WHEN KIDS WORRY

“Will I pass my test?”

“Is there a monster under my bed?”

“If you leave, will you ever come back?”

“What if I get lost?”

“What if someone takes me?”

“Is the door locked?”

“Please don’t leave me.”

These are just a few examples of thoughts many children have who struggle with anxiety. Anxiety is a normal part of life, and everyone experiences anxiety in certain situations. Some anxiety is perfectly normal and can actually help a person avoid dangerous situations or high-risk activities. This type of anxiety is generally short-lived and usually harmless. However, those who suffer from an anxiety disorder can experience excessive fear, nervousness, or shyness, and may avoid certain situations and places. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 1 in 8 children are affected by anxiety disorders. As a counselor at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando, I see many children and adults who struggle with anxiety, so it is important to recognize the effects of excessive worrying, and to learn the skills needed to cope with anxiety.

Sufferers of anxiety are affected on three levels: thoughts, body, and behavior. Did you know your own thoughts feed anxiety?Although we may blame external factors for our anxiety, it’s actually our own negative self-talk, self-worry, and thinking errors that fuel our anxiety and lead to the physical and behavioral components of anxiety.Have you ever thought about where you feel anxiety in your body?This is such an important component, but it is often overlooked.Anxiety shows up in our bodies in the form of muscle tension, sweating, rapid heart rate, and shallow breathing, just to name a few.There are also somatic complaints, which are physical symptoms but have no organic or medical cause, such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, and general aches and pains. The final level is behavior, which generally consists of avoidance.Many who suffer from anxiety will avoid situations in an effort to reduce their anxiety.However, by avoiding the situation that causes their anxiety, the individual is actually reinforcing their fears ensuring that they will continue or get worse.

Identifying an anxiety disorder is not always obvious to the parent of a young child.Children often do not have the words to explain that they are feeling worried or anxious, so they just say “my tummy hurts” or “I feel sick”.Naturally, parents respond to these physical complaints by taking their child to the family physician.Although the family physician is the place to start, if your child experiences these symptoms often and the doctor cannot explain why, it may be helpful to talk with a trained counselor about options for your child.

You may be saying to yourself, I have some of these problems too. Well it often turns out that when children struggle with anxiety someone close to them does as well. The good news is that anxiety in children and adults is treatable. The counselors at Life Skills Resource Group can help you and your child learn ways to relax the body, change your thoughts, conquer your worries, face your fears, change your behaviors, and rebuild self-esteem. If you feel either you or your child may be struggling with anxiety, please feel free to contact me or any of the qualified counselors at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando by visiting the Our Team page. Consultations are always free. Amy

To read more about Amy’s work at Life Skills Resource Group

Amy Smith

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