Child & Youth Anxiety
Feeling anxious is a human experience that, in moderation, keeps us safe and can even motivate us. When anxiety is experienced excessively it becomes a debilitating force in our lives. This is no different for children and youth.
It’s common for young children to be fearful of things that adults might easily dismiss, such as the dark and monsters lurking under the bed. However, if you notice your child’s inability to have fun, interact with others, or behave in a manner typical for their age, then perhaps your child may be struggling with anxiety.
In older children, the pressures of school, relationships (friends, family, and romantic interests), self-imposed high standards, other pursuits such as sports, arts, hobbies, volunteering – and if they are older, employment – can be very challenging and may lead to issues coping with anxiety.
Symptoms & signs of anxiety in children and youth
Children and youth may experience anxiety differently but there are some common things to watch for:
- Overwhelming fears of things that are normally not seen as scary
- Regressing to a younger or infantile state
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble performing in school
- Mood changes
- Behaviour changes
- A sudden change in marks or performance
- Damaging behaviour (to self, others, or property)
- Avoiding activities outside of home
- Inability to stop worrying
- Being easily startled and/or quick to panic
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Dependence on parents
- Need for constant reassurance
- Lack of appetite or overeating
- Lack of concentration
- Frequent stomach aches
- Self harm
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Trembling, muscle tension
- Breathing difficulty (inability to take a deep breath, shallow breathing)
- Heart palpitations
When is it time to get help?
If you notice your child is exhibiting some of the symptoms listed above, and their daily activities are being affected, or if you notice mood or personality changes, see their marks suddenly drop or a decline in their performance on sports teams or at other activities, are alerted by a teacher or coach’s concerns, or if your child just seems to be “off’, it may be time to seek help.
Child and youth anxiety treatment methods
There are various treatments for anxiety in children and youth – many dependent on the age of the child. Psychotherapy treatment for adolescents experiencing anxiety has a high success rate! In one study, 77% of Canadian youth remained free of generalized anxiety for at least one year after short term psychotherapy. Early intervention is a key factor.
- Art therapy clients use their imagination to approach and explore their emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Especially useful in young people and people with developmental delays, when their motor skills exceed their verbal skills, they’ll get more out of art therapy than talk-only.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how people’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence their behaviour and how they perceive themselves.
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is a treatment method that’s similar to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) but emphasizes building skills to manage stress, emotional response and regulation, mental health issues, and the psycho-social aspects of relationship building.
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is defined by EMDR Canada as an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma and many other mental health problems that utilized bilateral eye stimulation or somatic responding.
- Family systems therapy looks at the family as one emotional unit. This therapeutic approach looks at the relationships within the family and the structure as a whole.
- Psychotherapy is a broad term that encompasses numerous styles of therapy and uses verbal or nonverbal communication with a client to help treat psychiatric problems, behavioral issues, personality disorders, and various other types of emotional distress. This form of personal counselling is based on an interpersonal relationship, as opposed to the alternative chemical or physical forms of therapy.
What will my child get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?
If anxiety is affecting your child’s life, please know that things can get better for them and for you! Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns in Canada. Our therapists at Insight can help your child to alleviate the symptoms caused by anxiety by selecting a treatment or combination of therapies that will work best for them. Our child psychologists also treat children after traumatic events. If the child has just lost a parent or family member, or has been abused, it is advisable to have them see a psychologist. Professional help will allow the child to process the traumatic event, and transition into the new changes in their life.
Insight has therapists who specialize in treating children and adolescents. If your child or teen is struggling, please contact us.
 Psychology Works Fact Sheet: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Canadian Psychological Association