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Why Does My Child Worry So Much?

By: Carol Simmons, MS, LPC

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.

A diagnosis that we often don’t associate with children and adolescents is anxiety and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder. We tend to think that childhood is the best time of their lives, but many parents and other caretakers recognize that the child they care about is dealing with anxiety to the point that it is affecting many aspects of their lives.

One in 10 children meets the criteria for anxiety disorder, and it is the most common problem reported by children of all ages. However, children often do not get the help they need because they are not causing problems at school or at home. Parents might not seek services because they fear that they are making a mountain out of a molehill. But anxious children do not get as much out of the classroom because they often fail to ask questions, do not contribute answers and may have trouble starting assignments because of their fear of failing. They can be perfectionists and this makes them either excellent students or perfectionists that cannot get anything done because they are too worried about the work being incorrect.

Children with anxiety have recurrent worries, but the range of worrying is broad and not confined to one area; whereas children with OCD often worry and obsess about one or a handful of specific things. If a child suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is driven by anxiety, their lives can possibly be impacted to an even greater extent. In the long run, research has shown that anxious children have more restricted choices and opportunities in terms of careers because of their worry about performing in front of others.

Some anxiety is understandable – a child who is afraid to go to school because they are being bullied; a child who is afraid because their home was burglarized; or a child who fears for his parent’s health after the death of someone close to them. Every child has a different reaction to fearful events, so it is difficult to prepare for what might happen to them. A point that many parents don’t consider is that their reaction to the child’s fear is an important factor and over-consoling or making too many concessions for anxiety or OCD traits can validate the fear. On the other hand, dismissing the fear can lead to the children feeling they have no protection or comfort.

Strategies for handling anxiety are basically the same for all ages, but it is much harder for adults to make these changes. The reason to get help for the child while their minds are more flexible and open to change is that it reduces the chance that they will carry this diagnosis into adulthood. Some markers that might indicate anxiety are:

  • Worry that occurs more days than not
  • Child cannot control the worry
  • Child is restless, easily fatigued, has trouble concentrating, is irritable or has disturbed sleep
  • Worry is affecting social interactions or other areas of functioning

If you suspect that your child is an overly anxious child, ask for an evaluation by a qualified children’s counselor. There are options for evidence-based strategies that can greatly improve a child’s cognitive ability to handle daily stressors by stopping the loop of anxious thinking. Counselors can also help parents use interventions that will make it more likely for the child to succeed in this process. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, and planning for positive emotional health is every bit as important as planning for positive physical health.

 

*Please note these are simply recommendations. They are not products or services of         

 Hattiesburg Clinic Connections, nor do we endorse these resources.

 

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.