Anxiety is a pervasive problem in our society. It can be a fear of heights, not wanting to go to school, or worry about speaking in front of a group. Maybe it’s staying up all night so that your project is flawless, obsessing over meaningless details, or heart palpitations on your way to a meeting.
In fact, 8 percent of youth ages 13-18 have been given an anxiety diagnosis, with symptoms typically beginning at age six. Further, 18% of adults, or about 40 million people in the United States, are affected by anxiety in a given year. Those 40 million adults were once children who likely suffered from anxiety.
What are Common Types of Anxiety?
• Generalized Anxiety
• Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
• Social Anxiety
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Separation Anxiety
At the Summit Center, we talk about different types of anxiety as if they were brought about by the “Worry Monster,” which our children can learn to battle like “Warriors” with knowledge, strategies, and tools. Parents are taught to team up with their child to drive the Worry Monster away.
What are Signs that a Child has Anxiety?
Anxiety can occur at any age, depending on the child’s biological sensitivity, personality traits, and the presenting situations and stressors. Anxiety can be readily apparent, as when children worry constantly (“What if something bad happens”), when they begin to cry “for no reason,” when they talk about being scared, or when they are suffering from their endless drive toward perfection.
Anxiety also can take many forms including avoidance. Children, and adults for that matter, like to avoid what they are afraid of. For example, children who have undiagnosed learning problems may avoid school, or ask to go to the bathroom just before it’s their turn to read out loud. Out of sight, out of mind.
In some cases, children may begin to act out verbally or physically when anxious, causing their behavior to be misinterpreted as “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”
Are Gifted, 2e, and Children With Learning and Developmental Challenges More Prone to Anxiety?
Yes. Gifted individuals tend to be highly sensitive to their internal and the external world, and combined with their advanced thinking, tend toward worry and fear. Children with learning and processing issues like dyslexia and dysgraphia, and developmental issues like Aspergers Disorder, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) tend to have worries and fears related to their challenge area: “Will I get called on to read in class?” “What if I can’t sit still and pay attention?” “What if the kids keep laughing at me and I don’t know why?” “What if it is too loud?”
Twice-exceptional children (those who are both gifted and have a learning issue) appear to be more prone to developing anxiety due to their challenges areas as well. Having a disability/challenge/difference that impairs functioning, such as attention problems, impulsivity, difficulty relating to others, and difficulty reading, places an additional burden on them.
When Should Parents Seek Professional Help?
Parents should seek professional counseling or treatment when there’s a noticeable change in a child’s behavior or the child’s functioning becomes significantly impacted – for example, when the child’s often sick, not sleeping well, melting down regularly, avoiding required responsibilities like school and family obligations, and social activities like birthday parties and sports. Treatment should also be sought when children refuse to participate in an activity they previously enjoyed due to worry, fear, or avoidance.
If you are concerned about the level of your child’s worry or fear, please call or email Summit Center today to make an appointment with one of our professionals.
For More Information
Is the Worry Monster visiting your child without an invitation? For more information, we recommend Dr. Dan Peter’s books, Make Your Worrier a Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Child’s Fears, and the companion book written just for children, From Worrier to Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Fears.