Anxiety Attacks in Children
Anxiety attacks in children happen more often than you might think. Unlike adults, who can articulate what they’re feeling and know to seek assistance in order to deal with it, children don’t. So often, their anxiety is left untreated and they try to cope with it themselves. Parents need to understand and learn to recognize the signs of this condition so that they can get their child the treatment they need.
Understand that there can be several different manifestations - subheadings if you will - of anxiety that all fall under the same main heading. Children can experience what’s known as normal anxiety. They worry about what their future holds. Through the eyes of a child, the adult world can be a very scary place. They can hear things on the news that frighten them.
Experiencing the death of a classmate or a family member can leave them not knowing how to deal with fear - the fear of not understanding fully what happened and the fear of worrying if it’s going to happen to them too. These are normal worries. Love and reassurance can help your child deal with this kind of anxiety.
When it becomes abnormal is when the worry doesn’t let up but rather snowballs. The anxiety deepens and they begin to worry all the time. You might even recognize this by what some doctors call irrational fears.
Anxiety attacks in children can be a forerunner of a type of disorder that some children experience. Children might exhibit signs of anxiety by failing to be able to function in a normal setting. If they’re younger, they might begin acting out at school. Their behavior turns belligerent, their emotions seem to swing from one extreme to the other. Remember that children often feel things but just don’t know how to communicate exactly what it is they’re dealing with.
The physical signs that a child is dealing with anxiety are the same as it is in adults. They might complain of headaches, stomachaches and they might have a difficult time going to sleep at night.
If children have attacks that are not handled the right way and treated, it can have lasting effects reaching into their adulthood. They can have trouble developing friendships and trouble dealing the social pressure that kids get in school.
It’s so important that anxiety attacks in children be dealt with as swiftly as possible because children don’t have the ability to rationalize like an adult can. Continual attacks can leave them feeling like there’s no way out and they might begin to cause themselves harm physically.
In some cases, untreated anxiety can lead children to think about taking their own lives. It’s up to the caring adult in the child’s life to learn to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and reach out to help the child when he or she is unable to do so.
An excellent resource for working with anxiety attacks in children is a book written by Dr. Daniel Amen, called Mind Coach.
I use Mind Coach with my Anger Management and Domestic Violence clients because it clearly and succinctly outlines limited patterns of thinking, and it is related very closely to the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tool called automatic thoughts.
There is a excellent passage in Mind Coach that says the Bible has about 800 happy references, and if God mentions happiness that often, it must be because he wants us to be happy.
I love to ask my clients why they don't program happiness for themselves more often.
Most of us have lost sight of the fact that feelings are contingent only on what I think, not on what is external to the body, and that even though the external world presents difficulties, I can feel however I choose to feel whenever I choose to feel that.
Children can pick that up rather quickly, with their connection to their imagination.
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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