Your child seems overly worried but is it time to take action? This is a great question so let’s look at how stress impacts on your child’s overall health. First, it is important to remember that being affected by stress is not necessarily a bad thing, the right level of stress can help your child perform better, keep them focussed and maintain their motivation. However, too much stress or pressure over a long period is counter-productive because it will make your child ill, both mentally and physically. In some ways, you might say that the signs of stress are pre-cursors for anxiety i.e. headaches, poor sleeping, being irritable, sore muscles, unable to relax, worries, and heart pumping faster than usual which means they are warning signs that should not be ignored in a young person.
To understand the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, it is worth noting the close link to long-term stress and fear. If untreated, the effect of stress and fear on a prolonged basis can result in an emotional, psychological response like anxiety. Furthermore, if your child is prone to suffer from anxiety, and this is not addressed, they are also at risk of developing panic attacks in circumstances where they ‘only’ experienced anxiety originally.
Without being aware of it your child is slowly entering a vicious circle, and the longer your child stays in this stress/anxiety circle the more crucial it is that you seek help for their anxieties. Don’t delay, make sure your child has a way of breaking out of this vicious circle by allowing your child to embark on new healthier path for both their mind and body. Saying that, let me take you through some of the symptoms to look out for if you are concerned about your child’s anxious responses.
What to look out for in a worried child
It is probable that, at some point, your child will partake in events where they feel a level of ‘healthy’ anxiety e.g. meeting new people, changing school, leaving home for the first time and so forth. These moments are likely to increase your child’s stress levels thereby producing an anxiety like state which is completely natural. If the level of stress, anxiety and pressure is correct, they will tackle these challenges without avoidance and, though they are feeling nervous, they will achieve results by overcoming this particular anxious feeling.
So it is clear that while anxiety can be a typical response, what creates a variance is when children analyse scenarios differently i.e. some children feel more vulnerable than others in the exact same situation. This is due to how children perceive the ‘threat’ which they will measure against their beliefs, past experiences and attitudes, thereby making outcomes different in each unique situation.
It is when your child suffers from anxiety and disturbing worries most days or even several times a day that the issue has taken over. Your child’s anxieties have started to affect their life style and they make choices about their life which are ruled by their worries i.e. ‘I won’t go to the cinema with my friend because I might get anxious in the queue’ or ‘I won’t speak to my teacher about getting an extension on my homework because I will get a no anyway’ or maybe ‘if I stay at home I won’t risk running into a dog’.
All of these illustrations show how such decisions limit their life experiences making your child miss out on the enjoyment of new encounters which are crucial in maintaining a healthy mind and body.
Your child can experience anxiety from mild discomfort through to a severe panic, which can be brought on by various reasons such as a re-occurring activity (going to school, dealing with friendship issues, lack of having the latest gadgets) or something happening less frequently (going on a plane, partaking in a competition, exams) or indeed related to an ongoing internal debate (social situation, health worries, overeating, school worries). Whichever way your child experiences anxiety and for whatever reason, the symptoms of anxiety can be extremely debilitating.
Signs of anxiety in young people
Anxiety can affect your child both physically and mentally, and will generally include one or more of the following symptoms:
Experiencing panic attacks
Extreme anxiety can cause a panic attack, which tends to happen without warning, these can be very frightening and will produce strong physical symptoms, often leaving your child to believe they are having a heart attack and they are going to die. There appears to be no apparent reason for why a panic attack happens, but it is clear that your child will start to fear the occurrence of another attack and will do anything to avoid this from happening.
It is likely that your child will start to associate the place of the panic attack as being the instigator of the actual incident. This incorrect belief will create the before mentioned vicious circle i.e. if the panic attack happened in school, your child will avoid going to school in order to limit the chances of another incident happening. This is a very unhealthy thinking pattern since it will result in your child trying to avoid more and more situations, to the detriment of them living a healthy interactive life.
Panic attacks can happen on a regular basis, though they may vary in frequency from person to person. The physical symptoms of a panic attack are unpleasant, but through the use of therapeutic techniques your child can learn to understand that the physical symptoms do not mean they are having a heart attack. In fact, your child is in no physical danger by having a panic attack, the moment will pass no matter how frightening it feels to your child at the time.
It is estimated that a panic attack lasts between 5 to 20 minutes with the physical symptoms of a panic attack usually being: shortness of breath, heart beating irregularly and elevated heart rate, a choking sensation, chest discomfort or pain, a fear of dying, sweating, chills, trembling/shaking, nausea and dizziness, numbness or tingling feeling, ringing in ears and feeling faint.
How an online approach can help with anxiety
When discovering and using therapeutic techniques your child is able to train their mind to overcome negative thinking, to view their stressors in a different light hence making these less prominent when rationally analysing their everyday triggers.
From working with an online therapeutic approach, your child will notice a difference as their maladaptive thinking is changed into positive thinking, their confidence is increased and they will be left with new empowering thoughts. By identifying the resources they have available, they will become better equipped to deal with various challenges and demands. Further, by breaking their habitual behaviour, their self-esteem will return giving them more energy and motivation. All of this will allow your child to continue developing positive thoughts to counteract the negativity they have been experiencing.
By Tina Elven
Please note that the list of symptoms for anxiety and panic attacks are not conclusive, you are advised to get a diagnosis from your GP if you are concerned about your child’s physical or mental health. The lists are not intended for self-diagnosis and have been included for informative purposes only. It is always recommended to discuss your symptoms with a GP and get their consent to undertake alternative therapy.