Fear not: Help for children with anxiety

Everyone has times of feeling anxious, scared or fearful.

Everyone has times of feeling anxious, scared or fearful. In fact, without our body’s innate ability to sense and respond to pending danger, we would never have survived as humans.

These days, however, anxiety disorders are like a car alarm repeatedly sounding when there is no real threat. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern for children in B.C., affecting an estimated four per cent of all children, impacting their day-to-day life, their friendships, their school performance, their physical health and their sense of well-being.

Anxious feelings include a rapid heartbeat, difficulty catching one’s breath, a sense of doom, sweaty palms, an upset stomach or stomach ache, even nausea and vomiting. Focusing on the feelings can cause them to intensify, a vicious cycle. Anxious symptoms become a true anxiety disorder when the anxiety leads to avoidance of the situation that is causing the anxiety and causes significant physical distress and disruption of daily life and functioning. An unresolved anxiety disorder can often lead to depression or substance use problems in future years.

Anxiety, however, exists on a spectrum. A certain amount of anxiety is normal and beneficial. It keeps our children safe and conscientious; it motivates them to perform well. Children who tend to be anxious are often model students: high achieving, diligent, analytical, sensitive, alert, creative and imaginative. Too little anxiety and a child or teenager may take foolish risks or lack motivation to succeed. But too much anxiety and children become so paralyzed by fear that they may be unable to leave their parent’s side, leave the house, go to school, make friends or participate in normal life.

The good news is that anxiety can be very successfully managed or treated when required. Regular exercise and reliable routines in children are often all it takes to quell mild cases. Mild and moderate anxiety is very responsive to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is a process of addressing the unhelpful thoughts and actions that underlie anxiety. Thought stopping, talking back to negative thoughts, not believing everything you think, relaxation techniques like calming breathing, mindfulness meditation, and gradual safe exposure to the things you fear are all examples of types of CBT.

All children — and adults, too — could benefit from learning simple CBT techniques to turn off their body alarms that are sounding unnecessarily.

If you are worried about your child or teenager’s anxiety, there are many places to get help. Many online resources as well as books, some written for specific age groups, are available to give in-depth information about anxiety and step-by-step instructions for specific CBT techniques.

For parents of children and youth, the FORCE Society, in partnership with the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s FRIENDS Program, offers an online program for parents of children ages four to 13. Anxiety BC (anxietybc.ca ) is another great site for adults and youth. Other sites include mindcheck.ca and keltymentalhealth.ca. If you think your child needs professional help, see your doctor or call Service BC at 1-800-661-8773 and ask for your local MCFD Child and Youth Mental Health office.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Enderby issues flood caution reminder

Rain in Sunday weather forecast could increase water levels and flow

Rain in Sunday forecast for Okanagan-Shuswap

Environment Canada calling for 15-20 millimetres in regions

Salmon Arm man reported missing by RCMP has been found unharmed

Ken Derkach apologizes for having caused anyone concern

Preparations for flooding in the Shuswap accelerate

A sandbagging machine and a crew to run it have been set up in Silver Creek.

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan, Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecasting strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy downpours in parts of the Interior

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

PHOTOS: Okanagan residents capture epic lightning show

A look at some of the best shots of the storm on May 30

Big White Ski Resort to offer rebate for pass holders after early closure

Next year’s pass will include a 20 per cent rebate

‘No tick is a good tick’: Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

The foundation’s president said all ticks that attach to humans and pets can carry various diseases

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Most Read