Many symptoms are associated with anxiety, and some are difficult to discuss. It is characterised by fear, worry and alarm at the thought that something dangerous or sudden may be approaching. Early age anxiety: types, symptoms, and causes
Everybody experiences anxiety. It is a natural reaction that can be expressed through fear, worry and alarm. However, sometimes anxiety can become exaggerated or unhealthy. Children can experience anxiety and worry and feel hopeless and sad at times. This is because they may have strong fears that appear at different stages of development.
Children are prone to worry and fear. However, if the feelings and thoughts are persistent, it could be a sign of anxiety or depression. A variety of factors causes Early Age Anxiety. It has become more common in preschoolers after the Covid scandal, as they were the most isolated, with little to no exposure to the world outside.
These kids had no social interaction with peers and were confined to the house. As a result, many children in this age range turned to their mobile phones for entertainment, which increased their screen time, affecting their overall development skills. Regularly attending preschool or getting out of the house introduces children to social interaction and makes them more aware of the world.
We will explore the signs that a child or teenager is anxious and how to handle this at home best.
Dr Suprakash Chaudhary is Professor and HOD of the Department of Psychiatry at Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre in Pune’s Pimpri. Psychiatry, Dr DY Patil’s Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, in Pimpri near Pune, revealed that genetic factors and life stress can cause anxiety. He said that it’s best to consult a psychiatrist or child psychiatrist if pressure is persistent or severe. Anxiety disorders include, according to him:
- Separation anxiety –High anxiety levels after being separated from someone or a place that gives you a sense of security or safety are characterised by a separation anxiety disorder.
- Social anxiety is fear of being judged negatively by others or of embarrassment in public.
- Selective Mutism –This anxiety is experienced by some children who cannot communicate verbally in certain situations or places, like school, despite having excellent communication skills with familiar people.
- Phobia Irrational fear of an object or situation. The cause of phobias is different from other anxiety disorders.
- Panic disorder – These people may experience sudden, intense episodes of anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as palpitations and sweating. They might also feel dizzy, have trouble breathing, or even sweat.
Dr Sameer Malhotra, director and head of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Multi Speciality Centre, in Delhi’s Panchsheel Park, said: “Various factors can contribute to anxiety, such as genetic predispositions, stressful family environments, alcohol dependence and impulse control in the home, parental discord and emotional trauma, disintegrating networks of support, high expectations and sometimes over-provisions. Other factors include excessive mobile usage, disturbed sleep-wake cycle, and unhealthy lifestyle.
Early age anxiety symptoms are listed by Dr Suprakash Chaudhary as follows:
1. Feeling jittery, nervous and unable to sit still.
2. Recurrently visiting the toilet.
3. Unable to concentrate
4. Sleeping problems.
5. Frequent nightmares
6. Poor eating
7. Short-tempered and prone to anger outbursts.
8. On the verge of tears, often
9. You may experience abdominal pain and stomach upset.
Aruna Agarwal is a Child Psychologist and Behavioural Analyst. She is also an Access Conscious practitioner. The owner of Kidzee Mount Litera Zee School in Powai, Aruna Agarwal, revealed that early anxiety signs are:
- Children screaming out loud – crying out in public or social gatherings or withdrawing from their peers or social groups.
- Speech Delay –Anxious Behaviour in a Kid, like Crying, Hitting, Not Being Friendly, etc. This is because the child has a speech disorder.
- Requesting parents’ Attention – When a parent talks to someone on the phone, does unruly actions or asks for trivial things constantly. All of these are signs you should be on the lookout for.
Adding to the list, Dr Sameer Malhotra mentioned cold sweaty palms, at times breathlessness, feeling of chest discomfort, the feeling of butterflies in the stomach, avoidance behaviours, restlessness, fidgety, mostly being in a hurry, speaking quite fast and at times stammering, fear of heights/flights/closed chambers/ darkness, significant exam anxiety, sleeplessness, feeling tired and helpless or at times irritable.
Dr Tarun Sehgal is a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Director at Solh Wellness. He shared his knowledge on the subject. “For some teens, anxiety can become a chronic and high-pitched state that interferes with their ability to attend school and achieve their academic potential. Participating in extracurricular activities and maintaining a flexible, supportive relationship with family members becomes difficult. Sometimes anxiety is a generalised, floating feeling of unease. Sometimes anxiety can develop into panic attacks or phobias. It’s not uncommon for young people to feel anxious before exams or the first day of class. You’re approached by your child, who tells you they are worried. You can’t tell the difference because you feel anxious sometimes. You hope that it is a normal adjustment like starting a school. You think that it will all be resolved. It is often misdiagnosed because anxiety can sometimes present as a physical symptom like a stomach ache. Teenagers with frequent stomach aches may avoid school. This could be a sign of something more.”
He listed some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety.
1. You may find it difficult to focus or concentrate
2. Sleeping problems or bad dreams at night
3. You are not eating properly
4. Being out of control when you are angry.
5. Constantly worrying about something or thinking negatively
6. Feeling fidgety or frequently using the toilet
7. Always Crying
8. Being clingy
9. Feeling unwell and complaining of stomach aches
10. Social Anxiety
Dr Tarun Sehgal emphasises that anxiety disorders can vary from teenager to teenager. He said, “Even when there is no real threat, teenagers may describe constant nervousness, restlessness or extreme stress. In social situations, anxious teenagers may seem dependent, withdrawn or uneasy. They appear either too restrained or emotional. They may be preoccupied with worries about losing control or unrealistic concerns regarding social competence. Anxiety in adolescence is usually centred around the changes that occur to the body, the social acceptance of the adolescent, and the conflict over independence. Anxious adolescents may seem extremely reserved. They may refuse to try new things or avoid doing their normal activities. When they are away from their friends, they may protest. To reduce or deny fear and worry, they might engage in risky behaviours, drug experiments, or impulsive behaviour.
Treatment & cure:
Dr Suprakash Chaudhary said, “Treatments consist of a mixture of psychotherapy and behavioural therapy as well as medication.” Alcoholism, depression and other conditions may impact mental health so it is best to wait before treating anxiety disorders until these conditions are under control. It is important to talk more often with your child about their fears or problems without making fun of them or ridiculing them. Ask about bullying, issues at school or anxiety of staff.
Aruna Agarwal, a Child Psychologist, said that although some cases could be dealt with at home using simple solutions. Consult a paediatrician for help if your child becomes more anxious each day. She suggested the following treatment:
- Don’t overwhelm your client. Introduce the child to a small group, such as a playgroup or society, or even just a neighbouring kid.
- Encourage your child to talk more. Use words and language when expressing yourself. Celebrate the small victories.
- Make sure you socialise with your child often. Take the child to the home of a friend or relative and make them aware of the kid.
- Consult the specialist/developmental paediatrician/child psychologist for help.
Dr Sameer Malhotra gave advice on how to manage anxiety clinically.
A. Through lifestyle correction: Healthy balanced meals, encouragement of a healthy sleep-wake schedule, regular physical exercise and yoga, channelling energy into constructive hobbies, healthy balance parenting, with the ability of the child to listen to ‘No’ sometimes, rational expectations, and avoidance unhealthy comparisons, and encouraging healthy communication, expression and mobile use. Encourage a spirit of sportsmanship.
B. Correction of any underlying thyroid concerns
Counselling (C) and behaviour therapy; Family counselling
D. Medication according to standard guidelines
In a video explaining how to deal with anxiety, Dr Tarun said, “Healthy lifestyle choices can help pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults handle anxiety.” He suggested that going on a walk rather than worrying at home could help clear your mind.
1. Healthy food and drink, physical activity and sleep for pre-teens or teens.
2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs.
3. Don’t put things off, and don’t be late.
4. Exercises for relaxation include breathing exercises, mindfulness or muscle relaxation.
5. Seek professional help if you are worried about anxiety. Consider seeing a mental health professional in the following situations:
6. Feeling anxious, nervous or constantly on edge or unable to control your worrying
7. Anxiety that lasts for several weeks, even months
8. Feelings of anxiety that affect your ability to concentrate, interact with others and carry out daily activities.
There are ways to reduce the severity of anxiety symptoms, even though it is impossible to predict what causes someone to develop anxiety. Medication, therapy, and counselling can all help to keep anxiety in check. The following are some of the treatments recommended by Dr Tarun.
1. Relaxation Techniques
– Relaxation can reduce anxiety, negative thoughts, and stress. Relaxation techniques include deep breathing, meditation and listening to soothing music.
2. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy
– In many cases, cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy effectively addresses adolescent anxiety disorders. These approaches allow the teenager to examine anxiety and anticipate situations where it may occur. They also help them understand its effects. It can help the youngsters understand their fears’ exaggerated nature and approach. Moreover, cognitive-behavioural therapy tends to be specific to the anxiety problem, and the teen actively participates, which usually enhances the youngster’s understanding.
3. Other Therapies
– In some cases, family therapy and long-term psychotherapy may be recommended, as well as ACT. It’s important to keep in mind that if you are struggling with anxiety and the right treatment is applied. A brighter future can be yours. You don’t need to let fear rule your life. The earlier you diagnose a problem, the easier it will be to treat.
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