The Anxious Child: Dealing with Childhood Anxiety

Childhood anxiety is a normal part of growing up. All children will experience anxiety at some point in their development. Different phases of development can lead to temporarily increased levels of anxiety. But sometimes, it isn’t just a phase. When do we know if a child needs help with managing anxiety symptoms?

The Symptoms of Childhood Anxiety?

Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder experience fear, nervousness, and shyness. They start to avoid places and activities. We have all seen the child at daycare or school sobbing uncontrollably and attached to their parent’s ankle! Some children are quiet and reserved. They never cause a scene and are highly compliant with teachers. Other children are targets of bullies, constantly seeking approval and trying to fit in. What does all of this mean? If my child acts like this, is my child okay?

That’s a difficult question. And will most likely need to be evaluated by a professional. Fortunately, there are many options. Schools have psychologists on staff to help assess educational barriers, including emotional concerns. Your pediatrician is also a great resource. Lastly, child and adolescent therapists can help evaluate your child’s needs. They can also provide a therapeutic framework to help you and your child move through this emotional time.

Childhood Anxiety and Other Issues

Sometimes, anxiety isn’t an isolated issue. Childhood anxiety disorders can co-occur with depression. Not to mention eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and others. Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can come on suddenly. Or they can build gradually and linger. Sometimes worry creates a sense of doom and foreboding that seems to come out of nowhere. Kids with anxiety problems may not even know what’s causing the emotions, worries, and sensations they have. There are many different types of anxiety disorders with different symptoms. But they all share one common trait — prolonged, intense anxiety that is out of proportion to the present situation and affects a person’s daily life and happiness.

The good news is that doctors and therapists today understand anxiety disorders better than ever before. And with treatment can help kids feel better. When treating anxiety in counseling sessions, many different therapeutic interventions can be used. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely used intervention. In CBT, kids try out new ways to think and act in situations that can cause anxiety and to manage and deal with stress. They are taught ways to stop the negative patterns of thinking and interacting. And to put healthy, empowering interventions into place. The therapist provides support and guidance and teaches new coping skills like relaxation techniques or breathing exercises. Also, social skills can be taught to kids who struggle with shyness. And many different activities can help build confidence in a child.

Ask for Help with Childhood Anxiety

Parents do not need to feel alone in this journey. If your child is getting help for anxiety, you should ask and expect to be highly involved in their treatment. Therapists can provide family sessions or parenting sessions in which they teach parents how to intervene more effectively. As a result, kids are able to work through their anxiety symptoms. In cases of panic attacks or other severe emotional reactions, a crisis plan can be put into place with the backing of professional help. Therapists can also help parents understand the “why” behind the symptoms. And also help parents work through feelings of helplessness or guilt that arise after the anxiety reaction. Parents should feel comfortable asking what the diagnosis given to their child means. This is so they can make the best decisions possible in the treatment of their child.

Medication for Childhood Anxiety

Medication is another option in treating anxiety. Most children will respond to behavioral interventions. But in some extreme cases, medication may be needed. Psychiatrists and pediatricians can help parents understand the side effects, dosage levels, and options when looking into medication. Often it is strongly suggested to have therapy in conjunction with medication interventions. As a result, the child learns ways to naturally cope with stress and not just rely on medication alone.

All of these directions for treating anxiety are very personal choices. You should feel empowered to help your child in a way that matches your family values and beliefs. As a parent, you have the right to assert yourself and the needs of your family by asking as many questions as needed. You should also gather as much information as possible to make you feel confident in your course of treatment decision.

Call Us Today!

If your child is experiencing a distressing level of childhood anxiety, don’t hesitate to get them into treatment. Rest assured that with the right care, your child can overcome anxiety. In doing so, your child can learn to face the future, ready and relaxed. We have highly trained therapists who can help your child work through their anxiety and help you better parent your anxious child.  Check out this page for more information on how we can help with anxiety treatment.

If you need help and support, know we are here to do just that. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and Robinson Township. We also offer Virtual Therapy Sessions. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients. Check out our services pages to learn how we can help you.

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Image Source Pixabay and Stuart Miles at


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