Understanding Childhood Anxiety

Understanding anxiety in teens and children

Anxiety and feelings of anxiousness are pervasive in young children and teens today, but despite how widespread it is, it is one of the most misinterpreted cognitive health issues; typically just dismissed as being shy or misbehaving. This is seen to have played a large role in the development of a child and has effects on them in later years. As a guardian or caregiver, it is extremely important to have a deep understanding of how to support a child or teen experiencing these struggles.

Causes of childhood anxiety and anxiety disorders

There can be several causes of childhood anxiety, a few of the main ones including,

  • Significant life changes: instances such as moving, losing a loved one, or an illness often causes a child to feel anxious
  • Genetics: genetics can play an extremely large role in the probability of a child/teen having anxiety; they can inherit certain genes making them subject to anxiety disorders.
  • The nervous system and chemicals in the brain: Certain hormones/neurotransmitters such as serotonin and epinephrine, can play a crucial role in regulating emotions in children. A deficiency in those neurotransmitters is known to be correlated with heightened feelings of anxiety.
  • Stressors: different stressors including school-related issues, significant changes in environments, and behaviors of arguing or fighting around the teen/child are seen to have an impact on the severity of a child’s anxiety 
  • Socially acquired behaviors: It is seen that children and teenagers that are around primarily anxious people are more likely to pick up those behaviors from the same people around them.

Symptoms of anxiety

While viewing this list of various common symptoms in young children and teens, it is essential to keep in mind that it can differ from individual to individual.

  • Difficulties in concentrating
  • Issues with sleeping and eating
  • Feelings of irritability
  • Feeling extremely tense
  • Consistent stomaches or nausea – this is an extremely common symptom in younger children due to the fact that they may be having trouble understanding their feelings themselves.
  • Constant worrying

Supporting children and teens experiencing anxiety

  • One of the most effective ways would be to find a therapist who would aid in understanding and helping the teenager/child organize their feelings
  • Discuss with their therapist what the child specifically needs for them to flourish; this usually depends on the child/teenager themself and changes from person to person.
  • Giving the teenager or child reassurance; this has been seen to have an extremely positive impact on someone who may be experiencing anxiety
  • Limiting their exposure to their stressors for the time being.
  • Encouraging and discussing their understanding of their own feelings

Relaxation techniques

A few of the many relaxation techniques includeA few of the many relaxation techniques include

  • Breathing exercises in order to regulate their breathing
  • Meditation and yoga: both have been shown to regulate and lower different stress hormones while also increasing neurotransmitters that can reduce feelings of anxiety
  • Reducing screen time: in recent studies, there have been correlations between heightened feelings of anxiety and a comparatively larger screen time
  • Taking time to get an adequate amount of rest: significant changes to a teenager’s or child’s sleep schedule can cause an increase in their feelings of anxiety
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