents and adults. It routinely occurs along with depression, and is easy to overlook because everyone has some degree of anxiety.Anxiety, like depression, is treatable.

Diagnosis of Anxiety

According to statistics, approximately 3% of children ages 3-17 have anxiety. In 2017, statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, indicated that the number of youths ages 13-18 with anxiety had increased to 8%.   

Many children have fears and worries, and that is not unusual. However, when children do not outgrow these issues, or when there are so many fears and worries that they interfere with school, home, or play activities, the child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety.)
  • Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias.)
  • Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety.)
  • Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety.)
  • Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder.)

Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Symptoms of anxiety can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomach aches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves, and thus, the symptoms can be missed.

As parents, we don’t always know how our child feels, but we can look for behavioral and emotional clues. Anxiety is usually manifested in one of three ways: cognitive characteristics, behavioral characteristics, or physiological characteristics. Below are some signs to look out for that may indicate a child is feeling worried or anxious:

Being healthy is important for all children, and can be especially important for children with anxiety. In addition to getting the right treatment, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some ideas that may help:

  • Eating a healthy diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (for example, beans, peas, and lentils), lean protein sources, nuts and seeds.
  • Physical exercise for at least 60 minutes each day.
  • Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age.
  • Practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques.
  • Teach students techniques to reduce anxiety, such as use of self-monitoring techniques (what do I need to do first; how much time should I spend on this; how much time is left, don’t rush, use time wisely; using positive self-talk.)
  • Reassure your child that you will be proud of him/her, no matter what. Do not threaten children with punishment or consequences if they do not perform well, this will only increase their anxiety.
  • For testing, remind students to use test-taking strategies such as listening to the directions carefully and rereading them as needed; skipping difficult questions and coming back to them at the end; underlining key words or terms; taking their best guess on multiple-choice items if they are not sure of the answer; and using leftover time to go back and check all answers.
  • Limit smartphone usage, as this has been shown to increase anxiety in our children, such as when they see things peers are doing, or when they aren’t invited to an event or activity.  
  • Encourage your child to participate in face-to-face interaction with peers (clubs, youth group, sports, etc.)
  • Most importantly, if you think your child has anxiety, please seek mental health support from a professional.

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