Childhood anxiety is an increasingly common problem. The stimuli to which toddlers are exposed are numerous and often poorly controlled by adults. On the other hand, the demands on them are often very high, which considerably reduces their free playing time; this one being replaced by hours of private lessons.
Let us keep in mind that the way in which childhood anxiety manifests itself is different from that identifiable in adults. It is therefore necessary to study this separately. We will then be able to identify it correctly. Moreover, by acting in this way, we will be able to find more effective means of action.
So, in this article we will look at both the most common symptoms and treatments associated with childhood anxiety. But before that, it is necessary to understand precisely what exactly anxiety is.
What is anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is the body’s extreme response to stress. This sensation is caused by a stimulus perceived as threatening. Depending on the specific anxiety problem, the trigger can be both external and internal.
On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind that anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways. Thus, it is usual to mention different psychological disorders associated with this problem. In the case of children, those presented are similar to those of adults. However, some significant differences can appear.
Symptoms of childhood anxiety
As in the case of the elderly, children can manifest anxiety problems in different ways. We will see by following some of the most common manifestations of anxiety disorder in childhood.
1) Selective mutism
Selective mutism is characterized by the lack of speaking in situations for which the child’s involvement is expected. This silence interferes with the daily life of the child. For example, it makes it difficult for them to relate in class and forge friendships.
Selective mutism occurs in children who have no physical problem speaking. On the contrary, silence is only a means used to protect oneself which continues to produce emotional discomfort in the child. This disorder can be diagnosed from the age of 5, but it usually appears later.
2) Separation anxiety
The majority of children feel bad when they have to separate from their parents. This can happen especially when adults need to be away for an extended period of time or when little ones need to go to daycare for the first time. However, in the case of separation anxiety, the symptoms are usually much more severe.
When the real anguish of separation is expressed, the child really feels bad when he is separated from the absent person. This discomfort can appear when going to school, traveling or on excursions, but also when adults have to be away from home for a short time.
The problem is that this anxiety acts directly on the emotional discomfort of the child. It is therefore necessary to seek professional help when one suspects the existence of such anxiety.
3) Social phobia
The last most common childhood anxiety disorder is social phobia. This happens when the child is unable to relate to others when he wants to, due to extreme shyness. In addition, he will normally avoid taking specific actions so as not to expose himself to criticism from others.
This type of childhood anxiety will once again be an obstacle to the development of the child. For this, we will see by following the interventions that are most frequently implemented.
Treatment of childhood anxiety
1) Changing beliefs
Approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy consider the fact that anxiety arises and is maintained by a series of irrational beliefs. In the case of children, they are less obvious. Thoughts are often considered to be responsible for psychological discomfort.
For this, the majority of attempts to treat childhood anxiety involve modifying mistaken beliefs. Thus, the main job of the psychologist is to detect limiting thoughts and replace them with others that can help the child.
However, helping them think better is not the only lever we can activate to help children with anxiety disorder. It is also necessary to help the child little by little to cope with what generates fear in him. In this way, he can normalize it and eventually overcome his fears.
Of course, this process can be very complex. The main techniques for treating anxiety are these. Child psychologists are specialists in the application of therapy in children. The anxious symptomatology, in particular the discomfort, will then disappear with the intervention.