Archive for the ‘Anxiety’ Category

PostHeaderIcon How do kids know if they are stressed?

Children, whether they are young children, older kids, or teenagers, all worry about a number of things. Children when they are younger often worry about going to bed alone and being in the dark or of going to school and leaving their parents. As children get older, they worry more about being popular, being rejected by other kids, death, leaving home when they are done with school, finding a job, or what is going on in the world. Worries and fears can be very frightening and confusing for children, however the good part is that by noticing and understanding your fears and worries, you can learn to handle them.

Fears or worries may be big or small, but some common fears for children/teens are as follows: nightmares, bugs, violence, meeting new people, talking in front of other kids, getting laughed at, strangers, storms, doctors or dentists, failing grades, being liked by others, loud noises, or something bad happening to them.
There are a number of different anxiety disorders, however the main symptoms that they seem to have in common that can let a child know that they are probably having anxiety are:

You feel fidgety or restless
You get easily tired and do not seem to have alot of energy
You can not seem to focus or concentrate in school
You are grumpy or irritable for really no reason
Your heart is racing or beating fast for no reason
Your muscles are tight; tense and you hurt all over and can not seem to relax
You feel lightheaded, dizzy, sweaty alot, or have dry mouth
You seem to have alot of stomach pain or headaches for no reason
Lastly, you feel like you are going crazy or are about to die if you can not “escape” immediately.

The best advice that I can give grown-ups and kids that have anxiety is to find support immediately. A good counselor can help you work through these anxieties and can give examples to kids on how to handle situations with extreme anxiety. In extreme cases, medications to help control anxiety may be needed.

PostHeaderIcon Social Phobia in Kids

Social phobia, which is also known as social anxiety disorder (SAD) is diagnosed with a child or teenager has a persistent fear of social situations, performing, and talking in front of other people. SAD is usually seen when your child or teen has a fear of being criticized or judged or when they are put in embarrassing situations with people that they are unfamiliar with. Social phobia affects one in every twenty-five children, and is diagnosed twice as often in girls than it is in boys. Teenagers are particularly occupied with how they compared and how they are viewed by their friends, and being self-conscious is relatively normal. SAD, however is diagnosed when the symptoms become extreme and interfere with your child or teens ability to function.

For a child/teen to be diagnosed with SAD the symptoms must last for a period of at least six months and this disorder is not simply when a child is experiencing some discomfort when they are put in any new situation. There is no one symptom that defines SAD, rather it a cluster of symptoms and when your child experiences a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms of SAD are:
Fearing scrutiny by others in social situations
Crying, throwing temper tantrums or anger episodes, or freezing when a child has to be a social situation
Avoiding the situations that cause the fear
Complaining of being sick in order to avoid having to go to school
Feeling like they are outside of the group or playing solitarily, or having few to no friends
Unwillingness to participate in group activities at school or on group projects, fear of raising their hand in class to avoid anyone looking at them, or being afraid to read in class

Four out of every ten children that have SAD refuse to attend school because of their anxiety. When your child/teen finally does go to school, they will most likely ask to go to the nurse’s office in order to avoid being in class and having to be around others or having to interact socially in a group. If your child has SAD, then they will most likely struggle with speaking up in class or asking the teacher for help and will have problems making friends. Social anxiety also causes physical symptoms in a child/teen and they will most likely blush or start sweating, experience dry mouth, feel nauseous, start trembling or shaking, and experience heart palpitations or dizziness.

Kids/teens that suffer with social anxiety when they are younger, are more likely to remain single in the future, attain less education, consider hurting themselves, have an erratic work history, abuse drugs or alcohol to deal with the anxiety, or have other psychiatric disorders. SAD is a disorder that requires psychiataric or psychological treatment. An effective treatment for SAD is Social Effectiveness Training that teaches children how to cope and effectively deal with social situations. This is a treatment that teaches children the necessary skills in order to handle any social situation in a competent manner, which in turn increases their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Adapted from The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety by Ilyne Sandas, M.A, and Christine Siegel, M.A. , 2008.

PostHeaderIcon Recognizing the symptoms of hyperventilation

One of the main symptoms that occurs when a teen or adult has a panic attack is hyperventilation. There are basically two kinds of hyperventilation-acute and chronic. Acute hyperventilation is when you start gasping for breaths of air when you are having a panic attack and chronic hyperventilation is much more subtle and occurs when someone is overbreathing. Up to 80 percent of those who hyperventilate tend to sigh and yawn frequently. In addition, they are usually mouth breathers. Breathing through the nose seems to take more effort especially for those who are panicky.
So what are the signs to look for to know whether you are hyperventilating:

frequent sighing, gasps, yawning, coughing, or clearing of the throat
breathing through the mouth
you are taking eighteen or more breaths a minute when you are relaxed
shortness of breath
giddiness
lightheadness
heart palpitations

Some other symptoms are:
tremors, chest pain, dry mouth, clammy hands, swallowing difficulty, sweating, weakness and fatigue, and numbness or tingling sensations.

Hyperventilation as seen in panic disorder is usually brought on as an emotional reaction to stress. However, hyperventilation can also occur as the result of poor breathing habits. Breathing retraining is highly recommended in order to bring the symptom of hyperventilation under control. Consult a mental health professional if breathing retraining or breathing exercises to promote relaxation are needed.

PostHeaderIcon How to help kids with holiday stress

Of course you are thinking that the holidays are supposed to be all fun and games for the kids. For parents, we know that the holidays truly are the most stressful time of the year. However, the truth is that the holidays are often just as stressful for your kids as they are for you. During the holidays, we are running around trying to get everything done and we are stressed and of course our kids/teens can feel this stress in the house. As we change our regular routine, go see our relatives that we may or may not get along with, and often spend hours in the car, all of these contribute to our kids feeling stressed out. Not to mention their eating sugar and things that they normally would not eat and getting less sleep than usual. What can we do to reduce our kids stress over the holidays?
Here are a few tips to help:
1.) Try to not and change their routine too much. Most of us do not do well with change! Prepare for Christmas early and give them time to “chill out”. When you see that your kids may also be stressed, let them go to their rooms and listen to music, play video games, etc… In other words, let them do what they enjoy that relaxes them.
2.) Talk to your children about what the meaning of Christmas is. Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of cooking and gift buying. Have a discussion with them what the season actually means and this will probably calm the parents down as well.
3.) Eat at home as much as you can, most foods that we eat out are really not that nutritious. Remember that we still should exercise and keep some of our normal routine. Have them walk or ride their bike.
4.) If your family has conflict around the holidays with other family members, then make sure to prepare your kids for this and discuss it. For example, if you have a crazy uncle that is loud and obnoxious, then talk to your kids about this and let them express their thoughts/feelings. There is nothing worse than not being prepared for family conflicts and being blind-sided.
5.) If you see that you and your kids have too much on your schedule, then just say “No”. Doing too many things just stresses everyone out and nerves are stretched thin and everybody is exhausted. Exhaustion is not fun!!
6.) If you are planning a trip to family or friends house in the car or on a plane, make sure to have things for your kids/teens to do. Kids complaining that they are bored only stresses them out and you as well.
7.) Most importantly remember to relax and stay calm. If your child/teen is already stressed then have them read or practice guided imagery or play some Christmas music. Guided imagery is imagining a calming, relaxing environment. Sit with your child or teen for a few minutes and you both imagine a calm place where you are both relaxed.

Above all, keep a positive outlook on the holidays. If parents are complaining about all that they have to do and are negative, it will be really difficult for children to reduce their stress level. Don’t forget your sense of humor, if you have one then your kids will likely as well. Of course, their will probably be some whining and complaining, but let’s try to keep it at a minimum by implementing some of the strategies mentioned.

PostHeaderIcon How do we recognize a Panic Attack?

Anxiety is really on a continuum if you think about.  All of us, kids, adolescents and adults have some level of anxiety on any given day.  We move from relatively little anxiety to moderate to severe anxiety and we move up and down on this continuum.  NOBODY has no anxiety every day, everyone experience some degree of anxiety on any given day.  Anxiety is really a good and a bad thing, however high levels of anxiety on a continuing basis interfere with our ability to function in our daily lives.  We never are truly able to eliminate anxiety completely, however the goal of psychological treatment is to reduce or manage the anxiety that we have.  With that said, how do we know that we are having a panic attack or in other words a sudden and intense fear or anxiety that is absolutely overwhelming to us.  Panic attacks happen to children and adults alike and panic attacks do not discriminate based on a person’s age. 

In order to recognize whether you are experiencing a panic attack, you must first know the symptoms of a panic attack:

1.) you feel like your heart is racing and you have heart palpitations

2.) sweating

3.) trembling or shaking all over your body

4.) Shortness of breath

5.) fear of dying

6.) fear of losing control

7.) nausea or abdominal pain or distress

8.) chills or hot flushes

9.) chest pain or discomfort

10.) feeling of choking

11.) feeling dizzy, unsteady, faint, or lightheaded

12.) derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached or not part of oneself)

13.) paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)

To qualify for a diagnosis of Panic Disorder, at least four of the preceding 13 symptoms are needed.  Experiencing these symptoms does not always mean that you are having a panic attack, they may signal a physical problem.  Many symptoms of a physical ailment mimic those identified for a panic attack and a physical basis for the symptoms needs to first be ruled out.  Individuals should first receive a physical examination to rule out that their is no physical basis for these symptoms.  If there is not a physical reason for the preceding symptoms than panic disorder is likely the culprit and psychological intervention is needed.  Most individuals that experience panic attacks are treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychological intervention is usually needed in order to treat panic attacks.  Medications are also often needed in order to treat panic attacks.

PostHeaderIcon No Quick Fix for Anxiety Sufferers

This is something we hear as therapists all the time, “can you fix me really quick.”  Or, “do you have a magic wand to just fix me.”  Whether the sufferer of anxiety is a child, an adolescent, or an adult, there is NO “quick fix” for anxiety.  The problem that we as therapists often run into, is that patients want to be “fixed”, however they are not patient in the amount of time it takes to start to improve and the other “biggie” is that patients do very little of the prescribed treatment in order to get better. 

For parents that have children that suffer with anxiety,  a large part of anxiety is fear based as well as personal concerns that the child has.  There is really no one “right treatment” that works for every child and as a parent or caregiver you need to be patient with your child.  Most parents if they have a child that suffers with anxiety symptoms are often very fearful themselves as well as reacting to their child’s anxiety with anger, fear, frustration, etc…  The best way to help your child to get through their anxiety for the long-term is to first let them work through some of their anxiety themselves.  Do not “fix” everything for them.  A child first has to recognize their anxiety and try to problem-solve for themselves.  If they are unable to do this, then be patient and help them through their anxiety.  A thoughtful; well thought out approach with the assistance of a therapist is a really good place to start.  Help your child work through their fears and anxieties, but do not take over out of your own fear and do things for them.  There are a few treatments out there that are a “quick fix” such as an anti-anxiety medication, however medications “mask” the symptoms of anxiety and do help, but they will not “fix” the problem.

PostHeaderIcon How to work through a child’s fears or anxiety

Children that are often brought in for mental health treatment are seen for excessive worry or fears.  Parents are often confounded as to where the fears started and more importantly on how to help their child combat these fears that seem very real to them.  Common fears that are seen are the fear of water, animals, dark places, heights, and most often having to start school and be aways from their parents.  Of course, all of us feel fear at one time or another and the degree or severity of our fear is different at times.  What I am talking about is irrational fears that are excessive and are interfering with your child’s ability to function.  Here are a list of some strategies that a parent or caregiver can use with their child to help them work through and combat some of these fears. 

1.) Try to get your child to open up and talk about what is going and how they are feeling.  As a therapist, this is our entire goal and we have a number of strategies that we use in order to get a child to open and talk to us to figure out what is going on and how to help them.  Just listen to your child and do not make any judgments, just let them vent their feelings.  If they won’t up to you as a parent, then professional help may be needed.

2.) Research any books that are related to your child’s fears and purchase them in order to help your child learn coping strategies.  By your child having books that are related to their fears, they are able to identify with the characters in the books that are experiencing very similar symptoms to them and eventually work through their fear.

3.) Do NOT force a child to confront their fears all of a sudden.  Facing fears has to be at a very gradual pace.  In therapy, we call this systematic desensitization, a fancy word that means we expose a child to their fear very slowly over a period of time.  If you expose your child all of a sudden to their fear, then you will most likely make the situation much worse.  

4.) If you see that after you as the parent have tried talking to them, bought resource books related to the fear, and taken steps to resolve the problem and the problem persists, then consider help from a mental health professional. 

Children require a stable environment that is relatively free from chaos.  We all have chaos and stress in her lives from time to time, however a structured environment is the best in order to allay a child’s fears.  Remember, when children do not know what to expect and their lives are full of chaos, this often brings about anxiety and fears.

PostHeaderIcon Find a happy place, find a happy place

Stress or anxiety seems to be in everyone’s life in varying degrees.  Stress affects children, adolescents, and adults alike and here is a very easy way to manage your stress.  As a therapist, I see lots and lots of patients even children that are suffering from anxiety and a technique professionals often use is visual imagery.  Visual imagery or visualization is a very easy stress management technique that you can use almost anywhere.  This technique, I recommend to all of the children I see and each person makes up their own little “happy place”.  Here is what you do: 

Make up your own place to relax.  Breathe in deep and exhale slowly before you begin.  Now, picture a scene, you sitting in a hammock facing the ocean.  You lost your cell phone so no one will be calling you.  Notice how warm the sun is and the breeze is blowing and feels very nice.  Stay in this picture for a while and notice that the birds are singing in the trees and the cabana boy just brought you a tall glass of iced tea.  You are totally relaxed and feel terrific.  You continue to breathe in and out slowly and you drift off to sleep for a few seconds and are totally refreshed.

Of course, this is my daydream!!  This may seem hard at first to do since we do not train ourselves to relax, but practice this every day and it will become second nature to you.  Give yourself permission to take a few minutes and practice this every day.  Children can even do this at home before they start their school day and their “daydream” can be changed to something that they enjoy or relaxes them.  Now, have a wonderful day!!