As a parent, it’s not easy to see your child struggle with a mental health condition like anxiety. But, you’re not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common conditions globally, and it doesn’t discriminate. Some studies have shown that anxiety in children is even more prevalent than mood disorders like ADHD, though it often occurs alongside those conditions.
Anxiety symptoms can manifest themselves in different ways, especially in children. You know your child better than anyone, and you’ll likely be the first to notice any changes in their behavior, mood, or disposition. But, even if your child has another condition like autism, ADHD, or other mental wellness issues, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on.
That’s because no two cases are exactly alike. Even if your child has the same condition(s) and diagnosis as another, their symptoms might show up in different ways.
It’s essential to understand how anxiety affects different kids differently, so you’ll know how to choose the proper treatment for your child.
Anxiety is often co-morbid with other conditions, even in children. That’s one reason it affects people who deal with it in many different ways.
Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand and can cause symptoms to manifest differently. Some signs are similar, including changes in mood, fatigue, and appetite. But, anxiety often comes with irritability and fears about physical wellness. In the case of a child, their worries could be surrounding their family, friends, or themselves.
Depression, on the other hand, often manifests itself with feelings of guilt and sadness. Your child might not be interested in things they once loved, and they might even deal with hopelessness.
It’s essential to receive the proper diagnosis, so you’ll know how to best move forward when it comes to treatment. If your child is on the autism spectrum, that’s also an essential part of the diagnosis, as they might show symptoms and respond to treatment differently.
It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety to respond to their worrying thoughts with one of the following:
All of them are defense mechanisms the brain uses when it feels too overwhelmed or scared by a situation – even if there is no real threat. If your child has a processing disorder along with anxiety, you might notice them dealing with these responses more frequently. That’s because they can be triggered more easily by everyday things. For a child with autism, even a minor change to their routine or something different around the home can cause them to feel panicked and worried.
Learning more about your child’s triggers can help you make their life easier. Once you know their responses, you can make changes to eliminate or significantly reduce the triggers in their life. Even making changes around the home, like creating a more sensory-friendly environment, can help your child to feel calm and more comfortable. Establishing a daily routine, they can look forward to will make another big difference.
All children need to relax, but it becomes even more important when dealing with a processing disorder and anxiety all at once. The more you observe and understand their triggers and responses, the easier it will be for you to help. You might not always be able to get rid of your child’s triggers, but you can help to manage them. Working with a professional can teach you how to do that the right way.
The treatment route you go for your child should directly result from the symptoms they’re showing. Some things you may be able to do at home to help your child manage their symptoms and stay on top of their worrying thoughts. Many parents opt for these things because they’re more natural, including:
- Changes in diet
- Developing better sleep hygiene
- Homeopathic remedies
But, when it comes to mental health, children are no different than adults. While things like diet and exercise might help, the best thing you can do for your child is to let them talk to a mental health professional, like a therapist. It is nearly impossible to overcome anxiety and worry on your own as an adult. Your child shouldn’t have to bear that burden on their own.
A therapist, especially one that focuses on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can get to the root of your child’s anxiety. They will be able to understand better what’s causing it. So, they can help both of you understand triggers and management techniques for the future.
Research has shown that CBT is one of the most effective forms of treatment for children with anxiety. Whether your child is dealing with other mental health conditions or has co-morbid conditions like autism, a therapist can end up being your best resource in helping your child calm their fears and retake control of their thoughts.