What is Anxiety and Why Is It Happening?

Why is Anxiety Picking on My Child?

If you’ve spent time researching information on anxiety you’ve probably noticed that there is a lot of information available. That’s because anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Europe, Australia, andmany other countries in the world, according to the World Health Organization. It’s big and isn’t just a condition of stressed out adults.

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue among children.  According to the ADAA.org Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.

Anxiety is a broad term for a number of conditions that cause worry, nervousness, apprehension and fear. Our behaviours and feelings are affected by anxiety and real physical symptoms can manifest. Maybe you’ve seen some in your child: headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, shaking, pounding heart, sweating, inability to sleep.

Anxiety comes in different levels of intensity, from mild anxiety, which is kind of a general unsettling feeling, to severe anxiety, which can seriously impact daily life and impair healthy functioning. All of us experience anxiety from time to time. Think about the last time you had to write an exam, meet a looming deadline, give a performance or speak in public, go for a job interview, or ask for a raise. It is perfectly normal to experience some anxiety in these cases. In fact, a little anxiety might even motivate us to prepare for important events.

But the main purpose of anxiety is to protect us from danger. Our anxiety alarm system lives in a small, almond shaped part of the brain (deep in the limbic brain) called the Amygdala. It handles the Fight-Flight-or Freeze response which is an ancient part of the brain that is necessary for keeping humans alive by alerting us to danger.

This part of the brain is lightning fast in reacting. It doesn’t do much in the way of thinking or analyzing situations, it just tells us to do something immediately to protect ourselves. Your amygdala is always on duty – watching out for possible danger and it hasn’t changed since the early days of humankind. The good news is, when there is real danger, the amygdala lets you know. The not-so-good news is, the amygdala sometimes makes the mistake of seeing danger when there is none. And that is what anxiety is all about. Seeing danger where there is none.

Anxiety is considered a problem when it interferes with a person’s ability to participate in the daily activities of life. And that is most likely why you are reading this. Your child is struggling with fear or worry that is keeping him or her from fully participating in life. Defined by Medical News Today, “Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.”

The key to helping your child successfully manage anxiety is to develop your own skill set so you are able to become an effective coach for your child. Check out our blog posts featuring tools and techniques for helping your child manage anxiety, like Dealing with Thoughts that Increase Anxiety.

Article Author: Valerie Ostara is the world’s first Closet Monster Battle Coach and founder of Sound–Mind.ca, an educational and coaching organization dedicated to defeating the anxiety monsters that lurk in the closets and under the beds of our children’s minds. Through our effective and empowering strategies, children and parents learn the skills and self-management techniques guaranteed to bring peace of mind.