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In the daily life today, people experience emotions and anxiety at various levels. Such emotions and anxious behaviors do not exclude children and teenagers as a matter of fact; they are the most affected group of individuals. Whereas it is normal for an individual to experience nervousness or certain levels of uneasiness and worry, anxiety may occur when conditions become extreme. Anxiety is quite normal and may range from the low level anxiety to a high level anxiety. High levels of anxiety mostly affect personal, social and educational performance to a noticeable degree. However, when anxiety is at moderate levels, it can be useful in creating and raising an individual’s alertness to certain signals, for example, danger and other vital signals that need action or counter-action (Dacey & Fiore, 2001).
Anxiety can be defined as apprehension, uneasiness or extreme fear towards an imagined or real circumstance. It is characterized by a lot of nervousness and worry (the extreme concern over a situation with unclear outcomes). This results to unproductiveness due to interference with a person’s ability to take a wise action or solve a problem. Worry affects a person’s behavior, thinking and his physical reaction. Anxiety arises from a real or an imagined situation, for instance, anxiety over an examination (real) or extreme concern that one may not fit into a certain category of people in the society (imagined). Due to its nature of arising from real or imagined events, anxiety may be birthed from any situation (Soler, 2005).
In day to day life, the most prevalent mental health disorder facing children and teenagers today is an anxiety disorder. A main part of children and teenagers worry about normal things in their lives like friends, class work, examinations and their academic performance, appearance, personal situations, family, health, among others. As noted above, moderate levels of anxiety and worry are healthy especially if it yields productive actions and counter-actions, for example, a teenager who worries over ridicules, due to poor grades and consequently studies hard so as to avoid it. To some of the children and teenagers, however, anxiety slowly starts to control their lives. They may end up in drugs or withdrawing from normal activities and interactions in an effort to reduce anxieties, thereby limiting fun in their lives.
According to health statistics, nearly 1 out of every 11 teenagers has anxiety extreme enough to be a disorder. Research also shows that girls are more likely to develop anxiety disorders, as compared to boys. The most common anxiety symptoms of anxiety affecting people seem to be on the increase during the adolescent age. This is the phase where most parents are unable to distinguish between a phase and perhaps an anxiety disorder. In recent times, many children and teenagers have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder relating to stressful events, for instance, school or academic performance. It is quite normal as earlier mentioned to experience nervousness or general concern. However, when children or teenagers frequently display worry and anxiety to a point where their daily activities are interrupted, then they may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
For children and teenagers, it is quite difficult to recognize their anxiety for what it is. More often than not, they develop low self esteems thinking that something is “wrong” with them, as they do not feel or react to situations like their peers. Small children especially may develop the strong focus on physical symptoms, for example, headaches, while teenagers may think that they are sick, weird, psycho or out of control. Consequently, thoughts may further drive them to more anxiety and increased self-consciousness. It is, therefore, necessary to understand daily activities children as well as teenagers perform, so as to be sensitive to any changes or alterations that may occur when growing up. It is necessary for a child or teen to learn about anxiety and how to recognize it and also learn about self-awareness.
Causes of Anxiety
Anxiety has a large variety of causes. It is perceived to emerge from a combination of different factors as opposed to a single cause. Generally, individuals have a high probability to go through anxiety, if a parent or both parents show characteristics of anxiety. Therefore, anxiety is hereditary and may consequently be passed from parent to offspring. Anxiety in teenagers and children has also been related to behavioral inhibition which is a temperament style (O’Kearney et al. 2006). Babies with this kind of temperament portray characteristics of shyness and timid, are wary and often seem to being prone to developing an anxiety disorder later in their lives. Additionally, a person may develop anxiety resulting from experiences and conditioning. This is particularly evident to individuals with certain distinct fears (phobia) for particular circumstances, objects or situations. For instance, a person who once in their life got chased or bitten by a dog may associate it with any dog they see resulting in illogical fear for all dogs.
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Anxiety may also be as a result of how an individual thinks with respect to events in life and certain outcomes. A person who experiences anxieties and worries has a higher tendency to develop a particular pattern of illogical and negative thinking. Most of the time, the person may interpret a harmless phenomenon as a threat and concentrate all efforts on the issue considered as a threat. Anxiety may be additionally caused by diverse environmental factors, for example, being exposed to an environment that is stressful or an event that once traumatized a person, observation of anxious behavior from others, having parents that are extremely controlling and protective, and the unnatural behavior of avoiding particular activities or situations, so as to avoid feelings of anxiety. Due to the fact that anxiety disorders have origins that are multiple and complex in nature, there is a high likelihood that genes play a main role in bringing about anxiety and its associated disorders to an individual. Nevertheless, the environment i.e. the home, the school, the neighborhood or any other setting may contribute heavily to a person’s chance of having anxiety disorders. This is evident, for example, when small babies or young kids who live under conditions that are highly stressing may develop anxiety later in their lives. Research also shows that other individuals, particularly children, may start responding to certain situations in a way that displays anxiety simply because their parent(s) or guardian displays the same characteristics of anxiety. To the main part of children and teenagers, one or a combination of the above mentioned causes results to development or acceleration of an anxiety disorder and other mental health disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Children and teenagers with generalized anxiety disorders experience unrealistic, persistent and excessive worries about almost everything in life. Adolescents and children with this disorder live in constant worries and fear. They experience immense difficulties controlling their worries. For instance, a student might be worried about his/her school work and spend all the time redoing the work to make it as perfect as possible. These children and teenagers are ever experiencing immense distress due to the extreme worry. The distress may cause them to experience certain physical symptoms, such as consistent stomachaches, severe headaches, fatigues and persistent muscle tensions. Generalized anxiety disorder is normally associated with excessive worrying causing physical symptoms and other symptoms, such as general restlessness and ill-tempered behaviors, lack of concentration and trouble sleep (Dacey & Fiore, 2001). Children and teenagers with this condition tend to do everything as perfectly as possible and are in a constant need for approval.
Panic disorder is one of the most severe type or form of anxiety disorder. Children and teenagers with panic disorder experience unexpected and recurrent panic attacks. They feel extremely scared, experience difficulties in breathing and their heartbeats pound very first beyond norm. Adolescent and children with this condition may feel dizzy, shaky and sometimes they feel as if they are going to die or loose their mind the next moment. They might refuse to attend to school or leave their home simply because they are afraid that some harm may occur to them. The panic attack usually takes 10-15 minutes (Soler, 2005). During the attack, the child or teenager feels intense fear or worry, breath shortages, dizziness, shakiness, heart palpitations, sweating and severe chest pains. Persons with this condition live in constant fear that they might experience another panic attack, thus, they constantly avoid situations that may cause them to experience another panic attack, such as social institutions, avoid going to school or any other activities linked with panic attacks. They are constantly avoiding situations that trigger the panic attacks.
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Teenagers and children with the compulsive-obsessive disorder have persistent thoughts or repetitive ideas, behaviors (obsessions/compulsions) and certain images on their mind that seems impossible to stop or control. They come to realization that compulsions and obsessions are aggressive, excessive, uncontrollable and meaningless. The repetitive imagination and behaviors are highly uncontrollable and distressful. This obsession and compulsion may include sexual obsessions, religious obsessions, somatic obsessions, fear of contamination, and persistent thoughts of harm to their parents, siblings, friends or themselves (O’Kearney et al, 2006). To relieve these obsessions, victims tend to perform certain compulsions, such as frequent utensils and hand washing, other cleaning rituals, rubbing, tapping and touching, frequent blinking and staring checking and rechecking their behaviors.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder experience severe and relentless anxiety in response to a previous traumatic event. The traumatic occurrence may be violence, such as sexual assaults, shooting in school, war, or natural disasters, such as an earthquake or tornadoes, or frightening experiences, such as road accidents which they were victims or witnesses. They persistently re-experience the traumatic event over and over gain in their nightmares, thoughts, memories and flashbacks. Victims of post traumatic disorders constantly avoid any situations associated/connected with trauma. They lack concentration in everything they are doing like school homework, they get startled easily, easily irritated, sleep problems and do not get along with their friends easily. About 40% of children have had an experience where post-traumatic stress disorder could be highly imminent. They avoid every situation that could retrieve the traumatic experience.
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Children and teenagers with social anxiety or social phobia experience intense worry or fear in situations that may subject them to humiliation, embarrassment or criticism by the public. Victims of the anxiety disorder fear social situations. They can also experience the anxiety in public gathering or school without any identifiable stressor from or to others. Some of the main triggers of social phobia may include situations that involve speaking to an adult, taking exams, reading aloud in class, group meetings, and joint conversations among other performances that are done jointly. Victims may avoid strangers, public speaking and, thus, they tend to restrict their behavior and movement in their daily lives. The isolation may lead to depression. The phobia anxiety may cause them to experience physical symptoms, such as stomachaches and headaches, among others.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Children and teenagers with separation anxiety disorder live in unrealistic and excessive fear or worry of parents abandoning them. They are frightened of being left or abandoned by their parent or parents. They constantly avoid situations that will involve them being separated from their parents. The fear arises in response to the constant or routine separation from parents; either when they leave home or go to school (Soler, 2005). They are ever worried that something not appropriate or unexpected will happen to their parents or to their loved ones. Teenagers and children with this condition may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches and stomachaches. They also tend to refuse to go to school and generally hate sleeping alone or away from their home. They constantly experience excessive and unrealistic fear that harm might inflict their parents or themselves. They might experience nightmares being kidnapped or lost.
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Individuals experiencing specific phobia anxiety live in persistent, maladaptive and intense fear of specific occurrences or objects such as animal types, insects or particular situation, such as injections, injury or site of blood. The phobia may also be caused by certain natural environment forms, situational type like standing on a tall cliff or alone in an enclosed place among other specific types. They tend to avoid feared situations and specific types which in turn interfere with their daily routines.
Control and Interventions
Various methods can be used to combat the anxiety problem. Victims, either teenagers or children, should develop a social life. Having a social network where they can either speak to a parent, teacher, friend or close relative when they feel worried or anxious over a situation. Having someone to share or talk to reduces considerably the worry or anxiety the teen is going through. Regular exercises 20-30 minutes or more about four to five times a week is highly energizing and can make the victim more healthy, calm and strong. Regular physical practices reduce stress and depressions (Dacey & Fiore, 2001). More crucial is that it is vital for the child or teenagers experiencing anxiety to eat healthy food. Having a balanced diet, low in caffeine and sugar, is highly recommended. A person that eats well increases his physical energy and mental health which lessens worries and anxiety. Persons experiencing anxiety problems should also ensure they gat quantity and quality sleep. Good night sleep refreshes people, making their mind in a better position or flame to tackle concerns and worries. They should get enough sleep with a regular sleep schedule. Sleep is critical to deal with anxiety, since fatigue tends to wear on emotions making people more worried (Soler, 2005).
Teenagers and children should also learn to relax and take things easily. They can achieve this by participating in different activities like going for a walk, when they fill worried and anxious, listen to a decent soft and soothing music, read a novel, magazine, draw, go swimming, practice martial arts, do relaxations exercises or anything that they find relaxing to reduce their anxiety and worry. Furthermore, it is necessary for victims to prepare early ahead of time. For instance, if a student feels anxiety before an exam or during the test, it is recommended for the student to develop a conductive study habit and develop decent time management and organizational skills. If the student worried about speaking in public, it is advisable for the person to practice the speech before hand. Decent preparation equips the victim with a sense of self confidence helping them reduce their worry and anxiety. Preparation is a key area that helps anxiety victims deal with their fears and worries effectively. Another better way to deal with anxiety problem is by being optimistic. Viewing your fears or situations as challenges, one needs to overcome rather than obstacles to avoid stressful situations. Confront problems directly, with a positive self talk and believe to overcome all of them completely. With this mentality, the person will be in a better position to handle the situation or problem with less worry and stress.
According to Greene & Ablon (2006), anxiety disorders are a common experience among teenagers and children. It is mostly typical for the child or teenager and more often does not require professional intervention or help. However, if the anxiety is long standing or severe, does not improve and seem to cause significant difficulties such that the child is unable to perform specific tasks then parents are highly advised to seek for professional, such as school counselors, psychologists who will help victims deal with the severe anxiety, or recommend them to a mental health professional. Personal counseling or group counseling could be used to aid the child or teenager deal with personal, family or school issues related to the anxiety. Reading form the word of God, the Bible is vital when it comes to relieving persons with anxiety. According to (Philippians 4:6-7), one should cast all worries to Jesus, he tells not to be anxious or fearful with anything, but rather present prayers and petition to God. Peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Looking at Luke 8:22-25, when disciples were fearful and anxious that they will perish in the storm and Jesus was asleep; they called upon Jesus who calmed the storm; there is hope in Jesus, that when people cannot handle worries and fear, he is in control to ensure people come out victorious.
Conclusion In conclusion, research has shown that if anxiety disorders are left untreated, then this might result to acute stress levels depression, and any other complications arising from anxiety and that may persist into adulthood. Nevertheless, anxiety and problems associated with it can be effectively treated more so, when symptoms are detected and well taken care of at an early stage. Considering its numerous benefits to an individual, it is neither advisable nor realistic to endeavor in the elimination of all anxiety. As opposed to this, the ultimate aim of the medical intervention is to regulate and return a teenager or child’s level of functioning to a normal level.
Numerous problems relating to anxiety may be quite tough, but, nevertheless, treatable. In order to treat disorders in children and teens, one needs to explore various professional methods as one method might not work with an individual, while it works properly with another. Possible treatment may include personal or group therapy for a family, medication or professional parent/guardian training. To fully combat anxiety problems, treatments mentioned may be used as a combination of two or more treatment methods or as a single treatment. Therapy has two main approaches that involve an individual changing the way they think or behave or changing a particular pattern of behavior by replacing ineffective characteristics with those that are pleasing and desirable. However, children and teenagers may not understand this concept fully and, therefore, need a lot of guidance and training, so as to achieve the goal of a stable individual in the child or adolescent. Therapists have the capability to assist one in their thoughts, emotions, feelings and complications. They may also develop solutions to solve issues that disturb kids and young adults. A decent number of children and teenagers are not free with their parents or guardians and may be suffering from the inside while being silent about it. To such categories of people, a connection of trust and understanding must be established with their therapists. This eventually enables them to speak freely and honestly with therapists who then finds a way to solve the problem affecting them. Parents are also advised to use methods that may assist a child or teenager to reduce their worries and anxiety. Therapists may also work with parents and the involved child or teenager to solve issues relating to anxiety. Finally, medication prescribed to a child or teen may be used as a complementary tool to therapy (Brent, 2004). All medication prescribed must be taken as instructed to avoid further development of the problem involved.