Anxiety

 

Anxiety is a normal part of the human experience, and in fact, virtually everyone has something that scares them, worries them or makes them anxious. Anxiety is an emotion that is very important, as it can keep us safe from the dangers around us. However, for some children and adults, anxiety can go beyond this safety function, and begin to interfere in their everyday life. This is where children and adults become excessively anxious about situations that would only bother others a little, or where they may become anxious about situations that would not bother others at all. The key in determining whether anxiety is a problem or not, is to decide whether or not it is stopping the person from doing things they want to, or need to be able to do.

 

It is common for children to experience fears at different stages of life, however, for a number of children (approximately 10% in fact), childhood anxiety is a very real problem that needs to be addressed. When anxiety does become problematic, it can have a very significant impact on the quality of life of not only the child, but their whole family. Problematic anxiety is not just a passing phase. Research shows that the nature of problematic anxiety is that it continues, and can even get worse, as children get older. In fact, many adults with anxiety report first experiencing anxiety in their early childhood or adolescent years.

 

There are many different types of problematic anxiety, also known as Anxiety Disorders, for example:

 

  • Social Anxiety Disorder

    • This disorder refers to children who have an excessive fear of social situations, in particular, being embarrassed or humiliated in social or performance situations, often causing them to want to avoid such situations.
       

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

    • Separation Anxiety Disorder occurs when children become excessively distressed upon separation from a parent, parents or siblings. Often this will result in very clingy behaviour at childcare or school drop-off.
       

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder

    • Children with this disorder are often described as “worriers” or “worry warts”. Generalised anxiety refers to children who worry about a lot of different areas, which can include: home, school, family, social situations, performance situations (i.e. tests), the past and the future.

 

  • Specific Phobia

    • This disorder characterises children who have a fear of a specific object or situation. For example, excessive fear of the dark, of dogs, of needles etc.
       

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    • OCD as it is commonly referred to, is a disorder which presents differently depending on the child, however, may involve children being excessively concerned around germs, their health or general safety of themselves and others. Commonly children engage in acts as a way of trying to neutralise their anxiety such as handwashing, reassurance seeking, checking and rechecking.

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