Stress and anxiety are a normal part of daily life. However, when feelings of stress and anxiety become overwhelming or begin to interfere with your child or teenager’s ability to succeed, intervention may be necessary. If left untreated, stress, anxiety and other behavioral problems that your child may be facing can have a lasting impact on development and learning.
Young children often feel nervous about their first sleepover, trying out for sports teams or tests. In fact, it’s healthy. Experience and learning to cope with these emotions is a part of their development and helps them become self-aware and better relate to others. However, if your child experiences persistent stress, it can interfere with learning and social development. Moreover, especially young children often cannot put their stress into words, which can make treatment challenging.
For many parents, these issues may first appear as behavioral problems in school or at home. Behavioral problems will develop differently for each child based on their personality and causes of stress.
If you suspect your child is dealing with anxiety or behavioral problems, signs to look for include:
Hyper Focus or Rumination
Your child may focus a great deal of their attention on a particular issue or stressor even after attempts have been made to calm down and reassure them. For example, your child may be stressed about the first day of school, which is a very common feeling. But if your child is unable to think of anything else and spends excessive amounts of time preoccupied with their stress, this may be a sign of rumination.
Some children will go to great lengths to avoid the situations or that cause their fear and stress. Total avoidance, whether interactions or events, can become harmful to the child’s long-term social development.
Some fears develop as a persistent form of stress, such as separation anxiety, which can evolve into larger issues as the child gets older. For example, it’s common for a five-year-old to want to sleep in the same bed as their parents after a nightmare, but this same behavior is an unhealthy development expressed in an eleven-year-old.
A range of behavioral problems can signify underlying anxiety in your child, especially in teens. These include but are not limited to defiance, inattention, physical aggression, antisocial behavior, and blaming others. Although these behaviors can be common in any developing child, an increase in one behavior may point to high stress.
These signs are often misunderstood, treated incorrectly or left entirely ignored. If not appropriately addressed, the child’s insecurities and fears will develop into anxiety in their teenage years. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States today. Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand and can negatively impact your child’s development and adjustment into adulthood.
Does My Child Have an Anxiety Disorder?
It can be difficult to tell whether your teenage son or daughter has an anxiety disorder. Look for emotional changes in your child, poor grades, changes in their social life and poor sleep. Anxiety can even begin to impact your child’s health. Some teenagers will physically experience their stress. Be aware of increased headaches, aches, restlessness, weakness, trembling, increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, nausea, fast breathing, chest pain, fatigue, panic attacks, gastrointestinal issues, and changes in eating habits.
Clinical research continues to show us that anxiety is a real medical issue with real effects on health. The disorder has been linked to heart disease and can affect the urinary, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Every child has stress but chronic anxiety can be debilitating to a young, growing adult.
Anxiety disorders include:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This disorder is characterized as constant anxiety about two or more aspects of life. Physical symptoms often accompany this disorder such as dizziness, palpitations, and difficulty breathing.
This complex anxiety disorder often first appears during childhood. It is caused by a child’s inability to speak and communicate well in certain social settings. This can follow a child into their adolescence and lead to difficulty communicating thoughts and ideas in certain settings.
This refers to any kind of anxiety disorder that has amounted to an irrational fear when exposed to certain objects or situations. This will lead to the person with the phobia to avoid particular objects or situations. However, there are severe situations where the individual will avoid even the mention or depiction of their specific phobias.
Agoraphobia is the fear of going into crowded or open places. This can extend to the individual being afraid to leave their own home or areas where they feel trapped.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
This disorder causes an individual to experience severe anxiety when they are away from home or a particular person who they are emotionally attached to. Behaviors related to separation anxiety can be common and natural among young children but will be problematic in older children and adults.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This anxiety disorder is described as a fear of social settings and interaction. An individual with social anxiety disorder will be very afraid of being judged, rejected, or negatively assessed in a social setting. This disorder can be debilitating and cause the individual to completely avoid social situations and, at times, withdraw and isolate themselves.
This form of anxiety disorder causes panic attacks. Panic attacks bring on sudden negative feelings, like intense fear, terror, and a loss of control even when there is no danger present. One of the primary ways anxiety can be expressed by your teenager’s behavior is through a panic attack.
A panic attack can be a scary experience for the individual. A panic attack causes a person to feel overwhelmed with fear and a total sense of helplessness. It is common for the person to feel light-headed, have difficulty breathing, and for their heart to race. These attacks can cause your child to live in fear and make choices purely based on the desire to avoid future panic attacks.
Whether or not your teenager has experienced panic attacks, anxiety can hinder your child from being comfortable and being themselves. Unaddressed anxiety in teenagers can lead to complications and long-term effects in their adult life such as depression, insomnia, difficulties socializing, substance abuse disorders, suicidal thoughts, chronic pain, and digestive issues.
How Do I Help?
It can be difficult to determine whether your child or teenager is struggling with an uncommon amount of anxiety. There are a few things you can do to handle stress and anxiety at home.
Write it down
Keep a journal of your child’s actions and behaviors when they seem to be acting on their fear. This will allow you to get at the root of the problem and track any patterns or triggers.
Asking questions will go a long way. When your child is stressed out, ask them about their feelings. This can help you develop a better understanding of your child’s behavior as well as help your child learn how to articulate their feelings.
As a parent, it is very hard to resist the urge to rescue your child when they are struggling. However, it is very healthy for your child to develop their own methods of coping with their anxieties. With your support, your child will learn how to better address their emotions and stressors.
Relate to Your Child
It’s important for your child to learn how to cope with their feelings. A good way for them to learn it from you. The next time you’re anxious, talk to your child or teenager about how you’re facing these emotions. Express how you feel, encourage questions and tell them how you manage your stress.
Reward Positive Behavior
Whether it’s your young child dealing with behavioral problems or your teenager learning how to cope with anxiety, praise them when you see accomplishments. A small word of recognition when facing fears will mean a lot and encourage them to continue facing their challenges.
Seek Additional Support When Necessary
Some children and teenagers will need extra, specialized help to address their fears.
At NeuroZone, we understand that you want to provide the best for your child and help them overcome their fears. Working with only the most modern, clinically-backed techniques, we specialize in working with children and young adults to overcome chronic stress, anxiety, and behavioral problems.
Neurofeedback: Treating Behavior Problems and Anxiety without Prescription Drugs
Our highly accredited staff will observe the information collected and develop a neurofeedback treatment plan.
Neurofeedback is a simple treatment that does not require medication to help your child. Your child’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are intertwined and it can be difficult for a young child or teenager to identify the root of their anxiety. Neurofeedback will help you and your child understand the connection between their anxious thoughts and resulting behavior. The first step of neurofeedback is performing an assessment to determine the brain patterns and issues creating behavioral problems. A qEEG Brain Mapping assessment will evaluate your child’s brain waves in relation to speed, size, and locations of the brain waves, as well as a variety of other parameters.
Also known as Neurotherapy, neurofeedback will be used to retrain specific areas of your child or teenager’s brain in relation to their anxiety. Treatment is accomplished through visual or auditory feedback implemented as brain games, movies, or activities that require thinking.
One or two electrodes will be placed near the earlobes along the scalp to retrain the thinking process. The primary advantage of this treatment is that it provides real-time feedback and improvement. During your treatment, your child’s brain activity will be compared to the desired goal. When the correct brain thought process is achieved there will be positive reinforcement and vice versa regarding negative thought processes. The goal is to enforce positive thinking patterns that help your child deal with and overcome anxieties. Neurofeedback can be used safely on children as young as two years.
If you have additional questions or would like to know more about what you can do to treat your child’s anxiety and behavioral problems, contact NeuroZone to schedule a consultation today.