Anxiety attacks can affect people of all ages, including children. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health disorder in children, affecting as many as one in ten of young people. Anxiety and panic attacks in children is more common than you would think.
What causes anxiety in children?
There are many factors that cause children to develop anxiety problems, two of which are genetic and environmental factors. During their lives all children experience some kind of anxiety, this is normal and to be expected. For example, when children start school for the first time they worry about being left without their parents for the first time, and most children are scared of the dark so they become distressed. Such anxiety becomes a problem when it interrupts a child’s normal activities like attending school and making friends or sleeping. Anxiety can affect a child’s ability to function properly, and they may develop high blood pressure, start to vomit, and experience stomach pains among other things.
Types of anxiety disorders in children and adults.
Generalised anxiety disorder or GAD.
Children and adults with generalised anxiety disorder experience fears and worries that they find difficult to control. They worry about almost everything – school, home life, sports, and being on time etc. They may be restless, irritable tense or easily tired, and they may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Children with GAD are usually eager to please others and look for perfection in everything they do.
Children with separation anxiety disorder
Children with separation anxiety disorder are so worried about being away from home it affects their ability to function socially and at school. Children with this problem need to stay home near to their parents. Children with this disorder may worry excessively about their parents when they are apart from them. When they are together, the child may cling to parents, refuse to go to school, or be afraid to sleep alone. Repeated nightmares about separation and physical symptoms such as stomach-aches and headaches are also common in children with separation anxiety disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Children who experience a physical or emotional trauma such as witnessing a shooting or disaster, surviving physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or being in a car accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children are more easily traumatised than adults. An event that may not be traumatic to an adult – such as a bumpy plane journey – might be traumatic to a child. A child may “re-experience” the trauma through nightmares, constant thoughts about what happened, or re-enacting the event while playing. A child with PTSD will experience symptoms of general anxiety, including irritability or trouble sleeping and eating. Children may exhibit other symptoms such as being easily startled.
Social phobia usually emerges in the mid-teens. Young people with this disorder have a constant fear of social situations or when they have to perform such as speaking in class or eating in public. The fear is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, blushing, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or muscle tenseness.Young people with social phobia typically respond to these feelings by avoiding the feared situation. For example, they may stay home from school or avoid parties. Young people with social phobia are often overly sensitive to criticism, have trouble being assertive, and suffer from low self-esteem. Social phobia can be limited to specific situations, so the adolescent may fear dating and avoid recreational events but can still be confident in academic and work situations.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder typically begins in early childhood or adolescence. Children can show symptoms at a very young age and may have frequent and uncontrollable thoughts and may perform routines or rituals in an attempt to eliminate the thoughts. Those with the disorder often repeat behaviours to avoid some imagined consequence. For example, a compulsion common to people with OCD is excessive hand washing due to fear of germs. Other common compulsions include counting, repeating works silently, and rechecking completed tasks. These obsessions and compulsions take up so much time that they interfere with daily living and cause a young person a great deal of anxiety.
Panic disorder – panic attacks – children
Children and adolescents with panic disorder have unexpected and repeated periods of intense fear or discomfort along with other symptoms such as racing heartbeat or feeling short of breath. These panic attacks can last from minutes to hours. Panic disorder often begins during adolescence, although it may start during childhood. Panic attacks can interfere with a child’s or adolescent’s relationships, schoolwork and, and normal development. Children and adolescents with panic disorder may begin to feel anxious most of the time, even when they are not having a panic attack. Some children with panic disorder develop depression and may be at risk of suicidal behaviour. As an attempt to decrease anxiety, some adolescents with panic disorder will use alcohol or drugs.
-Learn how to be empowered and gain confidence by engaging a simple technique to defuse any panic attack.
-The four most powerful approaches to creating an enduring anxiety buffer zone (particularly useful for those who experience GAD).<
-Learn to avoid making the one mistake almost everyone makes during a panic attack episode.