Anxiety

  • Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear (about real or perceived imminent threats), anxiety (anticipation about future threats), and related behavioral disturbances.  Individuals with anxiety disorders tend to overestimate the danger in situations they fear or avoid.  One of the most common anxiety disorders in children is separation anxiety, which is also the anxiety disorder with the earliest age of onset. 

    Anxious children are likely to engage in a variety of avoidance behaviors to reduce their exposure to perceived threats. In the classroom, they may become withdrawn, not initiate interactions, select easy over difficult tasks, and avoid situations where they anticipate increased risk for failure. Socially, they may feel uncomfortable in new situations, not initiate conversations, or avoid group interactions. Either a real or imagined threat is enough to trigger an anxiety reaction.

    Signs of anxiety include, but are not limited to:

    • Fear associated with being alone or being separated from primary caregiver.
    • Fear that harm will come to the caregiver, or of losing that caregiver to illness, injury, disasters, following imminent separation.
    • Memory problems.
    • Excessive generalized worry.
    • Attention problems.
    • Restlessness.
    • Withdrawal.
    • Lack of participation.
    • Seeking easy tasks.
    • Rapid heart rate.
    • Muscle tension.
    • Sleeping problems.
    • Nausea.

    Anxiety disorders often begin in early childhood, and may persist into adulthood. There are a variety of specific anxiety disorders including separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, social phobia, and panic disorder.

    School & Home-Based Interventions:

    • Establish predictable routines. 
    • Break tasks into manageable units.
    • Give time to relax before anxiety becomes too high to manage (to prevent students from being overwhelmed in the first place).
    • Reduce time constraints, if possible. 
    • Move student to a quiet setting.
    • Avoid being overly critical, disparaging, impatient, or cynical. 
    • Do not treat feelings, questions, and statements about feeling anxious as silly or unimportant. What may seem silly to one person may beserious and threatening to another.
    • Seek outside help if the problem persists and continues to interfere with daily activities.

    Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders: Information for Parents

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