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Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that cause intense and excessive fear, worry, or nervousness. These feelings can interfere with daily life and may be caused by a specific situation or event, or they may be ongoing and seemingly without a trigger. Some common examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety disorders can include rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, difficulty breathing, and avoidance of certain situations.

In children and adolescents, these conditions can include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.

Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive and persistent worry about daily events and activities. Panic disorder is characterized by sudden and intense episodes of fear or terror, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, and shaking.

Social anxiety disorder is marked by an intense fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated in social situations. Separation anxiety disorder is marked by excessive anxiety about being away from home or loved ones. Specific phobias are intense fears of specific objects or situations, such as dogs, heights, or flying.

Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents can interfere with daily life and cause significant distress for the child or adolescent, as well as their family. If you are a parent or caregiver of a child or adolescent who is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, it is important to seek help from a licensed PRI mental health professional.

Some specific warning signs that may indicate the need for a higher level of care include:

  1. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors Inability to perform everyday tasks or attend school
  2. Extreme avoidance behaviors or panic attacks
  3. Difficulty sleeping or eating
  4. Severe physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, or vomiting

There are several effective therapies for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. Here are some of the most common and effective therapies:

  1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps children and adolescents identify and challenge their anxious thoughts and behaviors, and learn coping strategies to manage their symptoms.
  2. Exposure and response prevention (ERP): ERP is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing children and adolescents to the situations or objects that trigger their anxiety, and teaching them how to resist the urge to avoid or escape them.
  3. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT is a type of therapy that helps individuals learn to accept their anxious thoughts and feelings, and commit to taking actions that are consistent with their values and goals.
  4. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR): MBSR is a type of therapy that combines mindfulness meditation with gentle physical exercises to help children and adolescents become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, and learn how to manage them in a non-judgmental way.
  5. Play therapy: Play therapy involves the use of play activities to help children and adolescents express themselves, process their emotions, and learn coping skills. Family therapy: 
  6. Family therapy involves working with parents and other family members to improve communication, reduce stress, and support the child or adolescent in their recovery.

It’s important to note that every child or adolescent is different and may require a unique combination of therapies that work best for them. It’s essential to consult with a PRI mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for a specific child or adolescent. In some cases, medication may also be recommended as part of the treatment plan.

What can you do to help?

  1. Encourage them to seek professional help from a therapist or doctor, and support them in finding a treatment plan that works for them. 
  2. Help them identify and avoid triggers that can cause anxiety. Encourage them to engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Listen to them and provide emotional support, but avoid giving unsolicited advice or trying to “fix” their problems.
  3.  Help them create a routine with healthy habits such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep. 
  4. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, even if they don’t feel motivated to do so. 
  5. Avoid enabling their anxiety by accommodating their fears or reassurance-seeking behaviors, as this can reinforce the anxiety. 
  6. Be patient and understanding, as recovery from anxiety can be a gradual and ongoing process.


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