Calming Concerns about Teen and Child Anxiety
Parents have been quite anxious to ask me what to do for their child or teen’s feelings of anxiety. Well let me see if I can relax everyone with some information on this topic.
Anxiety is usually a normal reaction to the stresses of life. It is a form of stress that can show up in a child physically or emotionally, and can include physical sensations like dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, or shaky or sweaty hands and feet.
Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety at one time or another, from a sense of unease to full-blown panic. We may feel it at work, and kids can too when facing an important test or project or even switching schools. Some anxiety can be normal, and helps us stay alert, focused and ready to do our best, but if it becomes too strong or frequent, then it can detract from our ability to be happy and enjoy life.
How can you tell when your child’s normal worry is developing into more severe signs of anxiety, or what we call an anxiety disorder? When your child seems to worry almost daily about one thing or another, has trouble sleeping at night, or is irritable and has trouble concentrating, it is certainly worth sharing your concerns about these symptoms with your child’s doctor.
Treatment will often involve counseling which can help provide your child with coping skills and relaxation techniques. Occasionally medication may be prescribed, but only after counseling has been tried.
The best way to help your worried or anxious child or teen is to be supportive and non-judgmental, and to talk openly about what he or she is experiencing so you can help figure out new or better ways to cope with whatever the stressor is. Encouraging your child to exercise, eat healthy and get adequate sleep can also help. It may help to talk to your child about how you deal with your own stress-relief.
Hopefully, tips like this will allow you and your child to breathe easier when it comes to recognizing and knowing what to do if you suspect your child is becoming too anxious.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids