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Child and Adolescent Client Education Handout Planner
By Laurie Cope Grand
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAnxiety in Children
Every human feels anxiety on occasion; it is a part of life. All of us know what it is like to feel worry, nervousness, fear, and concern. This is true for adults and children alike. Kids feel nervous on their first day at school or when they have to take a test. We all know it's normal to feel a surge of fear when we unexpectedly see a photo of a snake or look down from the top of a tall building. Most of us manage these kinds of anxious feelings fairly well and are able to carry on with our lives without much difficulty. They don't disrupt our lives.
But millions of people (an estimated 15 percent of the population) suffer from devastating and constant anxiety that severely affects their lives, sometimes forcing them to live in highly restricted ways. Many of these victims are children. They experience panic attacks, phobias, extreme shyness, obsessive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors. The feeling of anxiety is a constant and dominating force that disrupts their lives. Some become prisoners in their own homes, unable to leave to go to school or visit the mall. For these children, anxiety is much more than just an occasional wave of apprehension.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
An anxiety disorder affects a child's behavior, thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. The most common anxiety disorders include the following:
Social anxiety also called social phobia. This is a fear of being around other people. Children who suffer from social anxiety always feel selfconscious around others. They always have the feeling that everyone is watching and staring at them and being critical in some way. Because the anxiety is so painful, they learn to stay away from social situations and avoid other people. Some eventually need to be alone at all times, in a room with the door closed. The feeling is pervasive and constant and even happens with people they know.
Older children and adolescents who have social anxiety know that their thoughts and fears are not rational. They are aware that others are not actually judging or evaluating them at every moment. But this knowledge does not make the feelings disappear.
Panic disorder. This is a condition where a person has panic attacks without warning. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 5 percent of the adult American population suffers from panic attacks. Some experts say that this number is actually higher, since many people experience panic attacks but never receive treatment.
A panic attack typically lasts several minutes and is extremely upsetting and frightening. In some cases, panic attacks last longer than a few minutes or strike several times in a short time period.
A panic attack is often followed by feelings of depression and helplessness. Most people who have experienced panic say that the greatest fear is that the panic attack will happen again.
Many times, the person who has a panic attack doesn't know what caused it. It seems to have come "out of the blue." At other times, people report that they were feeling extreme stress or had encountered difficult times and weren't surprised that they had a panic attack.
Generalized anxiety disorder. Quite common, generalized anxiety disorder affects an estimated 3 to 4 percent of the population. This disorder fills a child's life with worry, anxiety, and fear. Children and adolescents who have this disorder are always thinking and dwelling on the "what ifs" of a situation. It feels like there is no way out of the vicious cycle of anxiety and worry. The person often becomes depressed about life and his or her inability to stop worrying.
Children and adolescents who have generalized anxiety usually do not avoid situations, and they don't generally have panic attacks. They can become incapacitated by an inability to shut the mind off and are overcome with feelings of worry, dread, lack of energy, and a loss of interest in life. The person usually realizes these feelings are irrational, but the feelings are also very real. The person's mood can change from hour to hour, or even day to day. Feelings of anxiety and mood swings become a pattern that severely disrupts the victim's quality of life.
Children and adults with generalized anxiety disorder often have physical symptoms including headaches, irritability, frustration, trembling, inability to concentrate, and sleep disturbances. They may also have symptoms of social phobia and panic disorder.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER TYPES OF ANXIETY DISORDERS?
Other types of anxiety disorders include:
Phobia-fearing a specific object or situation
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)-a system of ritualized behaviors or obsessions that are driven by anxious thoughts
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-severe anxiety that is triggered by memories of a past traumatic experience
Agoraphobia-disabling fear that prevents one from leaving home or other safe places
COMMON PANIC SYMPTOMS
Racing or pounding heart
Feelings of terror
Chest pains or heaviness in the chest
Dizziness and lightheadedness
Fear of dying
Fear of going crazy
Fear of losing control
Feeling unable to catch one's breath
Tingling in the hands, feet, legs, arms
Excerpted from Child and Adolescent Client Education Handout Planner by Laurie Cope Grand Copyright © 2003 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. . Excerpted by permission.
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