Anxiety In Children: Impairs Growth

Anxiety In Children | Legitimate Disorder That Will Effect Your Child’s Life Unless Treated Seriously

Anxiety in children: What is anxiety, prevalence, normal fears of childhood, causes, effects, various anxiety disorders

Anxiety in children: What is Anxiety?

Anxiety in children: Anxiety, fearfulness and worrying are regularly experienced as a normal part of growing up. However as your children face new or unfamiliar situations, sometimes fears arise and may become overwhelming.

Please invest a few minutes of your time to watch the anxiety in children video below. It spells about the different anxiety forms. Or if you prefer to read, then feel free to skip the video and go straight to the text below:

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Usually, anxiety is helpful. It allows your child to:

  • Adapt to new situations
  • Learn prudence
  • Learn to control responses
  • Reflect on and learn from difficult situations

In today’s world, your children are constantly bombarded with stimulus:

  • New information
  • New situations
  • New people

Learning to adapt to changing environments can be hard for your growing kids, especially when rules are different at home, in school, and with friends. This is particularly difficult in Dubai where many different nationalities are involved.

This can foster anxieties and fears that can become maladaptive thus harmful and threaten the emotional growth of your child.

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Anxiety in children: Prevalence

Anxiety is one of the most common diagnoses made at my clinic – whether it is a co-morbid (secondary to a primary cause of learning difficulties) or primary in nature. Several studies have been done to examine the prevalence of anxiety disorders in children.

It is the most prevalent psychiatric disorder in youth and can be seen in up to 20% of children (Strauss 1990). It also negatively affects academic performance and social functioning. Finally, childhood anxiety disorders can run a chronic course well into adulthood.

It is a common problem facing many children, for many different reasons.

  • In the playground when peers are not accepting
  • In the classroom where lessons seem difficult
  • At parties when making friends and being included seem like a major crisis

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Anxiety in children: Normal fears and anxieties of childhood

So when do these ‘normal’ fears become pathological and merit an intervention? When does one need to seek help?

  • Developmentally normal anxieties initially present at the age of 7 to 8 months when babies become anxious about strangers. Their stranger wariness, seen at 5 to 6 months turns into fear. Parental proximity soothes the baby.
  • Preschoolers fear separation from parents and also develop the fear of the dark, animals, and imaginary situations. Parental reassurance is enough to help them through this period.
  • School-aged children develop more real worries including fears of bodily harm.
  • Social anxieties often develop in teenagers.

When anxieties become dissociated from specific situations or events, when they become disabling to the point of interfering with social functioning and academic functioning then they warrant intervention.

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Anxiety in children: What are the causes

There are a number of theories about the origins of fears and phobias. The psychoanalytical view postulates that internal conflict that is not expressed leads to anxieties. Social learning theory proposes that fears and anxieties are learned within the context of the child’s environment.

  • Several studies have linked childhood anxieties to excessive maternal worrying and also early mother unresponsiveness to an infant.  Depressed anxious parents were also more commonly associated with anxious children.
  • Parenting styles – overprotective parenting, highly controlling parents linked with cold and undemonstrative parents were seen more often in families of anxious children – ‘affection-less control’.
  • Several studies show that environmental stresses especially when linked with a feeling of helplessness or lack of control give rise to anxiety. Environmental stresses include moving and relocation, the marital conflict between parents, death or sickness in the family and change in schools.
  • Anxiety occurs in 70 % of children with dyslexia, ADD and learning problems.
  • 28% have associated depression.

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Anxiety In Children | https://www.singhaniaclinic.com/anxiety-in-children/ Legitimate Disorder That Will Effect Your Child's Life Unless Treated Seriously

Anxiety In Children

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Anxiety in children: Effects of a mobile society

The UAE is part of a very mobile society. A significant proportion of the population changes residence each year. For children, the move is essentially involuntary. Anxiety is the most common outcome. Some of the contributing factors are:

  • Children who move lose their old friends
  • They lose the comfort of familiar bedroom and house
  • Lose their ties to family, school, and community
  • They have to make new friends in new neighborhoods and schools
  • They have to adapt to new customs and values.
  • They have to deal with different academic standards and curricular that may lead to a drop in academic performance.

Parents need to prepare children well in advance of any move and allow them to express any unhappy feelings or misgivings. Visits to their new home prior to the move are useful.

Exchange of letters or mails with old friends should be encouraged. Parents should assist the entry of their children into the new community.

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Anxiety in children: Clinical pictures of anxiety disorders

Here are a few types of anxiety disorder:

1. Phobias

Josh was verbal and bright 12-year-old. He sat across the table and told me about all the fears he had. He panicked when there were clouds in the sky and when the sun peeked out of the clouds. He was frightened of soft toys particularly teddy bears and staying alone in the room.He had nightmares that his parents were dying.

He constantly called up his mother when she left the house to check on her. He could not sleep alone and needed to share his bed with his parents.

2. Separation Anxiety

School phobia occurs in 2 % of all children. Shalini was an 8-year-old girl, who presented at the clinic with school refusal since two weeks. She was a shy child with few friends. She was average in her studies but did not like maths.  She had a cold and cough for the first 3 days but after that, she refused to go back to school even though she was well enough.

No amount of coaxing or cajoling by her parents helped. She clung to the door or her bed and often parents dragged her out to the waiting bus. Finally, the mother agreed to work in the library on a voluntary basis to get her child to agree to go to school. Even then she often complained of stomachaches or headaches and tried to get sent home by the school doctor.

3. Social Phobia

Reem was an 18-year-old young lady who would not leave the house. She had had severe and disfiguring acne but this had been treated and was now not too bad. Even so, she hid in the bathroom whenever there were visitors in the house. She refused to attend her sister’s wedding. She stopped going to college because she could not bear to meet with people.

At family gatherings, her hand shook so much that she could not hold a cup of tea. She said that her mouth was so dry that she could not speak with her cousins. She gradually stopped attending any social functions and the only outing she had was going for a drive with her mother.

4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders

Hamad was 14 years and had difficulty with reading and writing. He was very religious and prayed several times a day. He felt junk food was ‘haram’ and only ate fresh vegetables and fruits. He washed his hands frequently and also had numerous baths in a day. He insisted on opening and shutting the door 3 times before he went out. He also had images of war that he tried to suppress but could not.

The images were quite graphic with blood, wounds, and gore. His hand washing and bathing wasted a lot of time and he was always late for school. (Click Here for more information on OCD)

5. Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Rhoda was a very intelligent teenager who always got A in her tests. She was hardworking and diligent and spent hours in her room studying. She was quiet and reserved in class. She worried excessively about her grades and felt she was going to fail if she did not study. She worried about the future especially about getting a good job. She could not speak in front of the class without feeling a sensation of choking.

She was very conscious of her weight and would not go out if she felt her clothes were not perfect. She actually came to the clinic for attempted suicide and also had Major Depressive Disorder.

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Anxiety In Children

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Anxiety In Children: Impairs Growth was last modified: April 20th, 2017 by Dr. Rajeshree Singhania

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