According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.1% of American children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Research has found that approximately half of the individuals with diagnosable mental health disorders will have a problem a substance use later in life, or the other way around. That’s why it’s so important to treat childhood anxiety or substance use disorder in its early stages, and it’s even more crucial when there are co-occurring disorders.
When there’s a threat, our fight-or-flight response, or survival instinct, kicks in. The intention of both stress and anxiety is to make sure we’re paying attention and ready to handle the crisis. How do you know whether it’s stress or anxiety, and when is it time to get help?
Stress is a short-term reaction to a genuine threat. It causes the heart to beat faster, releasing stress hormones and pumping blood to the organs and limbs. Symptoms may include a fast heartbeat, irritability, anger, nausea, dizziness, anxious thinking, or digestive problems. When the danger passes, the body returns to normal.
Unlike stress, which is limited in duration, anxiety goes on indefinitely, and its cause may not be obvious. Symptoms include fast heartbeat and breathing, feelings of dread, digestive problems, sweating, tension, and restlessness. Anxiety is the way the body responds to stress, but it may stick around long after it has served its purpose.
Childhood trauma is especially damaging because it happens while the brain is still developing. Often, it’s also perpetuated by the people whom children trust to care for them. The trauma can be an intense, one-time event or a series of milder, ongoing ones, and its severity depends on how it’s perceived by the child. If it feels like a threat, it is.
Individuals who experience trauma may resist getting help because they don’t want to think or talk about the event. Some may not trust authority figures, or medical settings may trigger the original trauma. Others are in denial and unaware of how past trauma is affecting their lives.
Besides a genetic predisposition, parents can pass anxiety to their kids by the way they handle stress and anxiety in their own lives. Adults who feel overwhelmed or moody are more likely to lash out at their children, triggering childhood anxiety. The way they model stress management in front of their children also plays a role.
We have four tips to prevent childhood anxiety for parents:
Stay calm. Children sense when you’re uptight and take on your feelings.
Learn ways for you and your children to manage stress.
Stay aware of your stressful feelings, and be a good role model.
Using discretion, discuss your own anxiety with your children.
It's never too early to treat childhood anxiety. At Enlightened Solutions, we integrate medical supervision, counseling, and alternative healing techniques to treat the "whole" self. Contact us for more information about our holistic detox program.
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