Children experience feelings of nervousness, fear, or worry from time to time. These feelings are part of a normal response to a stressful situation. However, when they occur to such an extent that they interfere with normal life, an anxiety disorder may be the underlying cause.
Childhood anxiety disorder may be manifested by symptoms such as extreme nervousness, inability to concentrate, poor school performance, and physical symptoms like nausea, heart palpitations, headache, shortness of breath, and sweating. Childhood anxiety disorder can be the result of a recent traumatic or high-stress event such as a move to a new home and school, divorce of the parents, death of a pet or a loved one, or it can have no obvious environmental or emotional basis at all.
Anxiety disorder in children is treated most successfully when treatment begins early. Treating anxiety may include a combination of talk therapy, positive reinforcement, and in some cases medications.
Symptoms of childhood anxiety disorder:
Anxiety disorder can be difficult to recognize, because symptoms are often attributed to other factors (like social anxiety). Signs of extreme nervousness and restlessness, an inability to concentrate, poor school performance, difficulty relating to peers, irritability, and physical complaints such as nausea, upset stomach and frequent headaches may indicate an anxiety disorder.
Causes of childhood anxiety disorder:
Medical researchers have not yet fully uncovered the causes of anxiety disorder. There is some suggestion of a hereditary link, as anxiety and other mental disorders tend to run in families, and studies have located small differences in areas of the brain that influence anxiety.
How to diagnose childhood anxiety disorder?
Anxiety diagnosis is based mainly on observations by the doctor and parents While there are no laboratory tests that can pinpoint anxiety disorder, certain tests may rule out another underlying medical cause of the symptoms.
Common categories of childhood anxiety disorder:
Some of the most common types of childhood anxiety disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias (irrational and overwhelming fears), separation anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder,. These conditions usually affect children between the ages of 6 and 11.
Treatment of anxiety in children is more effective the sooner it is addressed after the appearance of symptoms. The most common form of treatment is psychotherapy and teaching positive reinforcement techniques; medicines may also be prescribed for children with anxiety.
Anxiety in Children- Homœopathic Treatment
- A panic attack that comes on suddenly with very strong fear (even fear of death) may indicate this remedy.
- A state of immense anxiety may be accompanied by strong palpitations, shortness of breath, and flushing of the face.
- Sometimes a shaking experience will be the underlying cause.
- Strong feelings of anxiety may also occur when a person is just beginning to come down with a flu or cold.
- Anxiety develops before a big event: an exam, an important interview, a public appearance or social engagement.
- Dizziness and diarrhea may also be experienced.
- Children who need this remedy are often enthusiastic and suggestible, with a tendency toward peculiar thoughts and impulses.
- They often crave sweets and salt (which usually make their symptoms worse).
- Children who are deeply anxious about their health, and extremely concerned with order and security, often benefit from this remedy.
- Obsessive about small details and very neat, they may feel a desperate need to be in control of everything.
- Panic attacks often occur around midnight or the very early hours of the morning.
- The child may feel exhausted yet still be restless—fidgeting, pacing, and anxiously moving from place to place.
- These children may also have digestive problems or asthma attacks accompanied by anxiety.
- This remedy is usually indicated for dependable, solid people who become overwhelmed from physical illness or too much work and start to fear a breakdown.
- Their thoughts can be muddled and confused when tired, which adds to the anxiety.
- Worry and bad news may agitate them, and a nagging dread of disaster (to themselves or others) may develop.
- Fear of heights and claustrophobia are also common.
- A child who needs this remedy is often chilly and sluggish, has a craving for sweets, and is easily fatigued.
- Feelings of weakness, trembling, and mental dullness (being “paralyzed by fear”) suggest a need for this remedy.
- It is often helpful when a child has stage-fright about a public performance or interview, or feels anxious before a test, a visit to the dentist, or any stressful event.
- Chills, perspiration, diarrhea, and headaches will often occur with nervousness.
- Fear of crowds, a fear of falling, and even a fear that the heart might stop are other indications for Gelsemium.
- A sensitive child who is anxious because of grief, loss, disappointment, criticism, loneliness (or any stressful emotional experience) may benefit from this remedy.
- A defensive attitude, frequent sighing, and mood swings are other indications.
- The child may burst unexpectedly into either tears or laughter.
- Headaches that feel like a nail driven into the side of the head, and cramping pains in the abdomen or back, are often seen when this remedy is needed.
- When a child has been exhausted by overwork or illness and feels a deep anxiety and inability to cope, this remedy may help.
- The child is jumpy and oversensitive, and may be startled by ordinary sounds.
- Hearing unpleasant news or thinking of world events can aggravate the problems.
- Insomnia and an inability to concentrate may develop, increasing the sense of nervous dread.
- Eating, warmth, and rest often bring relief.
- Headaches, backaches, and nervous digestive upsets are often seen when this remedy is needed.
- Children likely to respond to this remedy feel anxiety from mental stress and suffer from a lack of confidence.
- They can be self-conscious and feel intimidated by people they perceive as powerful (yet may also be domineering toward those with whom they feel more comfortable).
- Taking on responsibility can cause a deep anxiety and fear of failure, although the person usually does well, once started on a task.
- Claustrophobia, irritability, digestive upsets with gas and bloating, and a craving for sweets are often seen when this remedy is needed.
- Deep emotions and a self-protective shyness can make these children seem reserved, aloof, and private.
- Even when feeling lonely, they tend to stay away from social situations, not knowing what to say or do.
- Easily hurt and offended, they can brood, bear grudges, dwell on unhappy feelings, and isolate themselves—refusing consolation even when they want it.
- They are often sympathetic listeners to other people’s problems.
- Claustrophobia, anxiety at night (with fears of robbers or intruders), migraines, and insomnia are often seen when this remedy is needed.
- Children who need this remedy are openhearted, imaginative, excitable, easily startled, and full of intense and vivid fears.
- Strong anxiety can be triggered by thinking of almost anything.
- Nervous and sensitive to others, they can overextend themselves with sympathy to the point of feeling exhausted and “spaced out” or even getting ill.
- They want a lot of company and reassurance, often feeling better from conversation or a back-rub.
- Easy flushing of the face, palpitations, thirst, and a strong desire for cold, refreshing foods are other indications for Phosphorus.
- Children who need this remedy often express anxiety as insecurity and clinginess, with a need for constant support and comforting.
- The child may be moody, tearful, whiny, even emotionally childish.
- Getting too warm or being in a stuffy room often increases anxiety.
- Fresh air and gentle exercise often bring relief.
- Anxiety around the time of hormonal changes (puberty, menstrual periods, or menopause) often is helped with Pulsatilla.
- Children who need this remedy are capable and serious, yet are also nervous, shy, and subject to bouts of temporary loss of confidence.
- Anxiety can be extreme when they are faced with a public appearance, interview, examination, or any new job or task.
- Worry and overwork can bring on headaches, difficulty concentrating, and states of exhaustion, oversensitivity, and dread.
- Responsible and diligent, they often overreact and devote attention to tiny details—making their worries (and their work) more difficult.
- They often have low stamina and come down with colds, sore throats, or other illnesses after working hard or being under stress.
A Case of separation anxiety:
Master Rahul, aged 9 yrs, studies in 3rd standard.
The child started developing the following symptoms when the school reopened after vacation. :
Fear of being alone.
Difficulty in sleeping and he gets up frightened from sleep, after which he is unable to sleep.
Frequently complaints of headache and stomach ache.
He refuses to go to school without his mother. Previously he used to go in an auto with his friends.
Throws a tantrum when his mother returns home after dropping him at school.
Complaints of loose stools and attacks of breathlessness accompanied by anxiety.
Moves anxiously from place to place. Restless.
A recent traumatic event had occurred in the family where his mother was hospitalized for a week.
The following line of treatment was adopted:
- Psychotherapy: This helped the child learn to understand his feelings and tolerate the separation to a more natural degree.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This taught the child to change the way he thinks about separation, allowing him to respond more appropriately to natural separation from his mother.
- Medication: Homoeopathic medicine (Ars Alb 200) was given. He recovered well with treatment. There were some brief recurrences of the anxiety, but the coping skills learned through treatment were effective at dealing with the problem when it came up the next time, making each instance shorter and more manageable until the anxiety disappeared completely. The child’s self esteem was strengthened through positive reinforcement. The whole family supported and helped the child as he was undergoing treatment.