By Charlotte Tallman
For the Sun-News
At times, it might seem as if youth have no concerns, and breeze through their younger years. But youth face a myriad of challenges, including anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural human reaction, serving as a type of alarm when there is danger or perceived threat. When someone feels anxious, they can be impacted physically and emotionally and might feel physical responses like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness or becoming sweaty or shaky. Usually, once the brain evaluates the situation, there is a response, or if the perceived threat disappears, the nervous system begins to calm down.
According to KidsHealth by the Nemours Foundation, everyone experiences feelings of anxiety, but while some amount of anxiety is normal, there are anxiety disorders that can affect a child’s everyday life and possibly cause drug and alcohol use, severe depression and even suicide.
There are six types of childhood anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety where a child will worry excessively about many things and experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension or fatigue; obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) where anxiety takes the form of obsessions and compulsions; phobias where the child has intense fears of specific things or situations that are not inherently dangerous; social anxiety triggered by social situations or speaking in front of others; panic attacks which are periods of anxiety that occur for no apparent reason and cause sudden and intense physical symptoms that can include a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness or tingling feelings and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), resulting from a traumatic past experience.
Signs of an anxiety disorder are sometimes hard to spot, and often a child won’t understand what they are feeling is beyond normal. Common signs include excessive worry, trouble sleeping at night or sleepiness during the day, restlessness or fatigue during waking hours, trouble concentrating and irritability.
Treatment for anxiety disorders often come from mental health professionals who create a plan to help a child cope. Sometimes medicine is used in part for treatment of anxiety disorders.
Parents are key to helping children cope with anxiety disorders. It is important for parents to acknowledge the anxiety in a nonjudgmental and supportive way and make sure the child has a qualified professional to speak to.
The Unified Prevention! (UP!) Coalition, an initiative of the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, is a coalition of various community members dedicated to keeping youth safe and happy. For more information on children and anxiety contact the coalition for a resource that can help.