While some amount of anxiety is a natural part of everyday life, when it becomes debilitating it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. Oftentimes, anxiety is caused by the body believing that it is facing some sort of harm or threat when really it is not. If your child/adolescent’s anxiety is impacting on their ability to function and enjoy life, they may require therapeutic intervention.
Signs your child may have an anxiety disorder include:
Trouble with sleeping, such as having nightmares, difficulty falling asleep, and/or staying asleep
Irritability or angry outbursts
Worry and negative thoughts
Reports of feeling unwell, such as stomach aches and headaches
Treatment strategies will vary depending on the particular type of anxiety disorder your child/adolescent has. The different variants of childhood anxiety disorder include:
Generalized anxiety disorder
When it comes to what could be causing yours or your child’s anxiety, there are many factors to consider. Causes of anxiety can include:
Abrupt changes in living conditions
Genetic predispositions that make some more sensitive to the nuances of life
Trauma in its various forms can also be a major factor in predisposing children and adolescents to the development of anxiety disorders. It can often be unintentionally caused by life circumstances, poor school performance, and issues with peer relationships.
Chaotic and unpredictable environments can teach a child their environment is unsafe, and so their anxiety acts as a means of protecting them by making sure they are always on high alert for danger.
Diagnosing childhood anxiety disorder requires a mental health assessment, which consists of an evaluation of your child/adolescent’s social and emotional history, interviews with you and them, input from teachers at times, and in some cases standardized testing.
A diagnosis of anxiety disorder will also involve ruling out other factors as the cause of the symptoms, such as another psychiatric and/or medical condition , diet, or environmental factors.
Although children and adolescents may respond well to first line treatment of anxiety, such as therapy and medication, recurrence or development of a different anxiety disorder is not uncommon.
If your child/adolescent has not fully responded to anxiety treatment, you may wish to consider an integrative approach to treatment. This can include therapy, lifestyle modifications, and dietary interventions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the main psychotherapy used for anxiety disorders in both children and adults. Anxiety is often caused when the “threat” seems to be much bigger and real than it actually is. Often the perception of the threat is inaccurate. CBT identifies negative thought patterns about the self and the world and challenges these thoughts in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or moods. CBT helps kids to dissect their thoughts and feelings so they can develop more appropriate, less catastrophizing thoughts and responses.
Therapy can also uncover the traumas that underpin these anxiety responses, so they can be properly resolved.
A number of supplements have been identified as having the ability to play a role in reducing the symptoms of anxiety. These include magnesium, omega-3, multi-ingredient formulas, L-Theanine, lemon balm, and probiotics.
The gut-brain axis also plays a critical role in regulating anxiety, as many of the receptors involved in the intensity of anxiety symptoms are found in the lining of the stomach. The gut is also responsible for producing around 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin, a crucial neurochemical for mood stabilization and anxiety regulation.
Foods rich in vitamin B, such as almonds and avocado, are amongst some of the dietary additions that can reduce anxiety symptoms.